UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres seemingly heard the loud cries of climate activists and those from nations at immediate existential risk from the climate crisis when he said in closing remarks at COP26, “We must accelerate action to keep the 1.5 degree goal alive. Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread.”

Since Guterres’ remarks in November 2021, nation after nation has once again experienced the brutal consequences of a world that has already warmed by 1.1 degrees. In the past weeks, as Puerto Rico was devastated yet again by a powerful hurricane and Pakistan was inundated by floods of unimaginable proportions, negotiators have been preparing — at least on paper — to begin implementing bold action to combat the climate crisis.

The theme of a significant upcoming United Nations climate change conference, the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP27), is “Together for Implementation.” The conference, hosted by the government of Egypt, will take place on 6-18 November in Sharm El Sheikh.

“I deeply believe that COP27 is an opportunity to showcase unity against an existential threat that we can only overcome through concerted action and effective implementation,” said Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi.

The conference will take place in the shadow of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Russia’s seven month old war against Ukraine has displaced millions, disrupted global food supplies, exposed Europe’s reliance on Russian gas, and led to increasing economic and diplomatic isolation of Russia. The war sets the stage for an even greater challenge to negotiators tasked with moving from talking into decisive collective action.

Policy to achieve meaningful climate action has historically taken years, if not decades, to enact. This particular series of UN climate conferences started with COP1 in 1995. Now, 27 years later, greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures continue to rise. Just yesterday, the United States Senate ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which aims to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, potent greenhouse gasses from refrigeration and air conditioning. It took 2,167 days for the Senate to ratify this common sense amendment, which was adopted at the UN in 2016.

Despite the challenges, diplomats have a roadmap to follow that can keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees and, ultimately, bring it back to pre-industrial levels. In its alarming report issued earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calls not only for massive reductions in new carbon emissions, but also for removal of legacy carbon emissions that are already wreaking havoc in the atmosphere.

The IPCC authors note that carbon dioxide removal (CDR) must not be a substitute for deep emissions reductions. Rather, they write, CDR can play a complementary role in further reducing emissions in the near-term, counterbalancing emissions from hard-to-transition sectors such as aviation, and achieving net-negative emissions in the long-term.

The US government recently made significant commitments to CDR as part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). “The pathway to gigaton scale carbon removal takes a major step forward with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which increases the tax incentive to remove, utilize, and store carbon dioxide,” said Ben Rubin, Executive Director of the Carbon Business Council.

The IRA increases tax incentives for carbon removal, from $50 a ton to $130 a ton for utilization and $180 for storage and direct air capture. The IRA invests $20 billion in conservation programs, which can help advance carbon storage, while providing billions of dollars in grants for conservation and restoration of forests.

The scale of the climate crisis requires much more than one bill in a high-polluting nation. The question at COP27 is whether nations will be able to put aside competing short-term interests to finally begin comprehensively addressing the truly existential threat of climate change.