COP27 has been described as one of the most chaotic climate summits to date and the final discussions were exactly that. Negotiators worked into the night and the following day to finally agree on the text for the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan which included a funding deal for ‘loss and damage’ but disappointing language around energy which led to concern about the future of the 1.5C commitment.
The loss and damage agreement is a key development for the battle against climate change, for which poorer countries have been campaigning for decades and was resisted during COP26 after much discussion. The agreement will see the more developed countries contributing to a global fund to counter the loss and damage arising from the adverse effects of climate change. This can include those related to extreme weather but also slow onset events, such as sea level rise, increasing temperatures, ocean acidification, glacial retreat and related impacts, salinization, land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity and desertification. Such impacts have often been imposed on developing nations by wealthier countries.
European Commission vice-president, Frans Timmermans agreed on a proposal from the G77 nations to establish a dedicated loss and damage fund on Friday, however, some major economies were reluctant to commit funding.
It is expected that the agreement will come into effect from 2023 with a committee meeting in March to discuss which countries should contribute and how much should be paid. China and India continue to be the points of contention with their belief that they should receive funding but many nations maintain that both should be contributors. The committee will make recommendations on how to mobilise the new funding at COP28 in 2023.
Whilst the commitment was seen as a positive outcome, the delay in agreeing on the actions of a topic which has been debated on several occasions disappointed many observers.
Many delegates were also frustrated with the weak language used in the final text regarding decarbonisation and fossil fuels with many raising concerns of confusion and potential loopholes around low-emission energy. Concern was particularly expressed around the perceived opportunities which may be exploited for increases in gas use fossil fuel development.
The term ‘phase-down’ caused much consternation a year ago and the sentiment, in line with the language, has not changed. The final outcome of COP27 was to maintain the position as agreed in Glasgow at COP26, where a phase-out of fossil fuels was watered down to a ‘phase-down’, stating that “accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies, and the adoption of policies, to transition towards low-emission energy systems, including by rapidly scaling up the deployment of clean power generation and energy efficiency measures, including accelerating efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”.
A key theme of the summit was justice with action to secure the long-delayed promise of $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries however the lack of progress on action toward 1.5C led commentators to state that the ‘planet is still in the emergency room’. The lack of progress on the phasing out of fossil fuel use has been a key driver in driving the state of the emergency view.
Whilst adaptation and mitigation were high on the agenda at COP26, the creation of a new Global Agenda on adaptation which was established on Day 2, brought little clarity or detail to the topic driven by division in views across participating nations. The final text agreed that any working programme would be “non-prescriptive, non-punitive, facilitative and respectful of national sovereignty.” Discussions on the timeline for the working group were delayed to 2026.
Unsurprisingly, against a backdrop of global financial difficulties, it was reported that nations are behind on their pledges to deliver annually $100bn in climate finance to assist developing countries. The $100bn target, which was set in 2009, has never been met with the best performance in 2020, peaking at $83bn.
With the current global financial crisis and lack of security of energy supply, COP27 was expected to see more challenging negotiations on progress than in previous years. The resistance to phasing out the use of fossil fuels experienced in Glasgow at COP26 remained, with wording chosen which has driven fears of continuation or increase of the use of gas and coal generation. The lack of commitment to sufficient funding for ‘loss and damage’ and the continued failure to meet the $100 million annual contributions to developing countries collectively demonstrates that Net-Zero commitments are not being prioritised.
With global leaders facing pressure at home due to rising taxes and the need to support the most vulnerable through the current situation, the commitment of funds overseas to the climate crisis is certainly not a vote winner. What is very clear is that more work needs to be done to drive home the message that the planet is in a state of emergency about climate change. Unless the commitment to 1.5C is reinvigorated across the globe, the time spent drafting ineffective climate change agreements is wasted and the weeks of discussion just become hot air!