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Guterres calls for Climate Solidarity Pact, urges tax on oil companies to finance loss and damage

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Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the opening of the Climate Implementation Summit at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. UNFCCC/Kiara Worth

At the opening of the two-day Climate Implementation Summit at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, António Guterres called for a historic pact between developed and developing countries to combine capacities, and pivot the world towards reducing carbon emissions, transforming energy systems and avoiding a climate catastrophe. “Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish. It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact – or a Collective Suicide Pact,” the UN Secretary-General told over 100 world leaders reunited for the first official plenary of the UN Climate Change Conference.

The proposed Pact would see all countries taking extra efforts to reduce emissions, wealthier nations and international financial institutions providing assistance to emerging economies, ending dependence on fossil fuels and the building of coals plants, providing sustainable energy for all, and uniting to combine strategy and capacities for the benefit of humankind.

The two largest economies – the United States and China – have a particular responsibility to join efforts to make this Pact a reality. This is our only hope of meeting our climate goals,” he emphasized.

Mr. Guterres said that soon the 8 billionth member of the human family will be born, and that milestone puts into perspective what COP27 is all about.

“How will we answer when ‘Baby 8 Billion’ is old enough to ask:  What did you do for our world – and for our planet – when you had the chance?”.

A crisis of a different scale than the war in Ukraine

Reminding the room that the clock was ticking with the planet fast approaching tipping points that can make “climate chaos” irreversible, the UN chief said that “we are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator”.

He added that while the war in Ukraine and other conflicts have caused so much bloodshed and violence and have had dramatic worldwide impacts, the UN cannot accept that attention is not also focused on climate change.

“It is the defining issue of our age. It is the central challenge of our century. It is unacceptable, outrageous and self-defeating to put it on the back burner,” he underscored.

The Secretary-General explained that many of today’s conflicts are linked to “growing climate chaos”.

“The war in Ukraine has exposed the profound risks of our fossil fuel addiction. Today’s urgent crises cannot be an excuse for backsliding or greenwashing. If anything, they are a reason for greater urgency, stronger action and effective accountability,” he said.

Tax oil companies, and help those struggling with climate impacts

António Guterres asked governments to tax the pandemic-driven windfall profits of fossil fuel companies and redirect the money to people struggling with rising food and energy prices and countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis.

The deadly impacts of climate change are here and now. Loss and damage can no longer be swept under the rug. It is a moral imperative. It is a fundamental question of international solidarity – and climate justice. Those who contributed least to the climate crisis are reaping the whirlwind sown by others,” he underscored, adding that during COP27 leaders must agree on a clear, time-bound roadmap reflective of the scale and urgency of the challenge.

For Mr. Guterres, getting concrete results on loss and damage is a “litmus test” of the commitment of governments to the success of COP27.

More finance for adaptation

The UN chief also made a call for progress on adaptation and building resilience to future climate disruption, noting that three-and-a-half billion people live in countries highly vulnerable to climate impacts.

This would mean countries delivering the promise made in COP26 last year of $40 billion in adaptation support by 2025.

“We need a roadmap on how this will be delivered.  And we must recognize that this is only a first step. Adaptation needs are set to grow to more than $300 billion dollars a year by 2030,” he warned.

He also pointed out the need of international financial institutions and banks to change their business model and do their part.

Time to come together

The UN Secretary-General urged countries to come together for implementation saying it was time for international solidarity across the board.

“Solidarity that respects all human rights and guarantees a safe space for environmental defenders and all actors in society to contribute to our climate response. Let’s not forget that the war on nature is in itself a massive violation of human rights.”

Mr. Guterres underscored that the global climate fight will be won or lost in this crucial decade and on the watch of current world leaders.

“One thing is certain: those that give up are sure to lose. So, let’s fight together– and let’s win. For the 8 billion members of our human family – and for generations to come,” he concluded.

