After lengthy negotiations during the night, early on Sunday, November 20th, nations attending the COP27 climate summit reached an agreement. While light on concrete steps to further reduce carbon emissions, a special fund has been set up to help developing countries struck by climate-related natural disasters.
The summit, which started November 7th and was due to end November 18th, had gone into overtime so all arguments could be heard before the final text was released by the Egyptian COP27 presidency.
As previously reported by The European Conservative, the so-called ‘Loss and Damage’ fund (billed as the more lofty-sounding, “climate justice”), was the subject of much controversy, as countries with historic carbon emissions found themselves singled out for being asked to contribute to it.
Despite attaining success on that front, which the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell hoped would be “a springboard to restore trust in our process,” to most observers sympathetic to the UN’s cause, the summit in Egypt’s Sharm-el-Sheikh has a bitter aftertaste.
On the most important issue (at least according to the UN and its experts), which is to prevent man-made global warming from reaching a dangerous threshold, little progress has been made.
“A fund for loss and damage is essential,” UN chief António Guterres said in response to the summit’s outcome, “but it’s not an answer if the climate crisis washes a small island state off the map—or turns an entire African country to desert.”
Noting that the world “still needs a giant leap on climate ambition,” he cautioned that “the red line we must not cross is the line that takes our planet over the 1.5-degree temperature limit. “
According to an October report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), current pledges by national governments put the world on track for a 2.5°C warmer world by the end of the century. It indicates that more must be done, and that greenhouse gas emissions must decline 45% by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
At least pro forma, all parties present reiterated their commitment to that cause, as outlined in last year’s Glasgow Climate Pact; in it, they promised to take action towards the reduction of such emissions, hoping that these collective efforts would keep global average temperature below the 1.5°C mark.
During that year’s summit, however, countries were called upon to present concrete plans to sharply reduce their emissions during this year’s edition; their non-binding agreements had inevitably fallen by the wayside.
EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans is unhappy with this result, as he said that “too many parties are not ready to make more progress today in the fight against the climate crisis,” and that it is “not enough of a step forward for people and the planet.”
Such frustrations are little alleviated by a reference in the final document to “low-emissions energy,” which some fear implies tacit toleration of the growing use of natural gas—which emits both carbon dioxide and methane.”It does not break with Glasgow completely, but it doesn’t raise ambition at all,” Norway’s Climate Minister Espen Barth Eide commented on the matter.
COP27 was close to mutiny on Saturday as initially some countries, including China and Saudi Arabia, wanted to remove the 1.5 degrees mark from the final declaration altogether—a move that prompted the European Union to call it quits if that happened. As for now, the figure stands, with countries being asked to submit their new plans for reduction by next year’s end.
Developing countries, the main beneficiaries of the ‘Loss and Damage’ fund, are understandably elated with the final result. To all intents and purposes, they have succeeded in arranging for rich(er) countries, with their more developed industries, to pay up for ‘climate damage,’ thereby correcting what they perceive as an injustice.
According to the UN, a transitional committee will now make recommendations on how to “operationalize both the new funding arrangements and the fund at COP28 next year.” That committee’s first meeting is expected to take place before the end of March 2023.
For decades now, industrialized countries, and the U.S. in particular, have resisted institutionalizing such a fund. Perhaps not unjustly, they are wary of being held legally liable for future climate disasters, by virtue of which an endless stream of compensations would follow.
Yet given the heavy, climate change-ascribed floods Nigeria and Pakistan experienced this year, which exacted a toll of potentially $40 billion in damages, opposition by western countries became untenable.
It was the EU that put an end to the stalemate: armed with a draft proposal for a ‘Loss and Damage’ fund, it de facto isolated the U.S., forcing it to reconsider. Tough negotiations on the fund’s terms followed and dragged on. The main sticking point, of course, was who would pay what amount of money, and to whom it would go.
The EU proposed it would be intended only for the most vulnerable countries, with co-payments having to be made by countries that were still considered developing countries when climate negotiations began in 1992, but which have long since ceased to be so—this, of course, was a means to involve China, which has seen a meteoric rise since the late nineties and is now a manufacturing powerhouse, with all the emissions that entails.
The EU did not succeed in its attempt. Under the UN climate treaty, China, together with other rich nations such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar maintain their status as developing countries. Ironically, this would mean they would be within their rights to submit an appeal for receiving aid from the fund. Further negotiations on the matter will be held at next year’s climate summit, held in Dubai.
Dubai, then, is sure to become the place where climate ambitions, frustrated in Egypt, will seek gratification. Given the fact that it derives much of its wealth from oil extraction, the location will be a highly symbolic one. A sped-up phasing out of the use of fossil fuels is one of the UN’s main objectives; the completion of which, or so it hopes, would mask its failure in the lavish resort town Sharm-el-Sheikh.