Release of the draft text
Thursday 17 November saw the UN climate agency publish the draft text of the COP27 overarching agreement, the focus of the last week of negotiations and the document that will symbolise COP27 for years to come. The text appeared to still be in a very preliminary stage and many voiced their concern over the state of the document, described by some as “more of a shopping list than a draft text”. The president of COP27, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry alerted delegates about the concern stating “I urge all [countries] to go the extra mile, take the necessary steps to reach the much-needed conclusions and agreements. The world is waiting for us to demonstrate the seriousness by which we tackle this matter, and as a community of nations we must live up to their expectations”.
Key outstanding issues in the draft text include:
- Loss and damage: The draft text contains no details on the establishment of a loss and damage fund. This has become the definitive issue at COP27 and developing nations appear united in their resolve for a well-defined loss and damage funding mechanism. Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister, representing the G77, said negotiations were at a “pivotal moment”. A negotiator, from another G77 country said “there is strong pushback from the US in particular. They have said they won’t accept a decision that establishes a fund on loss and damage. That’s where the impasse is. We are saying we need a decision now and a process to negotiate the terms of reference. We want a decision on establishing the fund right now”.
- Defining reduction of fossil fuels: The current draft repeats the goal from COP26 to “phase down unabated coal”. There is, however, continued debate on whether the draft text should include a call to phase down all fossil fuels – that being coal, oil and gas rather than just coal. This motion is being led by India, a country that uses little gas and made the same argument at COP26. Followers say this idea is gaining momentum with the EU, UK and the US. There is also debate regarding the language of “phasing down”, with critics suggesting stronger language of “phasing out” is required. Amidst a global energy crisis, and an increase in gas projects globally, it remains to be seen what appetite there will be for including gas in such a statement, particularly if “phasing out” language is adopted.
- 1.5 degree temperature increase limit: Representatives from the EU, UK and Canada met with the Egyptian presidency emphasising the need for the text to include a strong recommitment to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. This comes amidst news from the UK Met Office that limiting temperature increase to 1.5C is likely out of reach and that reducing the temperature to 1.5C may only occur after 2100.
While COP27 is officially scheduled to end on Friday 18 November, as the draft text still requires significant work, delegates are bracing themselves for an extension of negotiations over the weekend. There appears to be motivation to continue negotiations, with Fredrick Njehu, senior Africa policy adviser at Tearfund saying “this was billed as an implementation COP – an opportunity to take real action, especially on the key issues of climate finance and phasing out fossil fuels”.
Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, returned to COP27 after attending G20 meetings in Indonesia. His assessment on the state of negotiations was that “there is clearly a breakdown in trust north and south, and between developed and emerging economies.” Guterres identified three areas where compromise was needed:
- loss and damage;
- addressing the “huge” gap between countries pledges on cutting greenhouse gas emissions; and
- ensuring developed countries provide the $100 billion in climate finance to developing countries they previously promised, and for the proportion of the $100 billion going to adaptation projects to be doubled.
Guterres called for the continued growth of renewable energy and suggested that a key way forward was the expansion of Just Energy Transition Partnerships which assist workers’ transition from jobs in the coal industry to renewable energy. This follows similar partnerships announced at COP26 for South Africa, and recently at the G20 summit for Indonesia. He also called for the reform of multilateral development banks and international financial institutions to enable systematic leverage of affordable private finance for developing countries for climate action.
While the day was largely focused on the release of the first draft, other key news includes:
- US and China meeting: US climate envoy John Kerry officially met his Chinese counterpart. This meeting came shortly after US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to resume talks on the climate at the G20 Summit in Indonesia.
- Public sector emissions: 18 countries, including the UK, France and Australia, have signed up to a US initiative unveiled at COP27 to reduce public sector emissions to net zero by 2050.
- Brazil: In a highly anticipated event, new Brazilian President-elect Lula spoke and shared the stage with indigenous representatives from across the globe. His speech focused on the need to stop deforestation in the Amazon and stated that Brazil would “prove that it was possible to generate wealth without destroying the environment”.