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COP27 – historic success or huge disappointment?

COP27 has been either a historic success or a huge disappointment and another wasted opportunity to combat climate change – and a case can be made for both sides.

On the positive side, the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, which ran from 6-20 November, has achieved what no previous COP conference could do – by getting rich nations to fund help for poor nations hit by climate change.

COP27, organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, reached the historic “loss and damage” deal after two extra days of debate, making the conference one of the longest of its kind.

Developing countries have been demanding financial help to rescue and rebuild after natural disasters caused by climate change for more than a decade.

On the other hand, there was no new clear commitment to the phasing out of coal and fossil fuels in the COP27 agreement, which added to doubt that the target of limiting global warming to 1.5C degrees above pre-industrial levels could be maintained.

Indeed, UK COP27 representative Alok Sharma said he was “incredibly disappointed” that the statement did not raise global ambitions on both issues, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said there was “no time for complacency” and “more must be done”. EU executive Ursula von der Leyen commented that it was a small step towards climate justice, saying: “We have treated some of the symptoms but not cured the patient from its fever.”

Echoing the analogy, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Our planet is still in the emergency room. We need to drastically reduce emissions now – and this is an issue this COP did not address. A fund for loss and damage is essential – 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. The world still needs a giant leap on climate ambition. The red line we must not cross is the line that takes our planet over the 1.5-degree temperature limit.”

COP27 theme days included a focus on finance; energy; women and youth, and decarbonisation.

Stand-out points in the 10-page COP agreement, the Sharm El-Sheikh Implementation Plan, include:

  • Around US$ 4 trillion per year needs to be invested in renewable energy up until 2030 to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investment of at least US$ 4–6 trillion per year.
  • Delivering this funding will require a transformation of the financial system and its structures and processes, engaging governments, central banks, commercial banks, institutional investors and other financial bodies.
  • Chapters on food, oceans and forests feature in the agreement for the first time, recognizing the link between protecting nature and climate change.
  • Ongoing geopolitical issues including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “should not be used as a pretext for backtracking, backsliding or de-prioritizing climate action”.
  • More emphasis on protecting water resources.

Since COP26, the invasion of Ukraine, the energy supply crisis, soaring price rises and inflation have diverted the attention of world leaders away from environmental matters. Even as COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh was underway, they had to face a rocket strike in Poland, which prompted “World War III” to trend on Twitter.

There was no Greta Thunberg at COP27, after the young Swedish activist labelled the summit a ”forum for greenwashing”.  However, Brazil’s president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was greeted by rapturous crowds as he pledged to save the Amazon rainforest and host UN climate talks in the Amazon in 2025.

António Guterres led the conference, and voiced the life-and-death consequences of failing to adequately limit global warming, urging leaders to “stand and deliver”.

US President Joe Biden and China President Xi Jinping, who did not attend COP26, were this time among the leaders of 196 nations at Sharm El-Sheikh who heard that COP27 had three main goals:

  • Bring about greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions following the Ukraine invasion and price rises.
  • Secure compensation from rich countries to developing nations for damage caused by climate change.
  • Ensure the 2015 Paris Agreement framework is followed to limit global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

How successful was COP27 in meeting those goals? The jury is out – and you can expect plenty more comment from thought leaders over the next weeks and months.

For a more in-depth look at COP27’s call to transform the finance sector to boost investment in climate change projects, and in the “loss and damage” deal, see iResearch Services’ blog post, Banks must transform to finance climate change projects, says COP27.

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