All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal cross-party groups in the UK, run by Members of the Commons and Lords, and sometimes involving individuals or organisations outside of Parliament. They have no official status within Parliament.[i]
The APPG for the Environment is chaired by Chris Skidmore, the MP that signed the UK’s net zero by 2050 commitment into law. Environment APPG members include the Woodland Trust, RSPB, Solar UK, CPRE, and the Marine Conservation Society. Membership gives these organisations access to Environment APPG events, site visits, specialist policy briefings and reports, and Q&A sessions with the secretariat and/or Chair to discuss policy areas of interest.[ii]
‘Keeping 1.5 alive: Global goals for climate leadership at COP28’ calls for nine focus areas for COP28.[iii] The priorities are as follows:
So far, there has failed to be an agreement over the details of the loss and damage fund. At COP28, the loss and damage committee will report on how the loss and damage fund will be structured. Once this has happened, action needs to be taken quickly to make the fund operational and effective so that countries already facing climate disaster can cope.
Environment APPG’s report includes statements on the loss and damage fund from both Afzal Khan MP and Angela Francis, Director of policy solutions at WWF:
“A serious commitment to climate finance for loss and damage at this year’s COP28 conference is absolutely essential to support individuals who are made refugees in their own country as a result of extreme weather events. It is thought there will be 1.2 billion climate refugees in the next 25 years, with the impacts of climate change worsening, acting now is the only viable option.” – Afzal Khan
“The climate crisis is moving faster than our response to it, and communities and ecosystems all over the globe are reeling from the catastrophic consequences of inaction. Every increment of warming will result in loss and damage, especially to the most vulnerable countries and communities, most of which have contributed little to causing the problem. Substantial new funding pledges, including from the UK, will therefore be required at COP28 to make the loss and damage fund operational and effective.” – Angela Francis[iv]
COP agreements over fossil fuels have focused on phasing ‘down’ coal, rather than phasing ‘out’ all fossil fuels. At COP27, a coalition of over 80 countries, including India and the European Union, called for the final COP27 agreement to phase down all fossil fuels rather than just coal.[v] This was unsuccessful, however, and the final agreement called for “accelerating efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”.[vi]
The term ‘unabated’ has also been criticised and it is slightly confusing terminology. ‘Abatement’ means the process of reducing something. In terms of coal power generation, abatement usually means using carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technology. Therefore, ‘unabated coal power’ means coal power that is generated from a plant without CC(U)S. So, when there are calls for a “phasedown of unabated coal power”, that means that it is just coal power plants without CC(U)S technology that come under scrutiny, rather than all coal power plants. This can also be applied to oil and gas.
Environment APPG says,
“In Dubai, countries like the UK must make this [an agreement to phase out all fossil fuels] happen. We need to see a clear roadmap to a rapid and equitable phase out of fossil fuels. By consigning all fossil fuels to history, COP28 can be a defining moment in global action for people and the planet.”[vii]
To avoid emitting around seven billion tonnes of carbon dioxide before 2030, global renewable energy capacity must be tripled by the end of the decade.[viii] Fortunately, good progress is being made towards this goal. In 2022, around 300 GW of renewables were added globally, which accounted for 83% of new power capacity. In contrast, fossil fuels and nuclear additions only accounted for 17%.[ix] Renewable power capacity will have its largest ever annual increase in 2023, equal to the total power output of China and the US.[x] G20 leaders have also agreed to the goal of tripling renewable energy capacity. However, what is needed at COP28 are clear and firm commitments to reaching this goal, and the roll-out of investment and development of new wind and solar projects.[xi]
Energy efficiency needs to be invested in to reduce the amount of energy consumed globally. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut energy bills, and tackle health issues that are caused by cold homes. The IEA notes that “actions taken globally to accelerate energy efficiency in the past year indicate a potential turning point for energy efficiency after several years of slow progress.”[xii] Furthermore, The Versailles Statement commits to doubling global energy efficiency. It has been signed by almost 50 governments, including the UK.
Environment APPG says,
“At COP28, these countries must rally all parties to make the commitment universal, while understanding that different countries must take different approaches to meeting the target.”[xiii]
90% of biodiversity loss and 50% of greenhouse gas emissions come from resource extraction and processing, including food, fuel, and raw materials.[xiv] This highlights the environmental imperative of reducing resource use. Using critical raw materials more carefully is crucial as we continue with the green transition.
