In the weeks leading up to the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, often called COP27, several organizations released major reports detailing the many difficult tasks on the climate negotiators’ agenda. Some of these reports are annual updates; others are one-off analyses. Together they describe the urgency of this moment but also the many opportunities for action.

The first three reports in the list, from United Nations Environment Programme and World Resources Institute, document the gaps between past commitments and current actions on emissions reductions, adaptation finance, and other goals adopted at COP21 in Paris in 2015.

The second group of reports compiles the mounting evidence for the increasing frequency and danger of heat waves. The provocatively titled report from UNICEF — “The Coldest Year of the Rest of Their Lives” — adds poignancy to the data.

A trio of reports from the International Energy Agency, the International Renewable Energy Agency, and the World Bank offer the most optimistic assessments. Although Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has disrupted the timetables, the dramatically improving economics of renewable energy keep improving the odds for the transition to a net-zero (or carbon-neutral) economy.

The last two reports focus on specific issues high on the agenda at COP27: compensation for the losses and damages suffered by countries that contributed little to Earth’s warming but are already suffering the consequences and the increasingly disconcerting trade-offs between climate actions and land use.

As always with this feature, descriptions of the reports are drawn from copy provided by the organizations that published them. PDFs of the reports can be downloaded from the organizations’ website for free; in some cases, registration with the organization is required. 

A book cover featuring an illustration of two white-capped waves.

UNEP’s Adaptation Gap Report 2022: Too Little, Too Slow – Climate Adaptation Failure Puts World at Risk by Edith Adera et al. (United Nations Environment Programme 2022, 84 pages, free download available here)

UNEP’s Adaptation Gap Report 2022: Too Little, Too Slow – Climate Adaptation Failure Puts World at Risk looks at progress in planning, financing and implementing adaptation actions. At least 84 percent of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have established adaptation plans, strategies, laws and policies. The instruments are getting better at prioritizing disadvantaged groups, such as Indigenous peoples. However, international adaptation finance flows to turn these plans and strategies into action are 5-10 times below estimated needs and the gap is widening. The report looks at the benefits of prioritizing actions that both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help communities adapt, such as nature-based solutions, and calls for countries to step up funding and implementation of adaptation actions.

A report cover with an image of a broken ladder moving toward a window.

Emissions Gap Report 2022: The Closing Window – Climate Crisis Calls for Rapid Transformation of Societies by Juliane Berger et al. (United Nations Environment Program 2022, 132 pages, free download available here)

As growing climate change impacts are experienced across the globe, the message that greenhouse gas emissions must fall is unambiguous. Yet the Emissions Gap Report 2022: The Closing Window – Climate Crisis Calls for Rapid Transformation of Societies finds that the international community is falling far short of the Paris goals, with no credible pathway to 1.5°C in place. The 13th edition in an annual series that provides an overview of the difference between where greenhouse emissions are predicted to be in 2030 and where they should be to avert the worst impacts of climate change, this year’s report finds that only an urgent system-wide transformation can deliver the enormous cuts needed to limit greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. It also describes the actions required in energy, industry, transport, buildings, food, and finance. 

See also: The State of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere Based on Global Observations through 2021 by Global Atmosphere Watch (World Meteorological Organization 2022, 10 pages, free download available here)

A report cover with a photo of a climate action protest.

State of Climate Action 2022 by Sophie Boehm et al. (World Resources Institute 2022, 218 pages, free download available here

The State of Climate Action 2022 provides a comprehensive assessment of the global gap in climate action across the world’s highest-emitting systems, highlighting where recent progress made in reducing GHG emissions, scaling up carbon removal, and increasing climate finance must accelerate over the next decade to keep the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit warming to 1.5°C within reach. Of the 40 indicators assessed in the report, none are on track to reach their 2030 targets. Six are heading in the right direction at a promising speed, while 21 are trending in the right direction but well below the required pace. Five indicators are trending in the wrong direction entirely, while the data are insufficient to evaluate the final eight indicators.

See also: The State of Nationally Determined Contributions: 2022 by Taryn Fransen et al. (World Resources Institute 2022, 124 pages, free download available here).

A report cover with a photo of kids playing in a pool made in the back of a pickup truck.

Extreme Heat: Preparing for the Heat Waves of the Future by Greg Puley et al. (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 2022, 84 pages, free download available here)

Climate change is already having severe impacts across our planet, bringing new and previously unimaginable challenges to the people least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. This joint report by the IFRC, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre provides a sobering review of how just one of those challenges – the increase in deadly heatwaves – threatens to drive new emergency needs in the not-so-distant future.

A report cover with a photo of a kid dumping water from a bucket onto their head.

The Coldest Year of the Rest of Their Lives: Protecting Children from the Escalating Impacts of Heat Waves by United Nations Children’s Fund and Data for Children’s Collaborative (UNICEF 2022, 52 pages, free download available here)

This report provides yet more evidence that children are on the front lines of the climate crisis. By 2050, virtually every child on earth over 2 billion children – is forecast to face more frequent heatwaves. These findings underscore the urgent need to adapt the services children rely on as unavoidable impacts of global heating unfold. It also makes a case for more substantial emissions reduction to prevent the worst impacts. Millions more children will be exposed to heat risks depending on the degree of global heating. Children in northern regions will face the most dramatic increases in high heatwave severity, while by 2050, nearly half of all children in Africa and Asia will face sustained exposure to extreme high temperatures.    

