Fears of backsliding on 1.5 degree target risks undermining Cop27 outcome

Eamon Ryan calls on countries attending summit in Egypt to hold firm on target

There is increasing concern the key global target of containing global temperatures to 1.5 degrees may be under threat at Cop27, and it may become less of a global priority in a final cover decision due to be thrashed out over coming days.

The Egyptian presidency, which acts as chair of the negotiations, has flagged concerns there will be an attempt to backslide on efforts to keep the 1.5 degree goal – a critical limit in the Paris Agreement, and an over-riding target in the global effort to tackle the climate crisis.

Cop26 in Glasgow last year put a much stronger emphasis on 1.5 degrees, but Dr Simon Evans of Carbon Brief flagged on Monday that a number of large economies are now pushing for “a return to Paris language, which centres on ‘well-below two degrees’.”

Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan, who is leading the Irish negotiating team at Sharm El Sheik, acknowledged the risk from such a move and called on countries to hold firm on the target – this is likely to be the position adopted by the EU and the High Ambition Coalition of countries, along with seeking much more detail on cutting emissions from parties.


“1.5 has to be alive,” Mr Ryan underlined - because of high probability that going beyond that would cross a climate tipping point.

Mr Ryan dismissed other interests who might say it is no longer possible or the world has gone beyond that. “I think it’s still possible ... the political will behind that is going to be very important,” he said at a media briefing.

There are indications, however, that the Egyptian presidency is struggling to find common ground between rich and poor countries, and some delegates fear focus on 1.5-degree may be softened to find agreement.

The limit is important because climate scientists say temperature rises must slow down to avoid worsening climate impacts and to minimise inevitable effects from warming that has happened already – at almost 1.2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The complexity around the issue is added to by a series of recent scientific reports suggesting the world is heading for a 2.5-degree rise this century.

Meanwhile, a range of difficult issues have been kicked into the second week of the summit, while technical talks normally completed in the first week have not been finished. The leaders’ summit during opening days showed support for accelerating climate action but lacked many new commitments.

There has been insufficient progress so far, according to the UN’s climate chief Simon Stiell.

“My observations are that there are too many unresolved issues.

”If we create a log-jam in the process, we will not deliver an outcome that is deserving of the crisis,” he warned.

He called on countries to “build the bridge needed” to make progress on 1.5 degrees; adaptation, climate finance, and loss and damage – how developed nations should compensate developing countries for the climate-fuelled extreme weather events they suffer despite not significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions..

While some technical issues were resolved during the first week, all of the biggest political matters, including loss and damage, the rules to govern international carbon markets and a programme to scale up efforts to reduce emissions, remain open, said Alden Meyer, a senior associate with the thinktank E3G.

With just five days left until the end of the conference, the risk is that talks become entangled around the most controversial issues, preventing negotiators from reaching an agreement by Friday and delaying the process by a full year, until Cop28.

Loss and damage

Getting delegates to agree to a new facility for a loss and damage programme at this Cop would be challenging, Mr Meyer said.

US officials and other developed nations including the EU say there are already existing funding mechanisms, including the Adaptation Fund, the Green Climate Fund and the Global Shield – a new G7 initiative co-ordinated by Germany and Ireland to steer insurance and disaster funding to countries responding to climate-exacerbated droughts, floods and storms.

Ireland is understood to be pursuing a course to meet diverse needs and to provide a range of solutions that are targeted at the most vulnerable countries and tied into support on the ground with a high degree of local engagement.

The UN on Monday published a draft text setting out what the Cop27 could agree on loss and damage financing for countries being ravaged by climate impacts.

It will be debated and likely revised before its hoped-for adoption at the end of the summit, negotiators said.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times