The negotiators gathering for the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP-27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt will try to tackle a significant number of important issues, with questions relating to increased ambition and financial transfers among those at the top of the agenda. This is the focus of my podcast conversation with Ray Kopp, Senior Fellow at Resources for the Future (RFF), in the newest episode of “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program,” a podcast produced by the Harvard Environmental Economics Program. You can listen to our full conversation here.
Ray Kopp will be at COP-27 with the delegation of RFF. I’ll be there, as well, leading our group from the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements. At the end of this blog post, I provide a list of our activities at COP27.
Ray Kopp, who has been a leader in the design of domestic and international polices to combat climate change, explains in our conversation that the representatives gathering in Sharm El Sheikh will focus much of their attention on the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and therefore on the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – emissions reductions that individual countries have pledged under the Agreement. Under the provisions of the Paris Agreement, signatories are strongly encouraged to increase their levels of ambition and reduce emissions even further over time through the so-called “ratchet mechanism” that can bring the world closer to the goal of preventing temperature increases this century greater than 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, compared with pre-industrial temperatures.
In the podcast, Ray Kopp notes, “That mechanism will not be formally deployed until 2023. But I will say that there’s a synthesis report that has already come out from the UNFCCC Secretariat that gives us an idea of what those gaps look like with respect to hitting the targets, and they’re not encouraging. We already know that there’s going to be a major gap. We’ve known that for quite some time. I haven’t seen a lot of countries step forward to increase their ambition in the recognition of that gap. So, the jury is out on how effective this mechanism is going to be.”
Another very important and contentious issue on the table at COP-27, Kopp explains, is that of monetary transfers from developed to developing countries to help them with their mitigation efforts and help pay for adaptation measures. This is the well-known commitment from the developed countries to send $100 billion per year, starting in 2020, to the developing world. That target level of annual finance has not yet been achieved.
“Right now, there is a bit of a lack of trust between the developing world and the developed world with respect to the deliverability of those funds going forward. And [for] developed countries, there is the problem that to be able to hit those particular targets you need a lot of private investment, not just government funds. And the private investment has been lacking considerably,” he remarks.
Debates around the so-called “loss-and-damage” issue will also play out in Sharm El Shiekh, Kopp notes, referring to the call by developing countries for the largest global emitters to pay for current and future climate change damages in the most vulnerable countries.
“This is … one of these issues that … becomes more salient and both sides become more vocal about it [at every COP], not surprisingly, because we are now seeing the impact of climate change, not only in the developing world, where it is severe and where people are at most risk, but here in the U.S. [as well],” Kopp argues. “There’s always going to be opportunities for the U.S. to provide aid to countries that are suffering these horrific damages associated with climate change. One of the issues is whether it is going to be taking the form of aid, which means it’s more of a voluntary contribution on the part of the U.S., or whether it’s compensation associated with some formal liability that the U.S. bears for these damages?”
Kopp says that negotiators could make headway on the ‘loss and damage’ issue if they take reasonable approaches.
“If both sides stick to their hard positions, where [in] the developed world it’s only about aid, and the developing world it’s about liability, and there’s no middle ground, then this will just be a confrontational experience. Somewhere there’s got to be a middle ground … where we can think about insurance markets, [and] … other ways of financing the rebuilding after these particular [climate] episodes take place.”
When I ask Ray Kopp how he determines the success of failure of individual COPs, he responds by saying that each meeting is just one part of an ongoing process, and that in his opinion, the process is working.
“[Each COP] is an opportunity for the world to come together and talk about these things. The UNFCCC has put together an enormous amount of transparency in reporting. Sounds like things that are not all that exciting, but they’re fundamental to an understanding of where we are with respect to climate change and how to reduce emissions going forward,” he says.
As I noted at the outset of this blog post, I will be in Sharm El Sheikh, leading our group from the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements. Here’s some information below – in chronological order – about our five events hosted by the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements or in which my Harvard colleague, Daniel Jacob, or I are speaking.
1. Discussion of the China National Climate Change Assessment Report
Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 9:00 – 10:30 am
China Pavilion, Area E
Hosted by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Institute of Energy, Environment, and Economy at Tsinghua University.
Robert Stavins is a panelist.
