Our Burning Planet

THE CLIMATE CAN'T WAIT

Just not good enough COP27 – time is up and we’re no closer to solutions

Just not good enough COP27 – time is up and we’re no closer to solutions
The International Congress Center hosting COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Sedat Suna)

Eleventh-hour negotiations at this year’s UN climate summit talks show little promise to deliver with backsliding, stalling and, with it, further blows for the most vulnerable communities.

The inevitable extension of COP27 negotiations into the weekend because of deadlocks over final agreements, threatens to reduce this year’s United Nations climate summit in Egypt to yet another damp squib.

Now running into reserve time, the negotiations in Sharm El-Sheikh are being marked by backsliding, stalling and, with it, further blows for the most vulnerable communities, which includes many in Africa.

Friday 18 November was meant to be the last day of the two-week annual summit intended to set a clear and committed course for collective action in the face of a deepening global climate crisis. 

Heart of the deadlock

At the heart of the deadlock are disagreements over the shape of a committed financing mechanism for loss and damage; the timeframes for this to come into effect, and extents of liability. 

There also continues to be vague commitments on “phasing out” or “phasing down” of fossil fuels – oil, coal and gas – given the continued appetite of developed nations for fossil fuels, and the still prevailing position of developing nations that fossil fuels represent an essential resource to advance their economies. 

Also of contention in the text is the qualifying language that defines “degrees of vulnerabilities” among vulnerable developing nations. 

It means that ultimately the eleventh-hour negotiations are underpinned by a deepening trust divide between the haves and have-nots of richer and poorer nations, and new questions about the value of COP summits into the future. 

Visitors in the Green Zone of the COP27 climate conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The conference is discussing climate-related topics including climate change adaptation, climate finance, decarbonisation, agriculture and biodiversity. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Three options for sticking point

Overnight, the latest UN draft text on loss and damage was released. In this version, it sets out three options for the critical sticking point of loss and damage financing. 

Speaking at the final briefing of the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice at Sharm El-Sheikh, Meena Raman of Third World Network said the options represent a shift in responsibility and stand to be a deletion of existing agreements set out already in The Paris Agreement in 2015.

Said Raman: “The developed nations want to remove the common but differentiated responsibility to shift to a common and shared responsibility. They also want to not have reference to equity, and if they do reference equity, there’s a qualification of what equity is. 

“They [developed nations] are not honouring what has already been agreed on in The Paris Agreement. They are not recognising their historical responsibility but are raking up skeletons, pretending to be ambitious about their goals.

Civil society has slammed the negotiations as “hypocritical” and Brandon Wu of ActionAid US said the options presented are “poison pills”. 

He said the options have been presented as a compromised middle ground but do not recognise different vulnerabilities and put forward funding streams that are still disguised, including as loans and private funding. 

Conference participants walk past the Mona Blue Pacific Pavilion at the COP27 climate conference in November 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The conference brings together political leaders and representatives from 190 countries to discuss climate-related topics. (Photo: Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

Shifting goalposts

Wu, who shared the same final briefing panel as Raman, also called out negotiators from developed nations that he said are shifting goalposts and reversing gains. 

“The target of 1.5°C [limiting global warming to this temperature increase] is something that developing nations and climate justice activists and civil society have been fighting for, but now the developed nations have hijacked 1.5 and want it reflected in the text as a goal for all parties, pretending that all parties are starting from the same level.

He said “1.5 is being hijacked and it’s been weaponised against the developing nations”. 

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Civil society organisations and activists have also slammed working text for not going far enough to push back against fossil fuel industries. Watchdog organisation Global Witness noted that this year’s COP saw 636 fossil fuel lobbyists in attendance, which is a 25% increase from COP26 in Glasgow. 

The likes of climate scientist Peter Kalmus were tweeting at the tail-end of COP: “What kind of a climate meeting makes no attempt to phase out oil and fossil gas, when fossil fuels in general are the main cause of the crisis? And loss and damage numbers are inching up toward $100-million – 0.01% what US spends on military in a year.” Kalmus pointed out that the world is on track to pass 1.5°C warming in the next decade.  

Continued climate-related misery

The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) also warned that despite COP27 being billed as the “Africa COP” it is “ending leaving millions of Africans in continued climate-related misery”. 

Mithika Mwenda, executive director of PACJA said: “We came with the hope that COP would materialise with concrete outcomes in Egypt.” 

PACJA added that COP summits are fast becoming obsolete as they fail to build on previous years’ gains and are increasingly becoming wasted opportunities and expensive talk shops that ultimately do not deliver for the most vulnerable. DM

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