COP27 – SHIFTING GEARS
In his concluding remarks at the COP27 (27th Conference of Parties on climate change) meeting held last month the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “The world still needs a giant leap on climate ambition…COP27 concludes with much homework and little time.” This statement speaks volumes about the efforts made, the ace to meet the emission targets to contain lobal warming, the enormous work yet to be one and the need to collaborate and move rom fossil fuel to renewables. Science has established beyond doubt that the window or climate action is closing rapidly. At the receiving end are the poorer and least developed countries. However, the impact of climate change is increasingly being felt by he developed countries as well. Which just goes to show that the fury of nature knows no boundaries or wealth.
Every COP meeting has been marked by much negotiations and acrimonious debates to fix responsibility and the need to act now. OP27, which was held at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt was no different as it also saw its share of geopolitical wrangling. COP27 concluded, after the talks went into overtime, with a historic decision to establish and operationalize a “loss and damage fund”. “Together, let’s not relent in the fight for climate justice and climate ambition,” aid the Secretary-General in his closing message.
“We can and must win this battle for our lives.” The conference brought together more than 45,000 participants to share ideas, solutions and build partnerships and coalitions. Indigenous peoples, local communities, cities and civil society, including youth and children, showcased how they are addressing climate change and shared how it impacts their lives. After days of intense negotiations, countries reached an agreement on establishing a fund to compensate vulnerable nations for “loss and damage” from climate-induced disasters. This outcome moves us forward,” said Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary. “We have determined a way forward on a decadeslong conversation on funding for loss and damage – deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”
In fact, the over 195-member countries agreed upon a package of decisions that reaffirmed their commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The package also strengthened action by countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, as well as boosting the support of finance, technology and capacity building needed by developing countries. However, the member countries could not agree to “phase-down” all fossil fuels even as India and most EU nations wanted it included in the final COP27 decision to keep the 1.5°C goal alive to limit global warming. A recurring focus throughout COP27 was what the international community could do to increase accessible and scalable market-driven solutions to regions that are typically left to face the consequences of our climate crisis alone.
The cover decision, known as the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan, highlights that a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investments of at least USD 4-6 trillion a year. It was nearly 36 hours after the scheduled deadline that all 200 countries agreed to the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan. The 13-page-long statement covers 93 points, including the creation of a loss and damage fund. Under the subhead “Loss and damage”, the document said it “welcomes the consideration, for the first time, of matters relating to funding arrangements responding to loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change …under the conference of parties (and) Paris Agreement”.
The Implementation Plan “expresses deep concern regarding the significant financial costs associated with loss and damage for developing countries” associated with the adverse effects of climate change. It will establish the institutional arrangements to address loss and damage, and this will catalyse technical assistance to developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Though no deadline has been set for its operationalisation, the COP27 president Sameh Shoukry said this should be done in COP28, “in November-December of 2023”RAISING DOUBTS? Armed with an agreement that emerged from a somewhat chaotic conference, where negotiations threatened to collapse, can the world look back at COP27 and describe it as a success?
The milestone outcome of the talks, agreement on a loss and damage fund, has been welcomed by all. Yet, several climate change experts are sceptical, wondering how it would be implemented, while stating that they are intended to tackle the effects of climate change, not the causes. Negotiations to tackle the causes of climate change and limit global warming failed to make much headway. For instance, the energy transition agenda, or the transition to renewable energy as well as energy efficiency, which was the key takeaway from the Glasgow COP26, has not got its due consideration. Moreover, serious concern was expressed that the goal of developed country Parties to mobilize jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020 has not yet been met. Developed countries were urged to meet the goal, and multilateral development banks and international financial institutions called upon to mobilize climate finance.
At the heart of the scepticism expressed over the “loss and damage” fund is the question of commitment and who should pay. Terming COP27 a “mirage in the deserts of the Sinai”, Sunita Narain, Director of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said there was so much going on through the day at COP27 that negotiations, the real business of a COP, became the sideshow. It had little influence on what governments should have agreed upon. On the the issue of loss and damage, “seen as the big achievement of COP27”, Sunita Narain noted in Down To Earth magazine, that there is no agreement to create a fund; no agreement who will pay for it; but there is a new categorisation that all this will be directed towards countries that are particularly vulnerable. “Who and what are they? This is where politics begins,” she commented. “Should bigger developing countries like India also pay to other developing countries for loss and damage?” she wondered. In another edit article, Chandra Bhushan, CEO, International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (FOREST), said, “Considering that wealthy countries have never met their financial commitment, one is sceptical of this fund’s ability to help developing countries.” However, he feels it is a big deal that the principle of compensating countries for climate disasters has been recognised. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell reminded delegates in the closing plenary that the world is in a critical decade for climate action. According to a report from the UN Climate Change, implementation of current pledges by national governments put the world on track for a 2.5°C warmer world by the end of the century. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that greenhouse gas emissions must decline 45% by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Speaking about the year ahead, Stiell said UN Climate Change will help Parties and future COP presidencies to navigate this path to the new phase of implementation. In eeffect, climate scientists and activists alike agree that COP27 is over but the work of implementing the decisions made in Sharm El-Sheikh (and at COPs before it) is already far underway. In his closing remarks, COP27 president Sameh Shoukry said, “The work that we’ve managed to do here in the past two weeks, and the results we have together achieved, are a testament to our collective will.”