Decarbonization, which demands transformational change to living on Earth, has become the central feature of the ongoing the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or COP27.
Although November 11 was the Decarbonization Day at the COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, for the strategy to work towards averting a profound existential threat posed by climate reversals, every day will have to be a decarbonization day for the next five decades and more.
In that context, it is significant that governments representing over half of the global GDP, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have set out a 12-month action plan with 25 collaborative actions. As part of this plan actions are loosely mandated to be delivered by COP28 to help make clean technologies cheaper and more accessible everywhere.
“Through the plan, actions target sectors accounting for more than 50 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and are also designed to reduce energy costs and enhance food security, with the building and cement sectors to be added to next year,” a United Nations document says.
According to the U.N. Climate Champions, “The actions under each breakthrough will be delivered through coalitions of committed countries – from the G7, European Commission, India, Egypt, Morocco and others, supported by leading international organizations and initiatives, and spearheaded by a core group of leading governments. These efforts will be reinforced with private finance and leading industry initiatives and further countries are encouraged to join.”
One of the mandates of the action plan is to develop “common definitions for low-emission and near-zero emission steel, hydrogen and sustainable batteries, as well as ramping up clean infrastructure projects, setting a common target to phase out polluting vehicles and stimulate global demand for green industrial goods.”
In a statement on November 5, Andrea Meza, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said, “Decarbonization is shorthand for finding alternative ways of living and working that reduce emissions and capture and store carbon in our soil and vegetation. It requires a radical change in our current economic model which is focused on growth at all costs. We must transform how energy is generated and different sources of energy we use, how we build and move around, and how land resources are managed. Whether we burn fossil fuels directly or purchase carbon-intensive products, we must drastically reduce our consumption or switch to low emission technologies and renewable alternatives.”
“Agriculture and the land use sector are responsible for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, the bulk of which is attributed to livestock production (methane), chemical fertilizers (nitrous oxide), and the destruction of natural ecosystems (carbon dioxide). Tropical forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate to grow soy for animal feed and to create pastureland for livestock grazing. These changes in land cover are responsible for 14% of carbon emissions and 5% of methane emissions. Deforestation accounts for almost 9 billion tons of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year,” Meza said.
“At the same time, land-based ecosystems could provide 20 to 30% of the mitigation required to ensure global warming stays below 1.5 degrees Celsius towards 2050. If managed sustainably, land can deliver a powerful climate mitigation solution. But this will require us to urgently rethink the way we approach agriculture and other land use activities,” she said.
Decarbonization actions will take in their sweep five key sectors of power, road transport, steel, hydrogen and agriculture for which breakthroughs will have to be achieved by COP28. Such an unprecedented undertaking would necessarily lead to fundamental shifts in lifestyles and living on Earth.
“The climate crisis is existential, overriding and ever present and we need to look at every piece of the puzzle, including the decarbonization of the industrial sectors that underpin the global economy,” said COP 27 President Sameh Shoukry, said commenting on Decarbonization Day. “Today’s activities provide a significant opportunity to discuss critical plans and policies needed to reduce carbon footprints, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors. We hope the conversations today help facilitate the much-needed transition to and low carbon economy.”
Beyond developing common definitions for low-emission and near-zero emission steel, hydrogen and sustainable batteries, the breakthrough agenda will also address several other challenges, according to Climate Champions.
They will include ramping up “the deployment of essential infrastructure projects including at least 50 large scale net-zero emission industrial plants, at least 100 hydrogen valleys and a package of major cross-border power grid infrastructure projects”, setting up a common target date to “phase out polluting cars and vehicles, consistent with the Paris Agreement and “systematically strengthen financial and technological assistance to developing countries and emerging markets to support their transitions backed up by a range of new financial measures, including the world’s first major dedicated industry transition program under the Climate Investment Funds.”
At the opening session, John Kerry, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, said, “We are in an era where energy security, energy transition, and the affordability of energy have to be fundamental to the way that we see the world. The way we synchronize these issues today are going to have a profound outcome into the future.”
It is a measure of how extensive the agenda is that even the fashion industry has created its own Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, with a vision to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
“Focusing on the ambitions of the charter, a side event at COP27 examined the importance of decarbonization across the entire fashion supply chain, from production of raw materials, manufacturing to distribution,” an official release said.
“The message is clear: to brands, stop lying, stop greenwashing; and to consumers, stop buying fast and furiously,” said Sophia Kianni, a 20-year-old member of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Climate Change, addressing the ‘Race to Zero’ event.
Given the scope and spread of decarbonization, it is clear that if carried out fully as promised, it has the potential to alter living and lifestyles unlike ever before.