Implementation Summit highlights

The emotion was palpable in the main plenary room of the Tonino Lamborghini International Convention Centre, as discussions opened on the first day of what is traditionally called the World Leaders Summit, but which this year was renamed the ‘Climate Implementation Summit’ by the COP27 Egyptian Presidency.

The first official to speak this afternoon, just ahead of the UN Secretary-General, was the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. He underscored that to overcome today’s climate change crisis and implement the Paris Agreement leaders needed to go beyond words.

The people of the world are looking at us today and they want rapid concrete implementation of genuinely concrete actions to reduce emissions and to reinforce their ability to adapt to and guarantee the funding necessary for developing countries that today are suffering more than others,” he explained.

Mr. El-Sisi urged leaders to take in account the priorities of the African continent, and to support the principle of “shared responsibility”, to inspire trust in their ability to achieve the climate goals.

The Egyptian leader said that there were great expectations for the conference from millions of people across the world, and COP27 should deliver, including answering “thorny questions”.

“I encourage you to become the model that the world hopes for. And show genuine practical ability to face the challenge of climate change,” he highlighted.

At the end of his speech, the Egyptian President, speaking off the cuff, made an open call to the gathered leaders to push for an end to the war in Ukraine, sparking an ovation among the attendees.

“My country is not one of the strongest economically, we suffered greatly with COVID-19, and we are suffering once again because of this unnecessary war. The entire world is suffering,” he said.

Images say more than a thousand words

A 10-minute film, produced by the host country, and projected onto the giant 360° screens inside the room was one of the highlights of Monday’s meeting.

The production used the audio of a powerful poem detailing the responses of the ancient Egyptian civilization to adapt to the climate change that presumably caused their disappearance.

A map of the globe was dotted with red flags to show the places that have suffered disasters in 2022 alone – nearly the entire world was covered.

From Oman to France, and from Brazil to Sudan, powerful images of destruction were shown alongside heart shattering testimonies from victims of climate change, including children.

The video also revealed that without real climate action, iconic locations such as Alexandria, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro, the Maldives, Miami and Venice could simply just disappear.

“Please do everything in your power to save our city,” said a Venetian resident in tears.

Yet, the production ended on a hopeful note, saying that the planet keeps giving us chances for governments to make changes, transition to renewable energy and consume more ethically.

“Climate changes all of us,” the woman narrator said, inviting world leaders to mitigate our current challenges, just as the ancient Egyptians learned, giving their civilization 500 more years of survival.

A call from African youth

Lea Namugerwa, a climate activist from Uganda, asked world leaders that were going to take the podium to speak like they are in an emergency, because that’s what it is.

She described how her life changed when she saw people close to her dying due to landslides caused by excessive rains in Uganda when she was only 14 years old.

At 15, she launched her own NGO called ‘Birthday Trees’. Instead of a traditional birthday party, she invites people to have a tree-planting celebration.

“I have a goal to plant one million trees, what is your goal?” she asked world leaders.

Ms. Namugerwa said that since COP27 has been dubbed the ‘African COP’, the gathering should highlight that her continent, while producing less than 4 per cent of the world’s emissions, is facing the worst consequences of climate change.

“May the African COP be a different COP. Let the African COP be an action COP,” she shouted, challenging Presidents and Prime Ministers to think if they wanted to be remembered as leaders who “did nothing” when they were in power.

Political will is a renewable source: Al Gore

Meanwhile, and in one of the most powerful speeches of the session, former US vice president Al Gore
said we are treating the thin blue shell that protects us, our atmosphere, as “an open sewer”.

“Today, like every day, we are spewing a 162 million tons of manmade heat trapping global warming pollution into the sky. It adds up and accumulates there… The accumulated amount traps as much extra heat as it would be released by 60,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs exploding every day in our planet. That’s why we are seeing these disasters,” he underscored, warning that is getting even worse.

Mr. Gore said that leaders have a credibility problem: they talk but they are not doing enough.

“It is a choice to continue this destructive pattern”, he explained, arguing that climate change works similarly to “an apartheid”, with the most vulnerable suffering the worst.

