It’s finally over. After the anticipation and build-up to COP27, the biggest climate meeting of the year is now in our rear-view mirror. The crowds of delegates that thronged the Sharm el-Sheikh international convention center for two long weeks have all headed home to recover. Many will be fatigued from long hours and sleepless nights as negotiators tried to seal a deal that would move the world forwards. Did all this hard work pay off? In our opinion, COP 27 was both better and worse than we’d hoped.
FAILING TO FOLLOW THE SCIENCE
First, the bad news. COP 27 failed to deliver what the science tells us was needed. With the window of opportunity closing fast on our goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C or less, COP 27 did far too little on the all-important issue of mitigation—that is, cutting emissions.
The case for urgent action keeps getting stronger. The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make for grim reading about what to expect if we let temperatures rise too much. Nowadays, though, we just need to read the newspapers to catch a glimpse of the future.
The head of the key negotiating Group of 77 – 134 developing countries – was Pakistan which has been dealing with the worst floods in its history, leaving 1717 people dead and dealing an estimated $US40 billion in damage. In 2022 in the USA, there were 15 climate-related disasters which each exceeded $1 billion in costs.
Meanwhile, in Africa, according to Carbon Brief ’s analysis of disaster records, “extreme weather events have killed at least 4,000 people and affected a further 19 million since the start of 2022.”
Since this COP was billed by some as the “Africa COP”, one could expect a strong response to such news.
THE PRESSURE WAS THEREFORE ON AT
COP 27 to respond to such disasters. Attending COP27 were 112 world leaders and over 300 government ministers: not as many as at COP 26, but still a good number. Something like 27,000 people from governments, intergovernmental, stakeholders, and journalists also attended the COP. This was to the backdrop of the UN Secretary General warning us that we needed to
“cooperate or perish,” to take urgent action to take us off “a highway to climate hell”.
Messing up on mitigation: And yet progress on mitigation was modest, at best. While some delegations pushed hard for stronger commitments on cutting emissions, the appetite in some quarters just didn’t seem to be there.
After being pressured to do more in Paris and Glasgow, China, India, and some of the oil-producing countries appeared reluctant to take much more in Sharm el-Sheikh.
They feel developed countries, which are historically responsible for the bulk of emissions, should be doing more themselves, rather than coercing others. The result was a negotiated outcome with little more on the table than we had in Glasgow. For instance, delegates could not agree to ramp up their language on fossil fuels, much to many people’s disappointment.
Finance: Likewise, there was not too much to report on the issue of climate finance. The $US100 billion annual support for developing countries initially promoted by Hilary Clinton at the 2009 Copenhagen COP and enshrined in the Paris COP in 2015 will be reviewed in 2024 with a new figure being hopefully agreed then for 2025 implementation.
The Global South has been talking of this new sum numbering in the trillions to help adapt and mitigate against climate change. And yet there were few signs of movement towards anything of that magnitude.
Given that the North has still not met its pledge of US$100 billion by 2020, it’s clear a lot of movement is needed in the next couple of years. Yet news from outside the conference, such as the US House of Representatives now having a Republican majority, does not bode well.
For a meeting billed as the “implementation COP” where climate action was taken to another level, the news on mitigation and finance was therefore disappointing.
Just prior to the start of COP27 the lead negotiator for Egypt Mohamed Nasr underscored: “science reports were telling us that yes, planning is not up to expectations, but it was implementation on the ground that was really lagging behind.”
Exceeding Expectations—the Loss and Damage Fund
THERE WERE SOME BRIGHT SPOTS, HOWEVER
Perhaps most surprising was the agreement to create a ‘Loss and Damage’ fund to help the most vulnerable countries. This has been a key issue for almost 30 years, particularly for small island developing countries.
In Glasgow this looked very unlikely to be resolved in the Sharm COP, but with a late change of heart by the Europeans and eventually by the USA and others in the OECD, this is perhaps the most significant and surprising outcome from COP 27.
Even as recently as October, the signs were that OECD countries were not on board with calls for a new fund.
However, at COP 27 the “trickle” of earlier action in this area turned into a flood.
Interestingly, it was Scotland at COP 26 that started things off, with a modest, voluntary contribution. More recently, Denmark, Austria, New Zealand and Belgium had also financial commitments to loss and damage, now amounting to $US244.5 million. Mia Mottley Barbados’ Prime Minister has called for a 10% windfall tax on oil companies to fund loss and damage caused by climate change, which could raise around $US31 billion if it had been introduced for 2022. Still, the signs a fund would be agreed at COP 27 had not been good.
BY FELIX DODDS & CHRIS SPENCE