Circularity is proposed as a way to reduce resource use: “Improving resource efficiency by reducing the use of all materials and then reusing or recycling them is an under recognised route to lowering carbon emissions fast”.[xv]
Between 2010 and 2050, global food demand is expected to rise by 35-56%.[xvi] However, as Environment APPG’s report states,
“How we feed the world’s population has a huge impact on climate change and the natural environment. Intensive animal agriculture is not only inefficient, it also harms our most precious natural assets like the Amazon rainforest, where trees are still being felled to make way for crops.”[xvii]
There have been several pledges to end deforestation to little affect. For example, the 2021 Glasgow Declaration called for forest loss to be halted and reversed by 2030. However, in 2022, deforestation increased due to land clearance for farming.[xviii] 10% more primary rainforest was lost in the tropics in 2022 than in 2021, totaling 4.1 million hectares. This produced 2.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, which is equivalent to the annual fossil fuel emissions of India.[xix]
A key aspect of COP28 will be the intersection between agriculture, food insecurity, and biodiversity loss.[xx] The report recommends that governments need to respond to the UAE presidency call for countries to align their national food systems with their commitments on emissions reduction and climate adaptation. Serious systems level change is needed to prevent food supplies being affected by extreme weather, and for food to be produced alongside nature protection and climate mitigation.
The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) was developed in the 1990s to enable multilateral cooperation in the energy sector and encourage international investments in former Soviet states after the Cold War. The ECT has 53 contracting parties including countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, as well as the European Union and Euratom.[xxi]
However, the ECT threatens to protect fossil fuel investors as it is used by them to mitigate the losses they incur from public policies using investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). This enables them to sue governments and obtain huge damages awards. According to IISD, the fossil fuel industry uses ISDS more than any other sector, with damages awards averaging over $600 million USD, which is almost five times the amount awarded in non-fossil fuel cases.[xxii] In fear of lawsuits, governments shy away from legislating on fossil fuel phase out.
States including Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Spain are planning to withdraw from the ECT over worries that it is incompatible with the Paris Agreement. The UK Government has confirmed that it will review its ECT membership and consider withdrawal if “vital modernisation is not agreed”.[xxiii] Environment APPG, however, states that, “To remain a signatory of the ECT, while reckoning with climate disaster, is incomprehensible and must end”.[xxiv]
This priority is focusing on the protection of marine species on the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI). SGSSI is a UK overseas territory with potentially the single largest concentration of marine species in the world. All SGSSI waters over one million square kilometers are counted as marine protected area (MPA). However, only 23% is currently off limits to commercial extraction. This enables industrialised krill fishing in the remaining waters, which undermines protections according to international standards.[xxv]
At the end of 2023, the MPA will be reviewed by the SGSSI Government and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. This means that,
“there is one chance, ahead of the next general election, to significantly increase the protection of marine species found on the islands. To demonstrate its protection of overseas territories, the UK must use this review opportunity to enhance the environmental protection of SGSSI.”[xxvi]
At COP26, 150 countries committed to reducing their methane emissions by 30%, compared to 2020 levels, by 2030. This is the Global Methane Pledge (GMP). In order to reach the 2030 goal, methane emissions need to reduce by over 4% every year. Over fifty countries have developed or are developing national methane action plans, but acting on these plans is slow.[xxvii] We have previously discussed how the UK is failing to act on the GMP, including in terms of their agricultural emissions. Most of the other signatories are also failing to act.[xxviii]
The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) states that the actions committed by countries in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are enough to achieve the aim of the GMP. There are 476 specific methane-mitigating actions in the NDCs, and these cover over 40% of global methane emissions. Ways to reduce methane emissions include: reducing venting and flaring of gas across oil and gas infrastructure, capturing coal mine methane, reducing methane emissions from livestock, reducing methane emissions from rice paddy fields through implementation of alternate wetting and drying practices, reducing waste and food waste, eating less red meat, capturing landfill gas at solid waste disposal sites, diverting organic waste from landfills to composting, and capturing methane from wastewater treatment plants. However, because these mitigation measures are not 100% effective, SEI estimate that their implementation could reduce global methane emissions by 31% by 2030, which is still enough to achieve the GMP. Furthermore, just 13 of the 476 methane-mitigating measures could create over half of the methane reductions. Examples of these “big win” actions are reducing methane emissions from coal mines, and oil and gas operations in China; reducing methane emissions form oil and gas operations in the United States, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and many other countries; and reducing methane emissions from wastewater emissions in India.[xxix]
[xxvii] Global Methane Pledge
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