Credit: COP27

“Loss and Damage” fund endorsed at COP27, but no progress made on cutting GHG emissions

The agreement is hailed as a historic deal for climate-battered countries, but COP27 could not make further progress on addressing the prime cause of “Loss and Damage”; fossil fuels

Following the marathon negotiation over the final draft text among climate negotiators of the UN Climate Change conference in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh, or COP27, which ran over the deadline set on Friday night and into Sunday morning, the negotiators narrowly managed to make the most historic deal on “Loss and Damage”, widely understood as the most severe impacts of climate change or extreme weather beyond adaptation that need financial assistance to rehabilitate.

According to the UN Climate Change, they agreed to establish new “funding arrangements” as well as a dedicated fund to assist developing countries in responding to loss and damage. They also agreed to establish a “transitional committee” to make recommendations on how to operationalize both the new funding arrangements and the fund at COP28 next year. The first meeting of the transitional committee is expected to take place before the end of March 2023.

The Parties of the conference also agreed on the institutional arrangements to operationalize the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage, to catalyze technical assistance to developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, the UN Climate Change (UNFCCC) said.

“This outcome moves us forward,” said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell. “We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage – deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”

On the front of adaptation, the parties agreed on the way to move forward on the Global Goal on Adaptation, which will conclude at COP28 and inform the first Global Stocktake to improve resilience amongst the most vulnerable, according to the UN Climate Change. In addition, new pledges totalling more than US$ 230 million were made to the Adaptation Fund. These pledges will help many more vulnerable communities adapt to climate change through concrete adaptation solutions, the UN Climate Change noted, adding the Standing Committee on Finance was requested to prepare a report on doubling adaptation finance for consideration at COP28 next year.

Meanwhile, COP27 President Sameh Shoukry also announced the Sharm el-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda, enhancing resilience for people living in the most climate-vulnerable communities by 2030.

On the front of climate finance, now perceived to be more directed to a transition to a low-carbon economy, serious concern was expressed that the goal to mobilize jointly US$ 100 billion per year by 2020 has not yet been met, with developed countries being urged to meet the goal, and multilateral development banks and international financial institutions being called on to mobilize climate finance, the UN Climate Change further noted.

The deliberations continued on setting a “new collective quantified goal on climate finance” in 2024, taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries, it said.

The cover decision, known as the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan, highlights that a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investments of at least US$ 4-6 trillion a year. Delivering such funding will require a swift and comprehensive transformation of the financial system and its structures and processes, engaging governments, central banks, commercial banks, institutional investors and other financial actors, the UN Climate Change noted.

“In this text, we have been given reassurances that there is no room for backsliding,” said Mr. Stiell. “It gives the key political signals that indicate the phasedown of all fossil fuels is happening.”

Credit: UNFCCC

Mitigation “standstill

Although the countries have managed to make progress on reparations for vulnerable countries and some financial elements, they have not been able to move forward with cutting Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Although they finally reaffirmed their commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, they failed to agree on phasing out fossil fuels at the meeting.

According to the report by the Guardian, the two-week long conference was marked by stark division and harsh words between the rich and the poor. 

At many stages, the Gurdian reported, a deal looked impossible to reach and in the final hours, countries wrangled over single words in an outcome that spanned issues from the 1.5C temperature goal, the phasing out of fossil fuels, the needs and rights of indigenous people, the protection of nature, and how to engineer a “just transition” to clean energy for those economically dependent on fossil fuels.

The Guardian further reported that many felt the deal fell well short on important issues. Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the European Commission, was quoted as saying about the tortuous negotiations during the closing of the Plenary, which included some countries trying to “unpick” the 1.5C goal, and to abolish the requirement established in Glasgow for countries to update their plans on emissions every year.

“Too many parties are not ready to make more progress today in the fight against the climate crisis. There were too many attempts to roll back what we agreed in Glasgow,” said Mr. Timmermans. “…This deal is not enough (on cutting emissions).”

Alok Sharma, the UK’s president of COP26 last year, was reported speaking in clear frustration of having to defend commitments agreed last year from sustained attack by other countries. “We had to fight relentlessly to hold the line. We had to battle to build on the key outcomes of Glasgow,” he lamented.

The former COP president listed commitments that he championed that were removed at the behest of laggard countries and fossil fuel producers. “Peaking emissions by 2025 is not in this text. Follow-through on the phasedown of coal is not in this text. The phasedown of all fossil fuels is not in this text,” he had said. “The text on energy was weakened but is at least in. 1.5C was weak, and it remains on life support.”

It was a proposal from India to stipulate “the phasing down of all fossil fuels”, but it was also mauled by oil-producing countries at the talks and watered down to “a phasing down of coal”, which reflected exactly the commitment made in Glasgow. The wording was the subject of furious discussions in the early hours of Sunday morning, the Guardian reported.

In the end, the Egyptian hosts drafted a compromise deal that achieved the consensus required under the UN rules. Mr. Shoukry was quoted as saying; “We leave with stronger collective will and determination.” He said the 1.5C temperature limit remained within reach, and countries must work on staying within that limit. He also added that it was appropriate that the loss and damage fund was agreed in Africa, the Guardian reported.

According to the UN Climate Change’s report, implementation of current pledges by national governments put the world on track for a 2.5C warmer world by the end of the century. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that the emissions must decline 45% by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5C.

The UN Climate Change said the parties of the conference will work on a mitigation work programme, which was launched in Sharm el-Sheikh, and aimed at urgently scaling up mitigation ambition and implementation. 

The work programme will start immediately following COP27 and continue until 2030, with at least two global dialogues held each year. They were also requested to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their national climate plans by the end of 2023, as well as accelerate efforts to phase down unabated coal power and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, the UN Climate Change noted.

The decision text recognizes that the unprecedented global energy crisis underlines the urgency to rapidly transform energy systems to be more secure, reliable, and resilient, by accelerating clean and just transitions to renewable energy during this critical decade of action, it further noted.

Apart from those agreements, COP27 saw some progress on other fronts including climate technology as there was the launch of a new five-year work program at COP27 to promote climate technology solutions in developing countries.

The conference also managed to wrap up a technical dialogue of the first global stocktake, a mechanism to raise ambition under the Paris Agreement. The UN Secretary-General will convene a “climate ambition summit” ahead of the conclusion of the stocktake at COP28 next year, the UN Climate Change said.

Sources: UN Climate Change, UN News, the Guardian

Credit: UNFCCC