Final days

Negotiations at COP 27 spilled over into the weekend and finished more than 36 hours later than expected. Whilst agreement was met on many key issues, there were multiple points that remained contentious. These include:

  • A resolution that peak emissions should occur in 2025 (and that after that date, world emissions should start falling) was taken out of the final decision.
  • The COP 26 text called for a ‘phase down’ on coal. A proposal by India aimed to extend this to a commitment to ‘phase down’ all fossil fuels. Ultimately, this could not be agreed and the resolution on this point was the same as that at COP 26.
  • Proposed language aimed to boost ‘renewable energy’ was instead agreed as an agreement to increase ‘low-emissions energy’. This has been criticised on the basis that this undefined term could justify new fossil fuel projects for ‘low-emission’ fossil fuels such as gas, against guidance from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency.
  • It was reported that several countries had resisted including the 1.5C target in the final text. However this has been included in the final text.

Alok Sharma, the previous COP 26 president expressed concern on the decision stating that ‘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. The text on energy was weakened but is at least in. 1.5C was weak, and it remains on life support.’

Loss and Damage

Loss and Damage has been a key issue this COP with developing countries pushing for a fund to be set up in order to compensate vulnerable countries for economic and non-economic costs of extreme weather events. Developing countries have been calling for funding for ‘loss and damage’ for over 30 years.

After long negotiations, governments have agreed to establish new funding arrangements and a dedicated fund on loss and damage as well as a ‘transitional committee’ which will make recommendations on how to manage the loss and damage funding arrangements and the fund which are to  be adopted at COP 28 next year.

The recommendations will cover ‘identifying and expanding sources of funding’ which refers to which countries should be paying into the new ‘loss and damage’ fund. Currently, major economies such as China will not initially be required to contribute, but this will be negotiated over the next couple of years.

The EU and the US have argued that China and other large polluters that are technically classified as developing countries, also have responsibility and financial capability to pay their share towards the fund.

Parties have also agreed on arrangements to operationalise the Santiago network, set up at COP 26 last year, in order to provide technical assistance to developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

Global Goal on Adaptation

The Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) was established under the Paris Agreement with the aim of building resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change. Since its establishment, there has been slow progress on what the goal should comprise and how it will be measured.

At COP 26, the two-year Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh work programme on the GGA was established to support adaptation through a country- driven process. Here, the parties tasked subsidiary groups with carrying out this work programme in order to clarify the GGA.

At COP 27 it was agreed that the GGA will conclude at the COP 28 meeting and will develop a framework to guide delivery of the goal and track progress, taking into account countries’ vulnerability and capacity to cope. This will inform the first Global Stocktake, which is a two-year process that will happen every five years. The Global Stocktake will provide information on what progress has been made in relation to meeting the Paris Agreement Goals as well as identifying any gaps and opportunities for increasing ambition.

Notwithstanding this, delegates from the African Union (AU) have raised their concern with the GGA. The lack of reference in the GGA text to the international environmental law principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” and “equity” is a sticking point for AU delegates, as well as the rejection to include inputs from the IPCC in the GGA process. The lack of participation of the IPCC has been seen by developing countries as “delinking science from adaptation”. AU delegates also took issue that the consideration and implementation of the GGA would only begin from next year. Many were optimistic for its start this year.

Further, new pledges totalling over USD 230 million were made to the Adaptation Fund.

Climate Finance

At Cop 15 in Copenhagen, a commitment was made by developed countries to mobilise USD 100 billion per year by 2020. There has been concern at COP 27 regarding the failure to meet this target, with an OECD study published in September 2022, finding that developed countries had mobilised only USD 83 billion per year. According to a study by the UN Environment Programme, ‘[i]nternational adaptation finance flows to developing countries are 5-10 times below estimated needs,’ which could be as much as $340 billion per year by 2030 and $650 billion per year by 2050.

Initially when the USD 100 billion target was made in 2009 it did specify how much should be spent on adaptation as against mitigation or anything else. However, in COP 26 a new target was set to collectively double the adaptation finance from the 2019 amount of USD 20 billion to USD 40 billion by 2025. This has been restated at this year’s COP.

There have been talks in relation to a new collective finance goal for 2025, however a decision on this is now not due until 2024. The text agreed that the new goal would ‘take into account the needs and priorities of developing countries.

Mitigation programme

COP 27 also saw the launch of a Mitigation Work Programme (MWP) aimed at urgently scaling up mitigation. The MWP will start immediately after COP 27 and continue until 2030. Governments were also urged to strengthen their 2030 targets in their national climate plans by the end of 2023, as well as phasedown unabated coal and phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

This comes following discussions in COP 26 noting that emissions were projected to be 14% above those in 2010 in 2030 and that emissions needed to fall by 45% to limit warming to 1.5C.

The MWP was originally agreed to at COP 26 with COP 27 officially setting up the programme. Countries have agreed that talks on this will continue until 2026.

Closing Comments

There have been mixed reactions in relation to the overall success of COP 27 in Sharm el-Sheikh Egypt.

UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres stated ‘we need to drastically reduce emissions now – and this is an issue that this COP did not address‘. He also emphasised the importance of changing the business models of multilateral development banks and international financial institutions stating that ‘they must accept more risk and systematically leverage private finance for developing countries at reasonable costs.’ Further, he reiterated the importance that further work still needs to be done stating ‘we are already halfway between the [2015] Paris Climate Agreement and the 2030 deadline. We need all hands on deck to drive justice and ambition’ and called again for a climate solidarity pact to maintain the 1.5 C goal.

COP 27 President Sameh Shoukry delivered a more positive final view stating that “The work that we’ve managed to do here in the past two weeks, and the results we have together achieved, are a testament to our collective will, as a community of nations, to voice a clear message that rings loudly today, here in this room and around the world: that multilateral diplomacy still works…. despite the difficulties and challenges of our times, the divergence of views, level of ambition or apprehension, we remain committed to the fight against climate change…. we rose to the occasion, upheld our responsibilities and undertook the important decisive political decisions that millions around the world expect from us.’

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