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The 2022 Report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: Health at the Mercy of Fossil Fuels by Marina Romanello et al. (Lancet 2022, 36 pages, free download available here)

The 2022 report of the Lancet Countdown is published as the world confronts profound and concurrent systemic shocks. Countries and health systems continue to contend with the health, social, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a persistent fossil fuel overdependence has pushed the world into global energy and cost-of-living crises. As these crises unfold, climate change escalates unabated. After 30 years of UNFCCC negotiations, the Lancet Countdown indicators show that countries and companies continue to make choices that threaten the health and survival of people in every part of the world. But at this critical juncture, an immediate, health-centred response can still secure a future in which world populations can not only survive, but thrive.

A red report cover.

World Energy Outlook 2022 by World Energy Outlook Team (International Energy Agency 2022, 524 pages, free download available here)

With the world in the midst of the first global energy crisis – triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – the World Energy Outlook 2022 (WEO) provides indispensable analysis and insights on the implications of this profound and ongoing shock to energy systems across the globe.

Based on the latest energy data and market developments, this year’s WEO explores key questions about the crisis: Will it be a setback for clean energy transitions or a catalyst for greater action? How might government responses shape energy markets? Which energy security risks lie ahead on the path to net zero emissions? This flagship publication of the IEA provides critical insights into global energy supply and demand in different scenarios and explains the implications for energy security, climate targets and economic development.

A report cover featuring an electronic-looking blue and yellow image.

The Breakthrough Agenda Report 2022: Accelerating Sector Transitions Through Stronger International Collaboration by Federico Bellone et al. (International Renewable Energy Agency 2022, 183 pages, free download available here)

This is a first-of-its-kind annual progress report, requested by world leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in November 2021 as part of the launch of the Breakthrough Agenda. The report is designed to inform policy makers, business leaders and civil society organisations of the most urgent ways to strengthen collaboration in and across major emitting sectors ahead of the Global Clean Energy Action Forum in Pittsburgh in September 2022, the next UN Climate Change Conference COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt and beyond. A joint product of IEA, IRENA and UN High-Level Champions, this inaugural report assesses progress on reducing emissions in five key sectors: power, hydrogen, road transport, steel and agriculture.

A blue report cover with white text.

Climate and Development: An Agenda for Action – Emerging Insights from World Bank Group 2021-22 Country Climate and Development Reports by Staff of the World Bank (World Bank 2022, 55 pages, free download available here)

Climate and Development: An Agenda for Action compiles and harmonizes results from the Bank Group’s Country Climate and Development Reports, covering over 20 countries that account for 34% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It shows that investment needs are markedly higher in lower-income countries that are more vulnerable to climate risk, often exceeding 5% of GDP. The report finds that integrating climate and development objectives can help countries manage the negative impacts of climate change, while generating positive impacts on GDP and economic growth, while also reducing poverty. The key conditions for success include impactful reforms, improved allocation of public resources, higher mobilization of private capital, and significant financial support from the international community.

But also see: Investing in Climate Disaster: World Bank Group Finance for Fossil Fuels by Research Staff (The Big Shift Global 2022, 30 pages, free download available here)

A report cover featuring a photo of a flooded area with smoke stacks.

Loss and Damage Finance in the Climate Negotiations by Anna Aberg and Nina Jeffs (Chatham House 2022, 51 pages, free download available here)

Ranging from extreme drought to apocalyptic floods and rising sea levels, climate change impacts are wreaking ever more severe destruction globally, causing widespread ‘loss and damage’ with disastrous implications for affected communities and countries. The mobilization of finance to address loss and damage is a core priority for many developing countries, and a key issue in the UN climate negotiations. This research paper maps the political landscape on loss and damage finance, with the aim of increasing understanding of different countries’ perspectives, restoring trust between developed and developing countries in the climate talks, and identifying pragmatic, politically realistic steps that could be taken in the near term to start building consensus among governments around a way forward.

A report cover featuring a photo of deforestation.

The Land Gap Report by K. Dooley et al. (The Land Gap Group 2022, 99 pages, free download available here)

This report shows that countries’ current climate pledges cannot be achieved without significant negative impacts on livelihoods, land rights, and ecosystems. Our research suggests that countries should seek to reduce their expected reliance on land-based carbon removal and must instead make much deeper cuts in emissions. The Land Gap Report also examines the importance of protecting all remaining primary ecosystems, securing land rights for communities, and shifting to agroecology in food production. Implementation of countries’ climate plans will increase total demand for land; this report quantifies this aggregate demand in order to re-examine mitigation in the climate pledges submitted by countries to the UNFCCC

Michael Svoboda, Ph.D., is the Yale Climate Connections books editor. He is a professor in the University Writing Program at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he has taught since...