COP 27 in Egypt: The United States Is Back at the Table

G&A's Sustainability Highlights (11.15.2022)
Nov 21, 2022 10:20 AM ET

COP 27 in Egypt: The United States is Back at the Table

The Top Stories in ESG this week are about the annual global climate meetings in Egypt – COP 27 (the Conference of Parties), convened by the United Nations. These meetings of about 200 sovereign nation’s leaders and other influentials began in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (President George H.W. Bush was in his last year in office). The position of the United States has seesawed over the years in terms of exerting leadership or not. The welcome news for 2022 is that the U.S. is back at the table.

This year’s meetings saw President Joseph Biden and former Secretary of State John Kerry, now the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, playing a much more visible role than was the case during the Trump Administration. We are sharing with you the coverage of President Biden’s and Secretary Kerry’s comments.

The U.S. is the world’s largest economy and the second largest greenhouse gas emitter. In his remarks at COP 27, President Biden reclaimed the country’s role as global leader in climate change actions and committed to help address global warming at home and abroad. The Biden Administration’s “Whole of Government” approach to climate change solutions was a centerpiece of his commentary.

Emphasizing the U.S. commitment to address climate change, President Biden told the summit participants:I introduced the first piece of climate legislation in the United States Senate way back in 1986, 36 years ago. My commitment to this issue has been unwavering. And today, finally, thanks to the actions we’ve taken, I can stand here as President of the United States of America and say with confidence: The United States of America will meet our emissions targets by 2030. We are racing forward to do our part to avert the “climate hell” that the U.N. Secretary-General so passionately warned about earlier this week. We’re not ignoring the harbingers that are already here.

And for domestic U.S. audiences, President Biden had this important news: And just yesterday, the United States became the first government to require that our major federal suppliers disclose their emissions and climate risks and set targets for themselves that are aligned with the Paris Agreement. As the world’s largest customer, with more than $630 billion in spending last year, the United States government is putting our money where our mouth is to strengthen accountability for climate risk and resilience.

However, while the U.S. government could leverage almost US$400 billions committed by Congress and the Administration to make investments in climate change solutions, missing are major investments to help other less-wealthy nations in climate change mitigation. Not that President Biden was unsympathetic about helping other nations -- he has pledged to help developing countries with $11 billion each year to 2024 for transitioning to wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources.

“Reparations” was a key word circulating at COP 27 and the U.S. government, with a divided Congress (keepers of the purse strings), is not likely near-term to commit funds for other countries to address their climate change challenges.

As The New York Times points out (in the story we bring you below), determining “loss and damage” funding is very difficult to define and loaded with potential legal liability for donating nations such as the U.S. and European powers.

One of the big stories we see as COP 27 ends will be increasing focus among the almost 200 nations that participated on who pays going forward for less developed economies. G&A will be staying tuned and will keep you updated on what happens next as we move toward COP 28.

This is just the introduction of G&A's Sustainability Highlights newsletter this week. Click here to view the full issue.