The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 outcomes result in an agreement to provide “loss and damage” funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters. When, and how much, money will reach the affected countries remains unclear. No decisions were made to effectively limit climate change, mere ‘notes’, ‘welcomes’ and ‘calls’ fill a document reflecting a general consensus about stalling action.
Quoting the press release: Countries delivered a package of decisions that reaffirmed their commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius 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.
Creating a specific fund for loss and damage marked an important point of progress, with the issue added to the official agenda and adopted for the first time at COP27.
But that was about it. In the final document the words ‘coal’ and ‘fossil’ appeared only once:
13. Calls upon Parties to 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, while providing targeted support to the poorest and most vulnerable in line with national circumstances and recognizing the need for support towards a just transition;
So the deal was far from perfect, The Guardian notes, with several key elements flawed or lacking. Some countries said the commitments on limiting temperatures to 1.5C represented no progress on the Cop26 conference in Glasgow last year, and the language on phasing out fossil fuels was weak.
Poor countries and climate campaigners rejoiced. Sir Molwyn Joseph, minister of health, wellbeing and the environment of Antigua and Barbuda, and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, said: “Today, the international community has restored global faith in this critical process that is dedicated to ensuring no one is left behind. The agreements made in the Cop27 outcomes are a win for our entire world.
We have shown those who have felt neglected that we hear you, we see you, and we are giving you the respect and care you deserve. We must work even harder to hold firm to the 1.5C warming limit, to operationalize the loss and damage fund, and continue to create a world that is safe, fair, and equitable for all.”
The two-week long conference in Sharm El-Sheikh ran more than 36 hours over its Friday night deadline, and was marked by stark division and harsh words between the rich and the poor.
At many stages, a deal looked impossible to reach. In the final hours, countries wrangled over single words in an outcome that spanned issues from the 1.5C temperature goal, the phasing out of fossil fuels, the needs and rights of indigenous people, the protection of nature, and how to engineer a “just transition” to clean energy for those economically dependent on fossil fuels.
COP27 outcomes falling short
Many felt the deal fell well short on important issues. Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the European Commission, spoke of the tortuous negotiations, which included some countries trying to unpick the 1.5C goal, and abolishing the requirement established in Glasgow for countries to update their plans on emissions every year.
“Too many parties are not ready to make more progress today in the fight against the climate crisis,” he warned. “There were too many attempts to roll back what we agreed in Glasgow. This deal is not enough [on cutting emissions].”
“We are disappointed we didn’t achieve more. We have all fallen short” – Frans Timmermans
In the end, the Egyptian hosts drafted a compromise deal that achieved the consensus in the cop27 outcomes required under the UN rules. Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister and president of the Cop27 UN climate summit in Egypt, said: “We leave with stronger collective will and determination.” And he added that the 1.5C temperature limit remains within reach.
Many scientists disagree with that.
For the only success of the conference, the loss and damage fund, it is likely to take at least a year, until the next climate conference COP28 in the United Arab Emirates in November 2023, to sort through some of the details of how the fund can work. There is also, so far, little money for the fund, as few nations have made significant pledges of cash for loss and damage.