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COP27 ended with an agreement to create a funding facility to compensate vulnerable nations for ‘loss and damage’ from climate disasters; but weakened language around the phase-out of fossil fuels opens a dangerous loophole that could threaten decarbonization before it’s too late.
In the early hours of Sunday morning (November 20), more than 36 hours after its
scheduled end, COP27 finally came to a close with the
formation of a landmark agreement on a new funding deal that will see developed
nations finally helping compensate developing countries for their growing losses
and damages due to climate change.
“This COP has taken an important step towards
I welcome the decision to establish a loss and
fund and to operationalize it in the coming period,” UN Secretary-General
António Guterres said in a video message on the overdue
conclusion of the conference, underscoring that the voices of those on
frontlines of the climate crisis must be heard.
During this COP, developing countries once again made strong and repeated
appeals for the establishment of a loss and damage fund, to help compensate them
— the countries that are now the most vulnerable to climate disasters, yet who
have contributed little to the climate crisis. As Adeline Stuart-Watt — a
Policy Fellow (Adaptation and Resilience) at the Grantham Research Institute
on Climate Change and the Environment — explained in a recent
climate-vulnerable developing countries have been calling for finance and
technical support to minimize and address their loss and damage from climate
change for two decades. But developed countries have viewed providing finance
for ‘Loss and Damage’ as a major red line — in case it is seen as an acceptance
of legal liability.
“Clearly this will not be enough, but it is a much-needed political signal to
rebuild broken trust,” Guterres underscored, stressing that the UN system will
support the effort every step of the way.
Ahead of action on the texts, COP27 President Sameh Shoukry, who is also the
Foreign Minister of Egypt, said that the draft decisions were “a gateway
that will scale up implementation and will enable us to transform to future of
climate neutrality and climate-resilient development.”
After missing their Friday night deadline, exhausted delegates were finally able
to reach conclusions on the most difficult
items of the agenda — including a loss and damage facility expected to commence
next year (with a commitment to set up a financial support structure for the
most vulnerable by next year’s COP), a post-2025 finance goal. Another new
development is a so-called mitigation work program that would reduce global
greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) faster, catalyze impactful action, and secure
assurances from key countries that they will take immediate action to raise
ambition and keep us on the path towards 1.5°C.
Yet, while agreement on these issues was seen as a welcome step in the right
direction, there was little forward movement on other key issues — particularly
on the phasing out of fossil fuels, and tightened language on the need to limit
global warming to 1.5°Celsius.
Not only that, but softer language was introduced that includes “low-emissions”
energy alongside renewables as the energy sources of the future — a significant
loophole, as the vague term could be used to justify new fossil fuel
development, against the clear guidance of the
and the International Energy Agency. The final text largely keeps to what was
officially stated last year at COP26 — aside from a “phase-out of fossil
fuels” being changed in the final hours to a “phase-down,” significantly
weakening the text.
Guterres reminded the world of the remaining priorities regarding climate action
— including continued efforts to reduce GHGs and keep alive the Paris
1.5° Celsius limit, and pull humanity “back from the climate cliff.”
“We need to drastically reduce emissions now — and this is an issue this COP did
not address,” he lamented, saying that the world still needs to make a giant
leap on climate ambition and end its addiction to fossil fuels by investing
“massively” in renewables.
He also reiterated the importance of changing the business models of
multilateral development banks and international financial institutions: “They
must accept more risk and systematically leverage private finance for developing
countries at reasonable costs,” he said.
The UN chief said that while a fund for loss and damage is essential, it’s not
an answer if the climate crisis washes a small island state off the map — or
turns an entire African country into a desert. He renewed his call for just energy transition partnerships to accelerate the
phasing out of coal and scaling up renewables and reiterated the call he made on
his opening speech at COP27: a climate solidarity
“A Pact in which all countries make an extra effort to reduce emissions this
decade in line with the 1.5° goal. And a Pact to mobilize — together with
and the private sector — financial and technical support for large emerging
economies to accelerate their renewable energy transition,” he explained,
underscoring that this is essential to keep the 1.5° limit within reach.
Guterres also sent a message to civil society and activists which had been
so vocal since the conference’s opening day: “I share your frustration.”
Guterres said that climate advocates, particularly young people, have kept the
agenda moving through the darkest of days and they must be protected: “The most
vital energy source in the world is people power. That is why it is so important
to understand the human rights dimension of climate action.”
Echoing this sentiment, Kenyan environmental youth activist Elizabeth
said: “COP27 may be over, but the fight for a safe future is not. The
interconnected food, nature and climate crisis are right now affecting us all —
but the frontline communities like mine are hardest hit. How many alarm bells
need to be sounded before we act? It is now more urgent than ever that political
leaders work to agree a strong global deal to protect and restore nature at the
upcoming Global Biodiversity
In his closing remarks, UNFCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said: “This
historic outcome does move us forward and it benefits the vulnerable people
around the world. [But] there is no need in putting ourselves through all that
we have just gone through if we are going to participate in an exercise of
collective amnesia the moment the cameras move on,” and called for all Parties
and delegations to hold each other accountable for these new decisions.
His remarks hit on a widespread cynicism that has developed around the COP
meetings — that they produce pronouncements and pretty promises, but little in
the way of much-needed changes in policy and
Case in point: progress toward the Paris Agreement, which the UN recently says
seven years later.
And as Guterres reminded the world in his closing video, “We are already halfway
between the Paris Climate Agreement and the 2030 deadline. We need all hands on
deck to drive justice and ambition.”
Published Nov 21, 2022 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET