COP 27 Concludes Without Conclusion

climate change

The much expected 27th Conference of Parties (COP 27) has come to its conclusion, but without any concluding outcome for the planet.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres’s deep disappointment with the outcome of the COP 27 is sure to be echoed across the world.

Guterres said on Sunday that the planet continues to be in the “emergency room” and the COP “did not address” the need to drastically reduce emissions urgently.

A CNN report said:

The world has failed to reach an agreement to phase out fossil fuels after marathon UN climate talks were “stonewalled” by a number of oil-producing nations.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries at the COP27 UN climate summit in Egypt took the historic step of agreeing to set up a “loss and damage” fund meant to help vulnerable countries cope with climate disasters and agreed the globe needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half by 2030.

The agreement also reaffirmed the goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

However, an attempt to address the biggest source of the planet warming emissions that are causing the climate crisis ended in a fiasco after a number of nations, including China and Saudi Arabia, blocked a key proposal to phase out all fossil fuels, not just coal.

“It is more than frustrating to see overdue steps on mitigation and the phase-out of fossil energies being stonewalled by a number of large emitters and oil producers,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement.

The Guardian’s heading said: World still ‘on brink of climate catastrophe’ after Cop27 deal.

It said: Experts say biggest economies must pledge more cuts to carbon emissions but hail agreement to set up loss and damage fund.

It said:

The agreement reached in Sharm el-Sheikh early on Sunday morning, after a marathon final negotiating session that ran 40 hours beyond its deadline, was hailed for providing poor countries for the first time with financial assistance known as loss and damage. A fund will be set up by rich governments for the rescue and rebuilding of vulnerable areas stricken by climate disaster, a key demand of developing nations for the last 30 years of climate talks.

A Bloomberg report — How COP27 Ended With Success on Climate Justice and Failure on Emissions — said:

The UN climate summit just barely avoided ending in deadlock, and the final compromise left big doubts over the prospect for new efforts to curb emissions.

Another Bloomberg report — COP27 Averts Collapse as Historic Fund Resets Rich-Poor Balance — said:

At 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, climate negotiators in Egypt walked back from the abyss and struck an historic deal that resets the relationship between rich and poor countries. Approved without a single opposing voice, the agreement to create a fund to help developing nations face the devastation of climate change is a precedent-setting moment that has been three decades in the making.

The report said:

Details of how the mechanism will work and how much rich countries will contribute are to be thrashed out over the next few months, and then taken up at the COP28 meeting in the United Arab Emirates next year. The final agreement redraws the old divide between poor and wealthy nations, leaving the door open for China and a number of oil-producing states to join the official ranks of rich countries that will become contributors to the fund.

Yet even with this landmark agreement in place, skepticism remains. Rich nations have a track record of not living up to their climate promises, so for now “what we have is an empty bucket,” said Mohamed Adow, executive director at think tank Power Shift Africa. “We need money to make it worthwhile.”

To many, getting the fund was a bitter victory. Efforts by the European Union, the UK and small island nations to secure stronger commitments on cutting greenhouse gas emissions failed. And attempts to have nations agree to peak global emissions by 2025, or a phase-down of all unabated fossil fuels, also fell flat.

“Why are we celebrating loss and damage when we have failed on mitigation and adaptation?” said Aminath Shauna, environment minister for the Maldives, the world’s lowest-lying nation. “We are just a meter above sea level — I want my two-year-old daughter to live in the Maldives.”

Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s foreign minister, who presided over the COP27 talks, had adopted a hands-off approach for much of the summit’s two weeks. Delegates were forced to extend negotiations and make last-minute concessions to prevent the whole event ending in failure.

Alok Sharma, Shoukry’s predecessor when COP26 was held in Scotland last year, complained that key points for which he had fought were now either missing or watered down. “Emissions peaking before 2025 as the science tells us is necessary? Not in this text,” said Sharma, visibly angry as the session came to an end. “Clear follow through on the phase down of coal? Not in this text. Clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels? Not in this text. The energy text? Weakened in the final minutes.”

