World leaders agreed a historic new climate agreement at COP27 in Egypt recently.
They have committed to establishing a fund to help countries being impacted by climate change, but they have not raised ambition on cutting emissions.
The agreement comes a year after the Glasgow Climate Pact was signed, which contained new pledges on coal, forests and money.
Progress on these pledges could provide an indication of how likely nations are to succeed in achieving what has just been signed off in Sharm el-Sheikh.
So far, climate experts have told the BBC that progress in 2022 has been slow — with governments around the world distracted by global energy and financial crises.
Last week the UN warned the world is heading towards catastrophe. But there are rays of hope – including fresh US legislation and a change of government in Brazil that could reverse the Amazon rainforest’s destruction.
As leaders depart from COP27 in Egypt, we look at seven key players to ask who is leading the way and who is dragging their feet.
USA: A climate leader again?
The US made a huge leap forward this year when it passed sweeping new laws to confront climate change.
Measures within the Inflation Reduction Act could reduce US greenhouse gas emissions – those gases that warm the atmosphere – by 40 percent by 2030.
“This is the biggest investment in climate solutions in US history. It’s a huge sign of progress,” Dan Lashof, US director at the World Resources Institute, told BBC News.
The bill aims to make green energy the default in major sectors like electricity, transport and industry. The most obvious result for consumers is a tax credit of around US$7,500 for those who buy an electric car. But it is not all good news. In response to the energy crisis, President Joe Biden released 15 million barrels of oil from reserves on to the market and approved new leases for oil and gas drilling.
And after a senior US politician controversially visited Taiwan, China ended its co-operation with the US on climate, this has potentially slowed progress on climate action. But there are signs tension could be thawing after US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held their first meeting since Biden took office at the G20 conference this week.
The US has also not delivered its fair share of finance to support developing countries suffering the most from climate change, which could damage relations at COP27.
UK: Leadership and ‘dithering’
The UK hosted COP26, secured major global pledges, and showed itself to be a clear international climate leader.
But the UK has shown “disappointing” leadership in the run up to COP27, says Alyssa Gilbert, Director of Policy at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak performed a U-turn from his earlier decision not go to to Egypt due to other priorities – experts say this has compromised the UK.
“One of the key things about COP is political leadership from the top. Dithering from the Prime Minister is worse in a year when we are the presidents of COP,” explains Ms Gilbert.
And the UK has not increased its ambition to tackle its role in climate change, according to analysis by Climate Action Tracker of plans submitted to the UN. (These are called Nationally Determined Contributions – part of the landmark Paris Agreement in which countries promised to regularly increase ambition to tackle climate change).
The global energy crisis also led the UK to back-track on commitments to end new oil and gas extraction in the North Sea and close down coal-powered stations.
These changes may not fundamentally alter the UK’s energy balance — but they “send the wrong signal”, explains Robert Falkner, professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics.
EU: Squeezed by Russia
The European Union is historically progressive on tackling climate change, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the impact on energy supplies to Europe have undermined that.
“Leaders extended the lifeline of coal-fired power plants and and we estimate that European emissions actually increased by about 2 percent in the first six months of this year,” says Prof Robert Falkner.
Climate Action Tracker now rates EU’s climate targets, policies, and finance as “insufficient”, and the EU has not updated the UN with new NDC plans. But Prof Falkner considers the return to investing in fossil fuels a “temporary setback” and suggests the EU could take this opportunity to make itself energy secure by investing in renewables. A new plan, the REPowerEU plan, aims to increase the EU’s share of renewable energy in 2030 from 40 percent to 45 percent.
India: Big ambitions hampered by coal
India is one of the few countries to have published updated climate targets in 2022.
“It is almost impossible to talk about India without talking about progress,” says Kamya Choudhary at London School of Economics.
It promises to reduce emissions intensity by 45 percent by 2030 — meaning it plans to reduce emissions per dollar. It also wants 50 percent of installed energy to be renewable.
But India’s plan to reopen 100 coal mines (coal is the most polluting fossil fuel) could be a barrier to those ambitions.
Professor Navroz Dubash at Centre for Public Policy and UN climate advisor told the BBC that tariffs on coal are helping to pay for key infrastructure, and the loss of that income needs to be plugged. However, as in other countries, Kamya Choudhary suggests this is a short-term measure to cope with the energy crisis.
Climate Action Tracker says India’s pledges are not very ambitious – they could be achieved with limited government action.
Brazil: New president, new hope?
Brazil holds one of the keys to fighting climate change – its massive Amazon rainforest, the lungs of the planet, soaks up huge amounts of carbon. In a dramatic election last week, President Jair Bolsonaro was ousted by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – potentially changing overnight the future of the Amazon.
“Brazil is ready to retake its leadership in the fight against the climate crisis,” Lula said on Sunday.
A vote on the fate of the Amazon
In 2021 alone deforestation increased by 48 percent. Renata Piazzon, executive director at Instituto Arapyau, puts this down to President Bolsonaro championing more mining in the Amazon.
President-elect of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and members of an indigenous group attend a meeting at COP27 climate summit, in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, November 17, 2022.
President- of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was one of the most popular attendees at the 27th UN Climate Summit in Egypt this week
Since Glasgow, Brazil’s targets have been criticised as “less ambitious” than pledges made in 2016, and for failing to meet promises.
Historically, Brazil has used hydropower to provide large amounts of green energy – but a drought in 2021 drained its dams. In response, it invested in oil and gas — with predictions that its use of oil will increase by 70 percent by 2030.
However, the International Energy Agency predicts that solar will compensate for the loss of the nation’s hydropower.
Australia: Making up lost ground
Politics has seen a change of face in Australia too. Elected in May, new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has accelerated climate plans, ending a decade of backsliding.
The country submitted new targets to the UN, promising to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030 — a big leap forward from its previous target of 26 percent. But Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, says it only seems like significant progress because of how far behind Australia was.
New Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has committed to reversing biodiversity loss in Australia by 2030
“There has been so far been little change in policy and certainly not in the area of fossil fuels,” he said.
Australia’s states have led the way in increasing renewable energy – but the country remains in the top five producers of coal in the world.
And although Australia promised at COP26 to end deforestation, it was classed in 2021 as the only developed country that is a “hotspot” for tree loss — nearly half of forests in eastern Australia have been destroyed.
China: A “terrific” polluter investing in renewables
China has a complicated role in global climate action. Unlike countries in the developed world, it is not responsible for historical greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say have caused climate change so far.
But it is now a “terrific polluter” because of its very rapid economic growth, explains Neil Hurst, senior policy fellow for energy and mitigation at the Grantham Institute. It burns half of the coal in the world, and is reluctant to cut back because of energy shortages.
However, China is also by far the biggest investors in renewable energy. A quarter of newly-registered cars in China are electric. “They’re making big efforts and setting demanding targets, including peaking its carbon emissions by 2030,” explains Mr Hurst.
And it has big ambitions to address carbon emissions with tree planting. In May, President Xi Jinping pledged to plant 70 billion trees by 2030 — BBC