Observations and Reflections from COP27 (Part 3)
By Samuel Chiu, Multicultural Program Director
January 5, 2023
In a few recent media interviews, I was asked, “What do you think about COP27? Was it a success or failure?”1
Along with many others I confess that, overall, I found this COP disappointing. I have even heard some government officials make similar statements. Perhaps, it’s not totally surprising given the convergence of many global crises at the same time: the shadow of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the energy and food price crises, heightened inflationary pressure in many nations (both rich and impoverished), and the reportedly not-so-efficient presidency of Egypt.
A few of the main failures of COP27:
- The bottleneck on climate finance persists. The important commitment from developed industrial nations to contribute USD 100 billion for climate action in less developed nations between 2018-2022, has still not been delivered. And the next milestone, agreed in Paris (2015), is looming: USD 100 billion per year starting 2023!
- No concrete timeline for making concerted efforts to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5C. Like last year in Glasgow, this goal was mentioned in the final “decision text,” but the timeline was removed.
- No clear consensus to “phase out” all fossil fuels, as demanded by many. The final decision text did not even improve on the watered down version of “phasing down” coal, a commitment made last year in Glasgow.
All that said, the level of disappointment depends on whom you are talking to. To me, the two-week gathering of 33,000 participants was not simply a waste of time. The following achievements were made:
- The Loss and Damage Fund was established (just like other UN climate related funds – Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund, etc).
- The Santiago Network on Loss & Damage has now begun after being on hold for a number of years. It will provide technical assistance—scientific prediction and modeling—to assess the damage of storms and floods, and it will create a match-making service between countries suffering from loss and damage and those organizations that can support their damage response.
- The Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan was approved with a list of decisions made with the consensus of all the participating nations.
- For the first time food, forests, nature-based solutions, and tipping points, were officially recognized as important issues for the COP. Moreover, the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment was acknowledged.
- The need for the “transformation of the financial system and its structures” was officially stated. It included calling on multilateral development banks and international financial institutions to reform their practices and to prioritize addressing the “global climate emergency.”
- The “Sharm el-Sheikh dialogue” on Article 2.1c of the Paris Agreement was launched with the mandate to pursue “financial flows” that align with global temperature targets.
- A “work programme on just transition” was initiated, including annual “high-level ministerial round tables” that will begin at COP28 next year.
- Another new work programme will, over the next 4 years, work on the “implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security.” A more holistic approach to agriculture is a first for COP and the discussion will include food systems, food security, nutrition, the role of Indigenous peoples, women, and small-scale farmers.
Despite the fact that local Egyptians had few ways to participate, COP27 did have more international CSOs (civil society organizations—i.e. non-governmental /non-business) than ever before, showcasing their ideas and solutions. It was even more prominent than COP21 in Paris, according to an experienced observer who concluded, “this is a sea change.”
By no means are these observations comprehensive and exhaustive, nor do I have the ability to interpret many of the highly technical documents (here’s a link to the whole official listing if you want to explore them for yourself). I simply rely on the fantastic post-COP27 reports and analysis by dedicated teams such as Carbon Brief. I also recommend following the Twitter feeds of experienced observers, activists and scientists, who can provide many insights and updates throughout these COP events.
Featured photo: Christian Climate Observers Program (CCOP)