Unlocking climate finance, particularly for developing countries, will be key to making substantial progress on cutting emissions and limiting global temperature rises, the Egyptian Presidency for the UN Climate Change Conference said in a press briefing March 8.
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COP27, held in Sharm el-Sheikh in November, achieved a landmark agreement on "loss and damage" funding, paving the way for climate change reparations.
However, progress on cutting emissions was disappointing, with the conference barely managing to keep language seeking to limit temperature rises to 1.5 C from the previous agreement at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021.
Mohamed Nasr, lead negotiator and director general Climate, Environment and Sustainable Development at Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said countries had been reluctant to strengthen Nationally Determined Contributions -- pledges on how nations are to reach their emissions reduction targets -- because of a lack of access to finance.
"Parties were reluctant to move beyond what they have now in NDCs" until progress on finance was made, Nasr said.
Countries were trying to access finance to meet these commitments, and finding it very difficult, Nasr said, noting around $5.6 trillion required to implement NDCs, compared with the $100 billion in climate finance for poorer countries being discussed.
"We did not agree on the pathways on how to deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement," Nasr said.
"Implementing the rules is always challenging," he noted, adding there were "a lot of gaps in pathways."
This was why Egypt had pushed countries to come forward with strengthened NDCs in the run-up to COP27.
Nasr said the Just Energy Transition Partnerships, such as that with South Africa, were good models of positive incentives to change.
Many viewed the lack of progress on explicitly mentioning reducing fossil fuel use as a failure of Egypt's presidency of the UN climate conference.
However, Nasr said that the inclusion of a section on energy in the "Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan" was a significant step forward, and said that language emphasizing the role of renewable energy was the Egyptian Presidency's answer to the problem of reducing fossil fuel use.
The problem, Nasr said, was how to address the need to reduce fossil fuels without the "controversial language" that has been a stumbling block in UN climate change negotiations in the past.
Including renewables in the agreement "was our formulation when it came to the mitigation part," Nasr said. "Either we say 'no' to something, or we say 'yes'" to the alternative.
Nasr said the direction of travel was clear, with the cost of renewables tumbling, and there was nothing to be gained by trying to force countries to ban using certain fuels without a clear way of implementing the change in energy systems required.
By getting renewables on the agenda, it opened the way for discussions of installed quantities and share of energy in the future, Nasr added.
Looking ahead to COP28, to be held in the UAE in November to December 2023, Nasr said the next steps were to look at specific sectors in more detail, such as transport, deforestation, energy-intensive industries and how to roll out emerging decarbonization solutions such as hydrogen.
Asked if the goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 C was still realistic, Nasr referenced the "path of climate extreme events we are seeing now" with just 1.1 C of warming above preindustrial levels, and said it was critical to keep temperature rises as low as possible.
He said it was achievable if the right ingredients were in place, but stressed the lack of progress in rolling out technology and access to finance.