Our Burning Planet


COP27 ‘failed to reflect the urgency of the global climate crisis’

COP27 ‘failed to reflect the urgency of the global climate crisis’
Daily Maverick's Kevin Bloom, Ufrieda Ho and Ethan van Diemen. (Photos: Supplied)

COP27 ended on a bittersweet note after the final text of the negotiations took the first step to establishing a loss and damage fund for the first time in 30 years. Daily Maverick and Our Burning Planet journalists discussed the outcomes and experience of COP27 in a webinar.

Ambition and urgency towards the growing effects of the climate crisis were lacking at the global climate talks, the 27th Congress of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt, Daily Maverick journalists that were at the negotiations shared on a webinar. 

The webinar, “COP27: Debrief with Daily Maverick”, was hosted by Our Burning Planet senior investigative reporter Kevin Bloom, who was joined by Our Burning Planet journalist Ethan van Diemen and journalist Ufrieda Ho. 

“The outcomes of this particular COP in Sharm-el-Sheikh; they jogged on the spot from COP26 in Glasgow last year. They didn’t move the needle forward. And the science is pretty clear about what needs to be done in this decade in order to avert that threshold [1.5°C global average temperature increase]. The ambition wasn’t raised and didn’t reflect the urgency of the situation,” said Van Diemen. 

Outcomes that lack urgency

COP27 ended on a bittersweet note after the final text from the negotiations took the first step to establishing a loss and damage fund for the first time in 30 years. This means that countries vulnerable to the climate crisis will receive — once the fund is set up — funding to prepare and compensate for loss and damage; destruction caused by the consequences of the climate crisis that cannot be avoided by mitigation or adaptation. 

With the COP being on African soil and the continent being among the most vulnerable to the climate crisis, expectations were high that outcomes would lean towards ambitious action that would shield the continent and other developing countries from the crisis; this was lost upon the COP, with little to no progress on climate financing for those countries. 

“It [was] the 27th iteration, people were cynical about what would change but there was a lot of hope because it was supposed to be an ‘African COP’ — it was supposed to be what was dubbed the ‘implementation COP’. And I think coming out of Glasgow [COP26], that loss and damage, they got so close to advancing the financing that this COP was meant to put it on the agenda and get some kind of formalised agreement,” said Ho. 

She said that by the last Friday of COP27, countries were nowhere close to the agreement on loss and damage, shattering any hope that was left — though the negotiations turned at the last hour to include loss and damage. She said that the last-minute turnaround showed that the negotiations were performative and that the COP process was a “painfully slow and outdated” process for the climate emergency that the planet is facing. 

Read more in Daily Maverick:Just not good enough COP27 – time is up and we’re no closer to solutions

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

Just Energy Transition Investment Plan

South Africa’s climate action for the burning issue of the time has been seen in the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET-IP) which was launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the eve of COP27. The plan — revered by global leaders and other developing countries — focuses on decarbonising the country through three key areas: transitioning to renewable energy to power the country, establishing an electric vehicle industry, as well as a green hydrogen sector. The cost of the plan is placed at R1.5-trillion. 

Read more in Daily Maverick:What the world is learning from South Africa’s nascent Just Energy Transition Investment Plan

Van Diemen said that South Africa needs more than R1.5-trillion to ensure that the plan is carried out. 

“South Africa has some strategic advantages in that we have major platinum resources, which is an essential component for the technologies [of green hydrogen] … so we’re in a prime position to create green hydrogen. [Just Energy Transition partners] also highlight the fact that we have domestic expertise and capacity. By that, they mean Sasol,” Van Diemen said. 

South Africa has already secured $8.5-billion from COP26 towards its just transition plan, as well as a R10.7-billion loan from Germany and France at COP27. 

Bloom said that funding towards the development of green hydrogen at Secunda would be ideal for the environment and the community where the plant is situated. 

“There’s no plant in the world that does as much damage to the atmosphere and to the communities immediately surrounding it,” said Bloom of Sasol’s Secunda plant in Mpumalanga. “For the people that live in Secunda, the sickness and life expectancy is just horrific.” 

An (un)African COP

According to Ho, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance had asked for special circumstances at COP; to be recognised as vulnerable to the climate crisis. However, this need was not met. She added that if loss and damage hadn’t been added to the final text, the COP would have been a complete failure, especially for the African continent. 

“That we got something [loss and damage] that got into the text, that is really significant; but how that frames up in the next 12 months is really an exercise in delay, and deal-making and self-preservation,” said Ho of the outcome.

Bloom recalled a piece he wrote back in 2009 on COP15 in Copenhagen where the slogan “1.5 degrees Celsius” came to be. He recalled the lead African negotiator, Lumumba Di-Aping, saying the $10-billion offered for developing countries to lower emission reduction targets “was not enough to buy us [Africans] coffins”.

This still remains true for Africa; a continent that emits about 3% of carbon emissions globally yet is hit twice as hard by the climate crisis, with a 1.5°C global increase being a 3°C increase for Africa. 

“It seems that at COP27, not only is nothing being done but we’re moving at speed in the other direction,” said Bloom. 

A COP under surveillance 

The global talks continued and concluded under the systematic repression of the Egyptian state. Ho said, however, that the tools of repression were quite evident throughout the conference. 

Read more in Daily Maverick:Climate change summit: Gimmicks, slogans and pleasant noises amid human rights abuse

She noted that journalists and activists were afraid to speak on the record for fear of retaliation; a lack of access to some websites; security detail hiding in plain sight; and few shaded areas at the venue, which suggested a discouragement of gatherings. Van Diemen added that the big protests that usually occur at COP were absent. 

Said Bloom in conclusion: “COP28, if it doesn’t go in the way of the 27 club, is going to be in the United Arab Emirates. So we can expect more of the same and worse. I think there’s going to be — there has to be — some sort of international pushback. Hopefully, discussions like this will influence movement in the right direction.” DM/OBP

Absa OBP

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