2. Frontiers in Carbon Pricing
Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 12:00 – 1:30 pm
Pavilion of the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA)
Hosted by the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
Panel: Daniele Agostini, Head of Energy and Climate Policies, Enel Group
Lisa DeMarco, Senior Partner and CEO, Resilient LLP
Andrei Marcu, Founder and Executive Director, European Roundtable on Climate Change and Sustainable Transition (ERCST)
Robert Stavins (moderator)
3. The 8th Global Climate Change Think Tank Forum
Wednesday, November16, 2022, 4:00 – 6:45 pm
China Pavilion, Area E
Hosted by the China National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation
Robert Stavins presents on “Carbon-Pricing Policy: Carbon Taxes vs. Cap-and Trade”
4. Using Satellite Observations of Atmospheric Methane to Advance Global Climate Change Policy
Thursday, November 17, 2022, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm, Side Event Room: Thutmose
Hosted by the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements and the Enel Foundation
Panel: Daniele Agostini, Head of Energy and Climate Policies, Enel Group
Brendan Devlin, Adviser for Strategy and Foresight, DG Energy, European Commission
Lena Höglund-Isaksson, Senior Research Scholar, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Daniel Jacob, Vasco McCoy Family Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Engineering, Harvard University
Claudia Octaviano, General Coordinator for Climate Change and Low Carbon Development, National Institute for Ecology and Climate Change, Mexico
Robert Stavins (moderator)
5. Measuring up to the Methane Challenge
Thursday, November 17, 2022, 3:00 – 4:30 pm, Pavilion of the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA)
Hosted by IPIECA
Daniel Jacob is a panelist.
We hope to see many of you at one or more of these events, other meetings, in the hallways, or elsewhere at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh!
Again, I encourage you to listen to the 41st episode of the Environmental Insights series, with future episodes scheduled to drop each month. You can find a transcript of our conversation at the website of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program. Previous episodes have featured conversations with:
- Gina McCarthy, former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Nick Stern of the London School of Economics discussing his career, British politics, and efforts to combat climate change
- Andrei Marcu, founder and executive director of the European Roundtable on Climate Change and Sustainable Transition
- Paul Watkinson, Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
- Jos Delbeke, professor at the European University Institute in Florence and at the KU Leuven in Belgium, and formerly Director-General of the European Commission’s DG Climate Action
- David Keith, professor at Harvard and a leading authority on geoengineering
- Joe Aldy, professor of the practice of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, with considerable experience working on climate change policy issues in the U.S. government
- Scott Barrett, professor of natural resource economics at Columbia University, and an authority on infectious disease policy
- Rebecca Henderson, John and Natty McArthur University Professor at Harvard University, and founding co-director of the Business and Environment Initiative at Harvard Business School.
- Sue Biniaz, who was the lead climate lawyer and a lead climate negotiator for the United States from 1989 until early 2017.
- Richard Schmalensee, the Howard W. Johnson Professor of Management, and Professor of Economics Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Kelley Kizier, Associate Vice President for International Climate at the Environmental Defense Fund.
- David Hone, Chief Climate Change Adviser, Shell International.
- Vicky Bailey, 30 years of experience in corporate and government positions in the energy sector.
- David Victor, professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego.
- Lisa Friedman, reporter on the climate desk at the The New York Times.
- Coral Davenport, who covers energy and environmental policy for The New York Times from Washington.
- Spencer Dale, BP Group Chief Economist.
- Richard Revesz, professor at the NYU School of Law.
- Daniel Esty, Hillhouse Professor of Environment and Law at Yale University.
- William Hogan, Raymond Plank Research Professor of Global Energy Policy at Harvard.
- Jody Freeman, Archibald Cox Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.
- John Graham, Dean Emeritus, Paul O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University.
- Gernot Wagner, Clinical Associate Professor at New York University.
- John Holdren, Research Professor, Harvard Kennedy School.
- Larry Goulder, Shuzo Nishihara Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics, Stanford University.
- Suzi Kerr, Chief Economist, Environmental Defense Fund.
- Sheila Olmstead, Professor of Public Affairs, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, Austin.
- Robert Pindyck, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Professor of Economics and Finance, MIT Sloan School of Management.
- Gilbert Metcalf, Professor of Economics, Tufts University.
- Navroz Dubash, Professor, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.
- Paul Joskow, Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics emeritus, MIT.
- Maureen Cropper, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland.
- Orley Ashenfelter, the Joseph Douglas Green 1895 Professor of Economics, Princeton University.
- Jonathan Wiener, the William and Thomas Perkins Professor of Law, Duke Law School.
- Lori Bennear, the Juli Plant Grainger Associate Professor of Energy Economics and Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University.
- Daniel Yergin, founder of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, and now Vice Chair of S&P Global.
- Jeffrey Holmstead, who leads the Environmental Strategies Group at Bracewell in Washington, DC.
- Daniel Jacob, Vasco McCoy Family Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry & Environmental Engineering at Harvard.
- Michael Greenstone, Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago.
“Environmental Insights” is hosted on SoundCloud, and is also available on iTunes, Pocket Casts, Spotify, and Stitcher.