“We don’t have to choose curses, we can choose blessings, including the blessings of renewable energy. We are in the early stages of an energy revolution, if we invest in it and stop subsidizing the culture of death, we can save ourselves,” he said.

The renowned Nobel Prize-winning environmentalist also said that Africa could be the world’s renewable super Power, because the potential of the continent’s solar and wind technologies was 400 times larger than the total of the fossil fuel reserves left.

He invited world leaders and global financial institutions to open pathways to generate a “renewables revolution”, including reducing interest rates for African countries.

“The UN Secretary-General just said we are on a highway to climate hell, and we need to take our foot off the gas”, he said, reiterating that any fossil fuel development is incompatible with keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Finally, he called on leaders to work together to drive impact and address their credibility problem.

“We can summon the political will to do what is necessary, political will is a renewable resource”, he concluded.

A call for action on loss and damage: Mia Mottley

The last speaker, Barbados Prime Minister and SDG Advocate Mia Mottley, made a case for tackling the issue of loss and damage, one of COP27’s most debated themes.

She saluted Denmark, Belgium and Scotland for allocating funds for developing countries, with barely any responsibility for global emissions, strongly affected by climate change.

Echoing the call of the Secretary-General, she said that while State Parties need to do the right thing, her country believes that non-State actors and stakeholders, such as oil and gas companies and those who facilitate them, need to be brought to a special convocation in the next year.

How do companies make $200 billion in profits in the last three months and not expect to contribute at least 10 cents on every dollar to a loss a damage fund? This is what our people expect,” she expressed.

The Climate Implementation Summit heard from 50 Heads of State and Government on Monday, including France, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, United Kingdom and Israel, and will have heard from over 100 world leaders by the time it wraps up tomorrow.

While the US President Joe Biden will not attend the Summit, he will be at COP27 next week.  As of now, neither China nor Russia’s Heads of State are expected to speak. Ukraine’s President Vlodimir Zelensky will send a video message.

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Leak of secret trade-off deal triggers NGOs demand to end Congo oil auction

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A coalition of civil society groups have called for the immediate cancellation of a massive oil and gas auction in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following news of a secret deal between Oil Minister Didier Budimbu, Nigerian gambling tycoon Chukwuma Ayodeji Ojuroye, and US consultancy GeoSigmoid.

According to Africa Intelligence, an agreement signed in Paris in September 2021 with Mr. Ojuroye’s Emirati-registered firm Clayhall Group reserves the company two oil blocks in exchange for the prefinancing of geological surveys by GeoSigmoid. In a letter addressed to the Minister last year, Mr. Ojuroye stressed the “necessity and urgency” of proceeding with a separate, restricted tender to concretize the deal.

The secret agreement makes a mockery of Mr. Budimbu’s global communications campaign to promote the auction as transparent, the NGOs maintain. The Minister failed to mention it in any of his numerous press conferences, media interviews or tweets. 

According to official minutes, on 20 May 2022 Mr. Budimbu updated the Council of Ministers on the pre-financing agreement, without revealing the clause reserving oil blocks for Clayhall. GeoSigmoid had presented preliminary data of sixteen oil blocks to the Prime Minister earlier that month.

One of the two blocks that Mr. Ojuroye reportedly expects to be awarded, block 23, lies in the heart of the peatland-rich Cuvette Centrale, a carbon bomb at the centre of the world’s attention since its mapping in 2017. 

Congolese law permits restricted oil tenders, but the public procurement law’s condition – the “specialised” nature of the services required – would hardly be propitious for the firm of an online betting tycoon.

The demand to cancel the oil auction and investigate the secret trade-off is made by Congolese NGOs AICED, Dynamique Pole, IDPE, MJPE, and REDD, as well as international NGOs 350.org, Banktrack, Greenpeace Africa, Oil Change International and Rainforest Rescue. It comes five days after Mr. Budimbu announced new deadlines for companies to file expressions of interest, officially to give them more time to prepare their bids.

