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Mountains and Climate Change - What's on at COP27?

© Mountain Equipment/Dark Sky Media

The United Nations designated 2022 as the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development. 2022 also marks 20 years since the first ever International Year of Mountains, as well as the 20th anniversary of the UN Mountain Partnership. As global leaders meet in Sharm El-Sheikh at the COP27 United Nations Climate Change Conference, UKC and UKH will be sharing our existing climate crisis-related articles and reporting from events in Egypt to continue our coverage from COP26 last year.

Glaciers and snow cover are thinning across the globe.  © Mountain Equipment/Dark Sky Media
Glaciers and snow cover are thinning across the globe.
© Mountain Equipment/Dark Sky Media

Climbers and mountaineers who are active in high mountain locations across the globe are witnessing first-hand the impacts of both glacier melt and the vanishing of the glue-like permafrost that holds mountains together. Classic routes are crumbling and major rockfalls are becoming increasingly frequent and dangerous. Temperatures are climbing, and snow seasons are shortening. Walkers can't fail to notice the effects of climate change too, closer to home, in places such as the Cairngorms.

Over the course of the last century, temperatures in the European Alps have increased by around 2°C, or twice the global average. This summer, heatwaves have led to record-breaking June temperatures across the continent, and - catalysed by a lack of snow and precipitation over winter and spring - are causing glaciers to vanish at a record rate.

On 25 July, MeteoSwiss reported a record-high freezing point (0°C) of 5,184m - far above the highest peaks in Western Europe - beating the previous record set in 1995 by almost 70 metres. 

In high mountain Asia, warming and melting are accelerated and the impact of this is even more pronounced, leading scientists to describe the Hindu Kush Himalaya as "a barometer for the planet's health crises."

What's happened in mountain climate science since COP26?

In August 2021, ahead of COP26, the IPCC released a special report on the impact of climate change in the mountains for the first time in the panel's history. Building on the 'High Mountain Areas' chapter, the latest paper released in February 2022 assessed new evidence on observed and projected climate change impacts in mountain regions, their associated risks and adaptation measures. We shared a summary of the results in this UKC News piece. The Mountains chapter can be read in full (and the entire IPCC report) here.

In October, the UN Mountain Partnership met in Aspen, Colorado. The outcomes of the conference can be found here. Prior to the meeting, the Mountain Sentinels—an international network of scholars, non-governmental and governmental organisations, and stakeholders working towards sustainability of mountain environments and communities—held a Moving Mountains Summit in Basalt, Colorado. The goal was to create an action plan for mountains, in which local and Indigenous knowledges, perspectives and values could merge with western science.

This month, the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative released a new State of the Cryosphere Report 2022: Growing Losses, Global Impacts. Chapter 3: Mountain Glaciers and Snow outlines projections based on various future warming scenarios, and highlights that the European Alps in particular could preserve a significant portion of its ice over time if warming becomes limited to 1.6-1.8° C, before declining further by 2100. However, the report also notes that glacier losses 'will continue at a steep rate over the next several decades just due to current warming.' 

Ahead of COP27, the UN Mountain Partnership has also launched a Women Move Mountains photo contest to raise awareness of the importance of empowering women who live in mountain environments. In many mountain communities, women hold vital knowledge in farming, traditional medicine, biodiversity, culture and business—expertise which could help to protect sensitive mountain environments from the effects of climate change.

What's on at COP27?

A number of COP27 events will take place in and be live-streamed from the Cryosphere Pavilion in Sharm El-Sheikh from 6-18 November. View the full schedule for the Pavilion here and follow the Cryosphere Pavilion YouTube channel for livestream details. UN Mountain Partnership events will be livestreamed on the UN Climate Change YouTube Channel.

Mountain-related events (times are local times [EET])

7 November: High Level Segment - Ice Sheets (UN Mountain Partnership)

5:30 Switzerland: Multi-media High-level event: Walking the Giant.

8 November: Mountains: Glaciers and Snow: Centuries of Impacts on Water Resources - I (Cryosphere Pavilion)

10:00 HKH High-level Event: Moving Mountains: Prioritising investment needs for a climate-resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya 
11:30 Investment for Better Climate Action: Building Synergies and Partnerships for a Resilient HKH 
13:00 Cascading Impacts: How Can We Adapt and Reduce Risk in the Mountains and Downstream? 
14:30 Mountains Connect: Partnerships Across Mountain Communities 
16:10 Mitigating Black Carbon and Pollutants from the Brick Production Sector 
17:30 #MovingMountains: Visual Stories from the Hindu Kush Himalaya 
19:30 Witnesses of a Melting Glacier: Monitoring Activity of The Climate Route from Marmolada to Georgia 

9 November Mountains: Glaciers and Snow: Centuries of Impacts on Water Resources - II (Cryosphere Pavilion)

10:00 Mountains, Glaciers and People: Preventing glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) in the Third Pole 
11:30 #MovingMountains Together: Youth, climate action and the sustainable mountain development
14:30 Lessons from Applying Nature-Based Solutions Across the World in Support of the Hindu Kush Himalaya 
16:00 Integrated River Basin Management in HKH: Launch of the Basin Report
18:00 Leading Mountain Sustainability Through Innovation
19:30 Extraordinary Findings from the Jubilee Expedition at Svalbard, May 2022 

