COP27 was a very difficult two weeks. The negotiations were dogged by poor processes and facilities, vested interests and backsliding and real risks for domestic civil society speaking out in the host nation.
But in an incredible feat of solidarity and defiance, in spite of it all, an incredible, historic agreement was reached.
Here we look at what was achieved, and the work left to be done.
Landmark decision on a Loss and Damage fund
In a historic breakthrough at COP27, the demands of those least responsible for the climate crisis, but most severely impacted by it, have finally been acted on. It has taken three decades, but at COP27 all governments agreed to set up a Loss and Damage fund.
This is the first step in a process to address the systemic injustice happening to billions of people, particularly in the Global South, who are the least responsible, yet are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Those who are suffering devastating climate change impacts, such as floods, droughts, hurricanes, and sea level rise, should now soon have some means of redress and support.
This was the key outstanding business from COP26 in Glasgow, and a matter of justice and moral responsibility for the UNFCCC process – and particularly wealthier nations – to recognise and agree a way to address the damage being caused by climate change.
It was achieved by the power of solidarity. The G77 plus China – representing 6 out of 7 people on earth – stood united behind their shared demand for justice, and civil society mobilised in force to amplify their demands. Despite intense pressure from many wealthy countries to block or water down the options, the will of the people was unstoppable, and the desired outcome was achieved.
But this is just the first step. A lot of work is now needed to ensure an equitable and just fund is created that really delivers for impacted communities and countries. Innovative sources of finance will be required to address the scale of need, and finance must be provided as grants, both as a matter of justice and to address the fact that climate change impacts are a major driver of the increasing debt burden in lower-income countries.
Failure to address the causes of the climate crisis
While COP27 delivered on addressing the consequences of the climate crisis, it failed to address the root cause of the crisis: fossil fuels. No agreement was reached to have a fair and equitable phase-out of all fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – as the corridors of COP27 bustled with fossil fuel lobbyists and vested interests.
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Keeping 1.5°C alive was under threat at COP27, with draft texts tabled that took a backward step from Glasgow, leading outgoing COP26 President Alok Sharma to warn “We’ll either leave Egypt having kept 1.5°C alive or this will be the COP where we lose 1.5°C.” The Egyptian Presidency had a responsibility to move the process forward not backwards, and we must guard against COPs becoming a place where we simply fight to stand still, rather than the place where progress on the delivery of the Paris Agreement is advanced.
While for the first time there was agreement to scale up investment in renewable energy, the weakening of language on fossil fuels and the inclusion of a potential loophole that could allow for the development of further gas resources. Alok Sharma was forthright in highlighting the important aspects that were “not in the text” COP26 President’s speech at COP27 closing plenary adding, “Friends, I said in Glasgow that the pulse of 1.5 degrees was weak. Unfortunately, it remains on life support.”
Restricted civil society space and human rights
Civil society came to COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh with a clear message that there is no climate justice without human rights, and together we raised our voices within the safe space provided by the UNFCCC, including the first civil society march inside the venue on the Global Day of Action, because of the inability to hold the normal COP march on the streets.
The situation in Egypt for those fighting for climate justice and human rights is of enormous concern, and the risks for those who spoke out so courageously at COP27 to shine a light on the situation and to lift up the thousands of prisoners of conscience held in Egypt – many who have died – must now be front in our minds and actions.
As we leave COP27, civil society remains resolute in our continued resistance against fossil fuel expansion and continued fight against all injustices and human rights abuses and shrinking of civic space across the world.
A quick round up of some of what we got – and didn’t get – at COP27
Loss & Damage
- Agreement for a fund,
- Agreement on the institutional arrangements to operationalise the Santiago Network for technical assistance to developing countries,
- Recognition in the cover decision that the lack of Loss & Damage finance is adding to debt levels.
We didn’t get:
- Money for the fund and what form it will take (e.g. a commitment to grant finance).
- Agreement for a framework for the Global Goal of Adaptation by the end of 2023
We didn’t get:
- Recognition of the central role of locally led adaptation,
- Calls for more finance from MDBs and reform to MDBs to align with the climate crisis,
- Recognition of the need for grant-based climate finance (but no firm commitments),
- Recognition that the debt crisis is adding to financing needs of climate vulnerable countries.
We didn’t get:
- Progress on outcomes for the New Collective Quantified Goal.
Mitigation, fossil fuels, and keeping 1.5°C alive
- Blah blah and a huge number of fossil fuel lobbyists and vested interests,
- Agreement to scale up investment in renewable energy (but no firm commitments),
We didn’t get:
- The slightest sense of the urgency of the situation,
- A fair and equitable phase out of fossil fuels – in fact no mention of oil and gas, and only coal in the context of ‘phase down’,
- Holding the line on Glasgow language on ecosystem integrity,
- Mention of comprehensive and synergetic approaches to tackling climate change and biodiversity loss,
- Recognition of the critical role of protecting water related ecosystems,
- Encouragement to Parties to adopt Nature-Based Solutions and Ecosystems-based Adaptation.
We didn’t get:
- A strong political signal for a successful CBD COP15 outcome,
- Robust safeguards for Nature-Based Solutions and Ecosystems-based Adaptation
- A four-year Sharm el-Sheikh joint work programme on implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security.