The President of the National Assembly, Christophe Mboso, must:

  • put in place a parliamentary committee to investigate the Oil Minister’s secret agreement with Chukwuma Ayodeji Ojuroye.

President Félix Tshisekedi must:

  • order his Minister to publish the full agreements with all supporting companies;
  • immediately intervene to cancel the auction.
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The Green Deal Industrial Plan: putting Europe’s net-zero industry in the lead

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Commission presents a Green Deal Industrial Plan to enhance the competitiveness of Europe’s net-zero industry and support the fast transition to climate neutrality. The Plan aims to provide a more supportive environment for the scaling up of the EU’s manufacturing capacity for the net-zero technologies and products required to meet Europe’s ambitious climate targets.

The Plan builds on previous initiatives and relies on the strengths of the EU Single Market, complementing ongoing efforts under the European Green Deal and REPowerEU. It is based on four pillars: a predictable and simplified regulatory environment, speeding up access to finance, enhancing skills, and open trade for resilient supply chains.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “We have a once in a generation opportunity to show the way with speed, ambition and a sense of purpose to secure the EU’s industrial lead in the fast-growing net-zero technology sector. Europe is determined to lead the clean tech revolution. For our companies and people, it means turning skills into quality jobs and innovation into mass production, thanks to a simpler and faster framework. Better access to finance will allow our key clean tech industries to scale up quickly.”

A predictable and simplified regulatory environment

The first pillar of the plan is about a simpler regulatory framework.

The Commission will propose a Net-Zero Industry Act to identify goals for net-zero industrial capacity and provide a regulatory framework suited for its quick deployment, ensuring simplified and fast-track permitting, promoting European strategic projects, and developing standards to support the scale-up of technologies across the Single Market.

The framework will be complemented by the Critical Raw Materials Act, to ensure sufficient access to those materials, like rare earths, that are vital for manufacturing key technologies, and the reform of the electricity market design, to make consumers benefit from the lower costs of renewables.

Faster access to funding

The second pillar of the plan will speed up investment and financing for clean tech production in Europe. Public financing, in conjunction with further progress on the European Capital Markets Union, can unlock the huge amounts of private financing required for the green transition. Under competition policy, the Commission aims to guarantee a level playing field within the Single Market while making it easier for the Member States to grant necessary aid to fast-track the green transition. To that end, in order to speed up and simplify aid granting, the Commission will consult Member States on an amended Temporary State aid Crisis and Transition Framework and it will revise the General Block Exemption Regulation in light of the Green Deal, increasing notification thresholds for support for green investments. Among others, this will contribute to further streamline and simplify the approval of IPCEI-related projects.

The Commission will also facilitate the use of existing EU funds for financing clean tech innovation, manufacturing and deployment. The Commission is also exploring avenues to achieve greater common financing at EU level to support investments in manufacturing of net-zero technologies, based on an ongoing investment needs assessment. The Commission will work with Member States in the short term, with a focus on REPowerEU, InvestEU and the Innovation Fund, on a bridging solution to provide fast and targeted support. For the mid-term, the Commission intends to give a structural answer to the investment needs, by proposing a European Sovereignty Fund in the context of the review of the Multi-annual financial framework before summer 2023.

To help Member States’ access the REPowerEU funds, the Commission has today adopted new guidance on recovery and resilience plans, explaining the process of modifying existing plans and the modalities for preparing REPowerEU chapters.

Enhancing skills

As between 35% and 40% of all jobs could be affected by the green transition, developing the skills needed for well-paid quality jobs will be a priority for the European Year of Skills, and the third pillar of the plan will focus on it.

To develop the skills for a people centred green transition the Commission will propose to establish Net-Zero Industry Academies to roll out up-skilling and re-skilling programmes in strategic industries. It will also consider how to combine a ‘Skills-first’ approach, recognising actual skills, with existing approaches based on qualifications, and how to facilitate access of third country nationals to EU labour markets in priority sectors, as well as measures to foster and align public and private funding for skills development.

