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COP27 Day 2: Get ready to sprint a marathon

In her latest update from COP27, the Clean Energy Council's Policy Director – Decarbonisation, Anna Freeman, gives a rundown of the major events from Day 2 of the conference.

“We’re on a highway to climate hell and we’ve got our foot on the accelerator.”

The language of the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, couldn’t have been more strident in his opening remarks to the 110-plus world leaders gathered in the International Convention Centre on Monday afternoon. And he gave leaders a choice: cooperate or perish.

The form of cooperation he proposed would be a Climate Solidarity Pact, which would see all countries make an extra effort to reduce emissions this decade in line with the 1.5°C goal, all OECD countries phase out coal by 2030 (and the others by 2040), and wealthier nations and international financial institutions provide assistance to emerging economies to accelerate their renewable energy transitions.

The 1.5°C goal agreed in the Paris agreement in 2015 has almost slipped from our grasp and will require a dramatic acceleration of emissions reduction efforts. On current pledges for 2030 – assuming they are implemented in full – we are on a warming trajectory of 2.4–2.8°C, meaning that to bring us back from the brink, everyone needs to not just implement what they’ve promised, but ratchet up those commitments further.

According to Dr Simon Bradshaw from the Climate Council, whom I chatted to on the sidelines of Day 2, Australia would need to lift its existing emissions reduction target of 43 per cent (already a major improvement on what it was just five months ago) to 75 per cent by 2030. That would be achievable, but it is a very steep hill to climb in just eight years.

Australia will feel increasing pressure though to take on that challenge. The government’s announcement over the weekend that Australia would bid to host COP31 in 2026 together with Pacific nations will train the spotlight on Australia’s own efforts and effectively place us on a unity ticket with the Pacific.

The Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, is the Prime Minister’s man on the ground at COP this week, and he has been sending a clear message that what matters to the Pacific, matters to Australia. And given that it is the small island states who have been most doggedly fighting to keep 1.5°C in play to protect their own survival, it will be difficult for Australia to shirk its own responsibilities as part of global efforts.

So, in summary – limber up, folks. If we thought we were running fast already, we ain’t seen nothing yet. We should be preparing to sprint a marathon.