On November 19 and 20, Commissioners Muhamad Chatib Basri, Kim Campbell, Felipe Calderon, Hina Khar, Xue Lan, Frances Beinecke, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Anote Tong, and Laurence Tubiana joined Chair Pascal Lamy remotely or in person in Cairo, Egypt, for the Commission’s third meeting. They were joined by the three Scientific Advisors Thelma Krug, Chris Field and Michael Obersteiner and the Secretariat members. The Commissioners met immediately following the COP27 UN climate summit in nearby Sharm El-Sheikh to take stock of the latest multilateral dialogues and to further their discussions on adaptation, carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and possibly sunlight reflection methods (solar radiation modification, SRM) to reduce climate change risks. They initiated the meeting by reflecting on progress at COP27 and the recent G20, at which the United States (US) and China resumed cooperation on climate policy. The Commissioners noted that, while the rhetoric at the G20 exceeded the expectations, the financing debate remained split between high-income countries and low- and middle-income ones, as well as on the implementation of the agreed-upon political declarations. Although the negotiations at COP27 had not yet concluded (see “Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan,” below), the Commission noted the possible renewed commitments to the ambitious global warming goal of the Paris Agreement–despite the absence of progress on mitigation and on monitoring and accountability mechanisms, widening the gap between rhetoric and action. Financing and loss & damage were showing some progress as well. The Commission considered the discrepancies between the needs for more energy and emission reductions among various countries, the role of transferring and funding technologies where they are needed, and other climate-related development challenges. The Commission then discussed the expected outcomes of climate overshoot, insisting on the essential role of emission reductions. The Commissioners welcomed the discussion of the dynamics and realities of climate responses, in order to build solutions inclusive of economic growth, cover issues most pressing to LMICs, and address what has failed in the past. Science advisor Prof. Obersteiner presented the expected impacts of overshoot among different scenarios. He recalled the objective of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous human intervention and allow ecosystems to adapt. Prof. Obersteiner noted that overshoot requires not only emissions reductions but also immediate CDR, including nature-based solutions. He shared long-term scenarios, showcasing that net-zero emissions are not enough to eliminate global warming by then. Instead, net-negative emissions may be needed for two or three centuries. Prof. Obersteiner presented then a range of six climate plans, depending on the level of overshoot and the kind of responses warranted. This discussion helped the Commissioners better understand the definitions of overshoot, and the classification of approaches to address it, taking into account that some consequences of a temporary overshoot can be long lasting and irreversible. The Commissioners then explored adaptation policies at greater length and took steps toward common recommendations. Adaptation is a key component of sustainable development, allowing people to adjust to an uncertain future. Several Commissioners pointed out that treating adaptation and development separately is increasingly unhelpful: most of the investments that are useful for adaptation are also useful for sustainable development. But international financing mechanisms are cumbersome and ill-adapted and do not reflect this reality. The Commission discussed options to address this issue. Commissioners also stressed that adaptation can provide a win-win situation for the actors involved, spanning the range from simple changes to major transformations. They discussed synergies with mitigation, energy access and transformations, resilience to climate threats, and food security. The links between sustainable development, mitigation and adaptation require considerations of social equity and the broader human dimension. On CDR, the Commissioners reviewed different CDR pathways and their cost-effectiveness, with nature-based solutions cost-competitive in the short term but industrial CDR more effective in the long term due to the latter’s permanence. CDR techniques need to be deployed, despite issues including intergenerational hurdles, funding, and equity among countries of varying development status. Commissioners stressed the need to take into account the different qualities of CDR–in particular, permanent and non-permanent sequestration should not be confused, and scalability and co-benefits should be properly taken into account. The technical discussion then focused on the inclusion and deployment of CDR through existing carbon markets. Several Commissioners stressed that economic options (e.g., incentives, attempts at integrated carbon markets) are not currently aligned with policies. Finding the proper market mechanisms would be a breakthrough.The discussion focused on the economics of emissions and removals, and how the Commission could recommend incentivizing removals to help achieve net-zero emissions. Further discussion will explore this path in greater detail. Commissioner Tubiana then provided the Commission with a first-hand read-out of the outcomes of COP27, and her analysis of the advances and deadlocks in the multilateral discussion, including the latest announcement of a fund for loss and damage. The Commissioners then considered SRM, hearing the latest data and evidence from science advisors Field and Krug, before exchanging with SRM researchers from the Global South, gathered through the support of the Degrees Initiative. Prof. Field reminded that SRM consequences would depend on the deployment scales, and risks are higher when deployment is larger in scale or magnitude. Funding of SRM research is limited, mostly by the US government and some philanthropic efforts. He then presented research gaps, such as conducting small-scale experiments and acquiring valuable information. Impacts depend on the extent of deployment, and some consequences are difficult to measure. On governance, climate-altering technologies are being looked into by some groups, mostly Western, and call for inclusion of representatives and researchers from developing countries. The Commissioners then debated and agreed that, while SRM research is still at early stages and there is limited evidence on the magnitude of its risks, it should still be further and cautiously explored, while stressing that SRM is not an option now given the incomplete state of the science.
The Commission meets next early February 2023 in Jakarta, Indonesia, home of Commissioner Muhamad Chatib Basri.