This year’s final text includes language allowing a transition to “low-emission” sources, which is being interpreted as a loophole for natural gas, the lowest-emitting of fossil fuels.

The report said:

There is widespread criticism that COP27 was shaped by the presence of fossil fuel industry representatives. At the same time, major hydrocarbon producers such as Saudi Arabia blocked language that would have called for a plan to phase out oil and gas.

“The influence of the fossil-fuel industry was found across the board,” said Laurence Tubiana, chief executive officer at the European Climate Foundation and an architect of the landmark Paris Agreement. “The Egyptian Presidency has produced a text that clearly protects oil and gas petrostates and the fossil-fuel industries. This trend cannot continue in the United Arab Emirates next year.”

There is now concern that COP28 will take a dangerously soft stance on fossil fuels, with its host, the UAE, being a major hydrocarbons producer and a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

In Sharm El-Sheikh, the U.S., the EU and the UK all saw their negotiating positions on emissions cuts challenged. They were also criticized for not walking the talk.

“We are watching Europe and the U.S. expand fossil gas even as they are lecturing other countries about what they should be doing,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director with the climate and energy program at U.S. nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists. “What does it really mean to uphold 1.5C? It means stopping the expansion of fossil-fuel infrastructure.”

But 1.5C remains within reach, according to U.S. presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry, who conveyed the assessment in writing after contracting Covid during the final hours of the talks.

The U.S.’s change of position — from flat rejection of setting up a loss and damage fund prior to the summit, to agreeing to it — was key to preventing the talks from falling apart. At the same time, the country’s embrace of language supporting a pledge to the phase down all fossil fuels gives the issue a fighting chance in the months ahead.

“Almost two years ago this very week, President-elect Biden asked me to be his special envoy for climate — it was a perilous moment, the world was rushing toward climate chaos,” he said. “Make no mistake: we have kept the hope of 1.5 alive.”

In the end, it was a speech by 10-year-old climate activist, Ghana’s Nakeeyat Dramani, that made clear what is at stake.

“There is less than 86 months to go before we get to 1.5C and I am already much older than that — have a heart and do the math,” Dramani said. “If all of you were young people, wouldn’t you have already agreed to do what’s needed to save our planet?”

An opinion — Cop out at COP27 (https://www.msn.com/en-in/lifestyle/videos/cop-out-at-cop27/ar-AA14ldC2) — by The Financial Express said:

To be sure, the agreement on establishing a “loss and damage” fund through which rich nations — accounting for a disproportionate share of the historical post-industrial emissions — can help vulnerable nations cope with disaster wrought by climate change can be considered a win. More so, as it was the result of the G-77, a group of 134 developing nations, staying united on this. But the decision took decades after the concept was first mooted; this is testimony that developed nations continue to remain reluctant on assuming meaningful climate responsibility. Instead, they urge the developing world to take on the mantle of “climate leadership”. This is further evidenced by the fact that details on how the fund is to be operationalised remain hazy. The COP27 text does not indicate when it is to be finalized, and how exactly it is to be funded — rich nations have agreed to it on the proviso that the donor base is to be a “broad” one. Though there is mention of a transitional committee that will work on those details, there are no deadlines set for the committee. Also, the language on the loss and damage fund carefully avoids allowing any interpretation that could facilitate climate “reparations” or “compensations”. This shows the developed world is unwilling to shoulder responsibility for historical emissions and will continue to focus on current emissions, to the detriment of developing nations pursuing growth.

Worse, even as COP27 reaffirmed the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, once again, there could be no agreement reached on phasedown of all fossil fuels. COP26 at Glasgow had agreed on a phasedown of unabated coal power and “phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. India, which has made substantial commitments on adoption of renewables, had insisted fossil fuels meant oil and natural gas were included and the focus can’t be just on coal.

Even as the EU agreed — though it said this shouldn’t mean a weakening of existing coal reduction agreements — bear in mind that European nations have been reverting to coal-based power following the energy crisis due to Russia’s war against Ukraine. This points at the outsized and continuing influence of the fossil fuel lobby, significant as the UAE, a petro-state, assumes the presidency of the COP next year. The mitigation work program to bring emissions down in line with the 1.5°C goal was also washed out in the talks, with a focus on keeping it “non-prescriptive, non-punitive, facilitative, respectful of national sovereignty and national circumstances”, though the blame for this is shared amongst emerging economies.

