Climate change threatens every aspect of life as we know it. CoP26 in Glasgow closed 2021 as a landmark year for beginning to galvanise leaders to combat the global climate crisis, yet there is still more to do in many areas. We are currently living through a decisive decade for climate action, the decisions we make today will decide the outcome for future generations.
In 2022, what should we expect to keep us on track for 2030 targets?
1. Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions
At CoP26 global climate commitments were made to safeguard the world’s forests and to reduce methane emissions by 30% through the Global Methane Pledge to slow warming. But world leaders were reluctant to address fossil fuel production directly and speed up the transition to renewable energy.
CoP27 2022 must bring the world closer to the obligations outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Most world leaders have bound their countries to net-zero emissions, but there is the risk of this being another meaningless target if there are no real plans to reduce emissions. For example, the International Energy Agency reported that no new fossil fuel projects could be approved if countries want to stay within the 1.5°C range. Governments must therefore strengthen their climate pledges to keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C alive by getting serious about phasing out fossil fuel production and ending harmful subsidies in 2022.
This year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will also launch the first comprehensive assessment report since Paris. It will undoubtedly be the driving force behind the climate conversation over the coming year and stress the urgency of climate action.
2. Financing the Crisis
Bold climate action requires bold climate financing. Countries on the frontline of the climate crisis are often the least responsible for global warming and biodiversity loss and yet face the harshest consequences of anthropogenic heating. The State of Climate in Africa 2020 report pinpoints a required annual investment of $30 to $50 billion into climate adaptation within the sub-Saharan region of Africa over the next decade to adequately equip the continent with climate adaption and mitigation measures.
Glasgow proved disappointing for climate finance discussions with world leaders not meeting prior commitments made in 2009 for developed economies to commit up to $100 billion per year from 2020. These discussions will continue to run until CoP28 in the United Arab Emirates, but in 2022 high-income countries should fulfil the original commitment to finance climate change adaptation and mitigation for the world’s most impoverished communities.
3. Feeding the World
As the global population is projected to expand to 10 billion by 2050, the demand for food will increase. Agriculture, forestry, and land use currently account for almost a fifth of emissions worldwide. Livestock production is a leading contributor to the climate crisis as it’s a significant source of greenhouse gases such as methane.
Alarmingly, approximately 500 million people inhabit regions that experience desertification. Scientists anticipate desertification will increase due to climate change and extreme weather events like droughts and dust storms, the land will degrade further, and food production will plummet. There is a strong desire for more efficient methods of feeding the world.
Investment into food innovation made during CoP26 via the US and the United Arab Emirates led Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM). In 2022 global food systems must be a core theme of CoP27. Attention and support must be given to those producing food on the frontline of the climate crisis in the world’s poorest regions.
4. Restoring the Ocean
The global ocean is one of our greatest allies in the fight against climate change as it produces over 50% of all oxygen and absorbs 25% of atmospheric carbon. After much delay, it finally received some highly deserved attention at CoP26 with commitments to incorporate it within future climate negotiations and the designation of a large marine protected area along the Central American coastline.
The second UN Ocean Conference will be held in Lisbon during the summer. It will be a call to urge global leaders to mobilise investment and partnerships in science-driven solutions to reverse ocean health declines. 2021 launched the beginning of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, highlighting the global drive for ocean innovation to spark a recovery. In 2022 striving for ocean smart Sustainable Development Goals will be vital.
5. Mobilising Global Sustainability
Counteracting ecological breakdown should be a central component of the global climate strategy. Biodiversity is critical for tackling the severest climate change scenarios, and the restoration of the natural world is the most robust solution we have to counteract this crisis. Technological innovation will only go so far.
More than 100 countries have now committed to protecting 30% of land and sea by 2030. Yet, some of the worst offenders for environmental degradation, such as the US, Russia, and China, remain to pledge their commitment.
In 2022 the UN Climate Change Conference (CoP27) is anticipated to be held in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt. Focus will be on action for Africa as world leaders advance climate discussions on the world’s poorest continent. While only accounting for 3.8% of the world’s carbon emissions, Africa will experience the frontline of the climate crisis. By 2030 it is estimated that 118 million people in Africa will endure extreme weather such as drought and floods that will impact their livelihoods and food production, entrenching people into poverty. CoP27 must financially address the permanent damage these populations will incur due to climate change.
We are running out of opportunities to reverse the climate crisis with each passing year.
2022 must be the year leaders take bold and ambitious action for our planet – are they up for the challenge?
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