Every year’s COP (reminder: this stands for Conference of the Parties to the UN’s treaty on climate change) ends with some reasons for hope and some reasons for concern. COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, was no different.
This year’s big wins included an agreement to create a fund to help “especially vulnerable” countries recover from the effects of climate change—a process that they have historically done very little to cause. A loss and damage fund, as it’s called, was a top priority for many countries going into this COP. However, until the details are worked out—such as how the funds will be earmarked and which conditions will be attached—and the money has actually been provided, we won’t know if this is a true step forward.
One area where many people had hoped to see more progress was in slowing down climate change. While the final COP27 agreement retains the target of keeping global warming to within 1.5°C of pre-industrial temperatures, it doesn’t strengthen the language around weaning off fossil fuels beyond what was decided in 2021. Without phasing down fossil fuels—and quickly—it’s not clear how we could reach our climate goals.
This was widely seen as the Implementation COP, where countries started focusing on how to meet their pledges and on some of the solutions that can help them do it (like UBQ!).
UBQ at COP27
Beyond all the international policy negotiations, COP27 was also very exciting for UBQ Materials! Our VP of Sustainability, Rachel Barr, and Sales and Business Development Associate, Shay Ben-Moshe, spread the word about UBQ far and wide to many new fans as well as Israeli and international press. In addition, Rachel pitched UBQ at multiple pavilions as a delegate for both PLANETech and Solar Impulse Foundation, marking UBQ’s official debut on the COP stage, advancing our company-wide goals in the years to come.
Solar Impulse’s founder, Bertrand Piccard, even highlighted UBQ on CNN! UBQ appears starting at 2:14 in this video, but the whole clip is inspiring and well worth watching.
Global Methane Pledge Updates
Many more countries have joined the Global Methane Pledge since COP26. There are now 150 participants, up from roughly 100 a year ago. More than 50 of those countries are working on or have already developed plans for how to set their goals into action. This includes the updated US Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan, which pledges $20 billion to reducing methane emissions from fossil fuels, abandoned coal mines, landfills, and agricultural operations. In addition, the US EPA has strengthened a rule to restrict methane leaks from oil and gas wells using a higher social cost of carbon ($190/ton CO2 and $1600/ton methane), newly revised to more accurately calculate the benefits of cutting emissions.
A new Global Methane Pledge Waste Pathway was announced during COP27 to address the roughly 20% of methane emissions caused by the waste sector. We’ll be hearing much more about these initiatives—such as the Waste Methane Assessment Platform (Waste MAP), a partnership between the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Clean Air Task Force—as they develop.
To accurately evaluate the progress we’re making toward the targets of the Global Methane Pledge, we need to be able to locate, monitor, and measure methane emissions. This field has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. The UNEP International Methane Emissions Observatory’s Methane Alert and Response System (MARS), Carbon Mapper, and Climate TRACE have either launched or announced new resources in the past month. While most initiatives are focusing mostly on methane from fossil fuels to begin with, Carbon Mapper’s initiative focuses exclusively on methane from waste sites.
Climate Status Reports
Thanks to several reports released around COP27, we have an updated picture of the state of climate change and climate action. An analysis of our carbon budget—or how much carbon we can still “afford” to release—found that it’s likely that we’ll reach 1.5°C of warming in only nine years at our current rate of emissions. Unfortunately, both the Emissions Gap Report and the NDC Synthesis Report agree that our progress on climate action falls far short of what is needed. They estimate that we’re likely to reach 2.5°C of warming by the end of the century—approximately double the amount of warming that is currently causing more and more record-breaking climate disasters every year.
The UN launched a report on November 8 meant to strengthen net-zero pledges from companies and governments. Broadly speaking, the goal is to make sure that these entities do what they claim to be doing and don’t hide their environmental impact behind misleading language or creative accounting. To adhere to the new guidelines, net-zero pledges must include specific plans, cover all emissions and scopes, and involve at least a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In addition, to have credible net-zero commitments, companies may not invest in new fossil fuel supply or lobby against climate action.