Outcome Of COP27

The Guardian in another report — What are the key outcomes of COP27 climate summit? — said:

Loss and damage

Developing countries have been seeking financial assistance for loss and damage – money needed to rescue and rebuild the physical and social infrastructure of countries devastated by extreme weather – for nearly three decades. Finally achieving agreement on a fund is a major milestone. Now comes the difficult part – the fund must be set up, and filled with cash. There is no agreement yet on how the finance should be provided and where it should come from.

1.5C

The 2015 Paris agreement contained two temperature goals – to keep the rise “well below 2C” above pre-industrial levels, and “pursuing efforts” to keep the increase to 1.5C. Science since then has shown clearly that 2C is not safe, so at Cop26 in Glasgow last year countries agreed to focus on a 1.5C limit. As their commitments on cutting greenhouse gas emissions were too weak to stay within the 1.5C limit, they also agreed to return each year to strengthen them, a process known as the ratchet. At Cop27, some countries tried to renege on the 1.5C goal, and to abolish the ratchet. They failed, but a resolution to cause emissions to peak by 2025 was taken out, to the dismay of many.

Gas

The final text of Cop27 contained a provision to boost “low-emissions energy”. That could mean many things, from wind and solar farms to nuclear reactors, and coal-fired power stations fitted with carbon capture and storage. It could also be interpreted to mean gas, which has lower emissions than coal, but is still a major fossil fuel. Many countries at Cop27, particularly those from Africa with large reserves to exploit, came to Sharm el-Sheikh hoping to strike lucrative gas deals.

Fossil fuels

Last year at Glasgow, a commitment to phase down the use of coal was agreed. It marked the first time a resolution on fossil fuels had been included in the final text – some would say, incredibly for 30 years of conferences on climate change. At Cop27, some countries – led by India – wanted to go further and include a commitment to phase down all fossil fuels. That was the subject of intense wrangling late into Saturday night, but in the end it failed and the resolution included was the same as that in Glasgow.

World Bank reform

A growing number of developed and developing countries are calling for urgent changes to the World Bank and other publicly funded finance institutions, which they say have failed to provide the funding needed to help poor countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis. Reform of the kind widely discussed at Cop27 could involve a recapitalization of the development banks to allow them to provide far more assistance to the developing world. Nicholas Stern, a climate economist and peer, has calculated the developing world will need $2.4tn (£2tn) a year from 2030. But this is only about 5% more than the investment they would require anyway, much of which would go into high-carbon infrastructure. The World Bank could provide about half of those funds, he estimates.

Adaptation

Building flood defences, preserving wetlands, restoring mangrove swamps and regrowing forests – these measures, and more, can help countries to become more resilient to the impacts of climate breakdown. But poor countries often struggle to gain funding for these efforts. Of the $100bn a year rich countries promised they would receive from 2020 – a promise still not fulfilled – only about $20bn goes to adaptation. In Glasgow, countries agreed to double that proportion, but at Cop27 some sought to remove that commitment. After some struggle, it was reaffirmed.

Tipping points, the IPCC and health

Since Cop26, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has published the key parts of its latest vast assessment of climate science, warning of catastrophic impacts that can only be averted by sharp and urgent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC was set up by the UN to advise on science, yet some countries wished to remove references to its latest findings from the final text. Instead of that, a reference to the key finding of “tipping points” was put in – a warning that the climate does not warm in a gradual and linear fashion, but that we risk tripping feedback loops that will lead to rapidly escalating effects. These include the heating of the Amazon, which could turn the rainforest to savannah, transforming it from a carbon sink to a carbon source, and the melting of permafrost that releases the powerful greenhouse gas methane. Also inserted was a reference to “the right to a clean healthy and sustainable environment”. Medical professionals have begun to play a much more prominent role in climate talks, and in climate protests, drawing a clear link between global heating and health.

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