At the half-way mark, COP27 has prompted some important new initiatives designed to help nudge the global economy towards decarbonisation, as the official talks grind onwards.
All COPs consist of an official negotiations track, and a separate side-track consisting of announcements and reports by various governments, business groups, companies, think-tanks, scientists, and environment groups.
The official negotiations are bogged down on many important fronts.
For example, there is still much to do to operationalise the high-level provisions of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which deal with carbon markets and transfers.
These arrangements, once in place, will be crucial for many businesses and governments that plan to use carbon units to help meet their emissions reduction targets.
Meanwhile, negotiations on the crucial issue of finance for climate-related loss and damage are now expected to continue until 2024.
However, there is still scope for further progress at this COP, as ministers arrive for the second week, where they will attempt to advance a range of matters that proved too difficult for their officials in week one.
New announcements outside the main negotiations
Outside the negotiating track, there have been significant developments on a range of fronts, such as government purchasing, energy, and trade in fossil fuels.
Prompted partly by the debate over finance for loss and damage, there has also been some tentative big-picture discussion on the finance front – such as providing partial debt relief in exchange for debtor economies committing to undertake climate-related investments.
For countries in the global South, actual new commitments made so far by some developed economies have not been at a scale or in a form capable of blunting their deep dissatisfaction with the level of finance they are receiving.
However, there have been some interesting developments.
For example, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa launched a new Just Energy Transition Investment Plan covering the energy sector, electric vehicles and green hydrogen.
It identifies US$98 billion in financial requirements over five years that will be required to start South Africa's 20-year energy transition away from fossil fuels, and the UK, France, Germany, the US and the EU will initially provide finance totalling US$8.5 billion.
In somewhat similar vein, COP27 host country Egypt became the first country to sign a climate investment plan with the Green Climate Fund, with the aim of shifting the focus from looking at securing finance on a project-by-project basis, towards a systemic approach.
The US has also announced an Energy Transition Accelerator, in conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bezos Earth Fund, which aims to drive private investment into the deployment of renewable power and the retirement of fossil fuel assets in developing countries.
Supply chain action
US President Biden announced at COP27 that the federal government – which spends more than US$630 billion annually – will require major suppliers to set Paris Agreement-aligned emissions reduction goals.
It's a world first for a national government, and the Biden Administration has also proposed a Federal Supplier Climate Risks and Resilience Rule that would require major federal contractors to publicly disclose their emissions and climate-related financial risks, and set science-based emissions reduction targets.
The international CDP program, which collects company sustainability data on behalf of more than 680 financial institutions with over $130 trillion in assets, hailed the proposed Rule as "one of the most significant supply chain rules in U.S. history".
Guidance on net-zero claims
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has released a report by a UN-convened task force that contains very significant guidance for companies keen to avoid allegations of greenwashing when they discuss their net-zero strategies.
The report makes 10 recommendations with advice on various aspects of the net-zero process, including the role of offsets.
For businesses, various developments so far at COP27 underline the importance of building familiarity with disclosure regimes such as TCFD, and with the target-setting expectations of the Science-Based Targets initiative.
On the science front, Hoesung Lee, chair of the UN's science panel, warned the summit that "the voice of today's science on climate change could not be sharper, stronger, and more sobering".
"We are not on track today to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius," Lee said.
Meanwhile, another high-profile new report from climate scientists warns against the "myth of endless adaptation", and concludes private finance isn't yet delivering the deep economic transformations needed to meet Paris targets.
Finally, although COP27 is absolutely the most important climate summit of the year, it is worth noting that G20 leaders will meet on November 15 and 16 in Indonesia, with the "transition to sustainable energy" listed as one of their priorities.
G20 economies account for about 80% of the world's emissions.
Asia-Pacific leaders will also meet in Thailand on November 18 and 19.
Norton Rose Fulbright is represented at COP27 by Anne Lapierre and Elisa de Wit, along with Johannesburg-based head of the Norton Rose Fulbright Africa team, Gregory Nott, and Cape Town-based senior associate James Ross. Norton Rose Fulbright is providing regular client updates from the talks.