9 November: Women-led Cooperative Climate Finance lending to build resilient Community (UN Mountain Partnership)

A case study of Nepal. The Theme of this side event is climate finance and effort of women led cooperatives in building climate resilience at the grass-root level - Digo Bikas Institute (DBI) - Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN)

9 November, Cryosphere Pavilion: Leading mountain sustainability through innovation (UN Mountain Partnership)

11 November: IPCC Cross-Chapter Paper 5: Mountains - sharing knowledge to promote adaptation initiatives in mountains (UN Mountain Partnership)

The latest IPCC report included a cross-chapter paper specifically on mountain issues. It discusses the importance of adaptation measures for fighting climate change in mountains. Hosted by the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS Network), Asociación Civil Oikos (OIKOS) and International Centre for Environment Education and Community Development (ICENECDEV) in the framework of the Mountain Partnership, this UNFCCC COP 27 side event will look at these findings and discuss how to promote adaptation initiatives in mountains. 

11 November: Side Event -  EXTREME Hangout - Sport Action and Climate Action - How the Two are Inextricably Woven. 14:00 - 15:00 (EET). Park Regency Hotel/Livestream here.

15 November: Enhancing climate resilience in mountain ecosystems (UN Mountain Partnership)

Lessons from the Lesotho Water Towers Showcase a risk-informed approach to integrated catchment management (ICM) that advances resilience by appraising climate risks and fostering nature-based solutions to address climate change vulnerabilities and impacts in Lesotho. ReNOKA (we are a river) movement protects critical water source areas - Lesotho - Austria - Instituto Andino de Montaña (IDM)

14 November: Roadmap for 2025: International Year of Glaciers (Cryosphere/Tajikistan Pavilion)

16 November: Cross-cutting / State of Cryosphere (Cryosphere Pavilion)

14:30 Mitigating Avalanche Risk in High Mountain Asia: Community-led and Data-driven approaches

16:00 A Message from Cryosphere 2022 Cryosphere pavilion – organised by Aga Khan Agency for Habitat / Icelandic Met office, WMO, Icelandic Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate and participants from Cryosphere 2022

17 November: Mountains: Glaciers and Snow/African and Tropical Glaciers/Centuries of Impacts on Water Resources – III (Cryosphere Pavilion)

10:00 Africa's Glaciers and Nile's Origins: the Rwenzori
11:30 Glaciers of Colombia and Ecuador
13:00 Mountain Countries in the COP27 Negotiations
14:30 Role of Snowpack: from Western U.S. to the Tarim River System
16:00 Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya

17 November: UNFCCC COP 27 side event - Bringing mountains to the forefront by leveraging the International Year of Mountains 2022 (UN Mountain Partnership)

How to build interdisciplinary and interinstitutional environments to co-develop and implement solutions for tackling challenges related to climate change in mountain regions, and the adoption of innovation, new technologies and change management in cryosphere and mountain regions.

On-site exhibits:

7-9 November: Mountains are disproportionately threatened by climate change compared to lowlands, due to elevation dependent warming. Leveraging the International Year of Mountains 2022, we will promote the global mountain agenda including the Hindu Kush Himalaya region - the Pulse of the Planet. -International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) - The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) Booth #6 

10-12 November: Mountains are disproportionately threatened by climate change compared to lowlands, due to amplified rates of warming at higher elevations. This exhibit will showcase how local mountain communities are working to address livelihood, climate, and sustainability challenges. - Instituto Andino de Montaña (IDM) - Asociación Civil Oikos (OIK) Booth #6 

November 17: National Geographic film screening, Expedition Everest. (Green Zone, 8 p.m.)

View a full list of the events (with times and venues) above here.

The latest mountain climate science reports:

2022 State of the Cryosphere Report

2022 IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (Cross-Chapter Paper 5: Mountains)

2019 IPCC report on High Mountain Areas

Links to mountain-related climate organisations and initiatives:

Mountain Research Initiative

UN Mountain Partnership

ICIMOD

Alpine Convention

Mountains Connect

CREA Mont Blanc

International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples

Protect our Winters

Mountain Sentinels

Mountain Genius


Read our UKC/UKH articles on issues relating to climate change and the environment:


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9 Nov, 2022

New 2022 State of the Cryosphere Report just released for COP27 (Chapter: Mountain Glaciers and Snow). I've added it to the article.

https://iccinet.org/statecryo2022/?fbclid=IwAR23qNITi7k1hYGyGVobuxwFTKGF_mPSjV3X0wDHElImxeafDTZZcG_C3jI

9 Nov, 2022

Thanks Natalie, that looks like a heavy read ! I'd like to post a reminder about the Yorkshire regions cop 27 demonstration. Which is to be held in sheffield on saturday 12th at 12pm, Barker's pool. Hope people read this and come to show some support.

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