Open trade for resilient supply chains

The fourth pillar will be about global cooperation and making trade work for the green transition, under the principles of fair competition and open trade, building on the engagements with the EU’s partners and the work of the World Trade Organization. To that end, the Commission will continue to develop the EU’s network of Free Trade Agreements and other forms of cooperation with partners to support the green transition. It will also explore the creation of a Critical Raw Materials Club, to bring together raw material ‘consumers’ and resource-rich countries to ensure global security of supply through a competitive and diversified industrial base, and of Clean Tech/Net-Zero Industrial Partnerships.  

The Commission will also protect the Single Market from unfair trade in the clean tech sector and will use its instruments to ensure that foreign subsidies do not distort competition in the Single Market, also in the clean-tech sector.

Background

The European Green Deal, presented by the Commission on 11 December 2019, sets the goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The European Climate Law enshrines in binding legislation the EU’s commitment to climate neutrality and the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

In the transition to a net-zero economy, Europe’s competitiveness will strongly rely on its capacity to develop and manufacture the clean technologies that make this transition possible.

The European Green Deal Industrial Plan was announced by President von der Leyen in her speech at to the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2023 as the initiative for the EU to sharpen its competitive edge through clean-tech investment and continue leading on the path to climate neutrality. It responds to the invitation by the European Council for the Commission to make proposals by the end of January 2023 to mobilise all relevant national and EU tools and improve framework conditions for investment, with a view to ensuring EU’s resilience and competitiveness.

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Ghana Begins Receiving Payments for Reducing Carbon Emissions in Forest Landscapes

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Ghana has become the second country in Africa after Mozambique to receive payments from a World Bank trust fund for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, commonly known as REDD+. The World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) paid Ghana $4,862,280 for reducing 972,456 tons of carbon emissions for the first monitoring period under the program (June to December 2019).

“This payment is the first of four under the country’s Emission Reductions Payment Agreement (ERPA) with the World Bank to demonstrate potential for leveraging results based payments for carbon credits,” said Pierre Laporte, World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. “Subject to showing results from actions taken to reduce deforestation, Ghana is eligible to receive up to $50 million for 10 million tons of CO2 emissions reduced by the end of 2024.” 

These actions are within a six-million-hectare stretch of the West Africa Guinean Forest, where biodiversity and forests are under pressure from cocoa farming and unsustainable harvesting, and small-scale mining. Ghana is one of 15 countries that have signed ERPAs with the World Bank.

“The many years of dialogue, consultations, and negotiations with local communities, traditional authorities, government agencies, private sector, CSOs, and NGOs have paid off,” said Samuel A. Jinapor, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources. “This emission reductions payment will further promote confidence in Ghana’s REDD+ process for action to reduce deforestation and forest degradation while empowering local community livelihoods. The road to global 1.5 degrees cannot be achieved without healthy standing forests, and Ghana is committed to making it possible.”

Ghana is the world’s second-largest cocoa producer. Cocoa drives the economy, but it is also one of the main causes of deforestation and forest degradation in the southeast and western regions of the country. Stakeholders are working to help some 140,000 Ghanaian farmers increase cocoa production using climate-smart agro-forestry approaches, rather than slash and burn land-clearing techniques that decimate forests. More sustainable cocoa farming helps avoid expansion of cocoa farms into forest lands and secures more predictable income streams for communities.

Ghana’s Cocoa Board is participating in the REDD+ process, as are some of the most important cocoa and chocolate companies in the world, including World Cocoa Foundation members like Mondelēz International, Olam, Touton, and others. Their combined actions are not only helping bring change to the cocoa sector, but they are also helping Ghana meet its national emissions reductions commitments under the Paris Agreement. This level of collaboration is also reflected in the benefit sharing plan underpinning Ghana’s’ ERPA with the World Bank. Prepared through extensive consultations with local stakeholders and civil society organizations throughout the country, the plan ensures all participating stakeholders are fairly recognized and rewarded for their role in reducing emissions.

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