Following lengthy negotiations, running almost two days past their scheduled deadline, the final agreement for the UN’s Climate Change conference (COP27), was finalised on Sunday.
The agreement was met with disappointment from the public, media, and many COP27 attendees. In this article, we will give you an overview of what was in the finalised text and take a look at why the outcomes were so poor.
No agreement to “phase down” fossil fuels
At last year’s conference, COP26, nations committed to "phase down" the use of coal. This year, a coalition of countries wanted the final agreement to include a commitment to phase down the use of all fossil fuels. This agreement was not reached. Instead, the text encourages “efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies."
Climate damage fund agreed to
After being a hot topic for the past few years, a climate damages fund was finally agreed to at COP27. The fund was requested by developing nations which, despite having historically contributed the least to climate change-causing emissions, are having to deal with the damages and consequences resulting from global heating. The details of the fund, including who will need to contribute, will be worked out over the next year.
Agreement to boost “low-emissions energy”
A provision to boost “low-emissions energy” was included in the final agreement; however, it is not clear what exactly this refers to. The term could be interpreted to mean wind and solar energy, or nuclear, gas, or even coal-power stations fitted with carbon capture technology. However, most experts agree that this is a nod to natural gas which, while less harmful than coal power, is still a damaging fossil fuel.
No statement of when earlier climate financing commitments should be met
In 2009, developed nations agreed to provide $100 billion per year to developing nations, by 2020, to enable them to limit their emissions and adapt to climate impacts. Despite this, developing nations received only $83.3 billion in 2020.
Many COP27 attendees urged developed nations to deliver on their past commitments; however, the final agreement did not include dates for when this should happen.
No agreement to reach peak emissions by 2025
In line with the agreement to keep temperature rise below 1.5C, reaching peak emissions by 2025 was pushed for at the conference by many nations and the EU. Unfortunately, this was not included in the final agreement, nor were firm deadlines for new emission reduction commitments.
Considering current commitments, the best-case scenario is an emissions drop of 10% by 2030, far smaller than the 45% needed to stay on track for 1.5C. However, if nations fail to stick to their commitments and emissions remain on their current trajectory, levels are expected to rise by approximately 7% by 2030.
Tipping points and health included in text
Despite opposition from some countries, the IPCC’s latest findings on climate tipping points (points where feedback loops will rapidly escalate emissions) were included in the final text. A reference to “the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment” was also included.
Experts suggest that Russia’s war with Ukraine (and the consequential strain put on natural gas supplies) has led to an increased influence among oil and gas-rich nations at the conference, undermining the negotiations. Furthermore, the current cost of living crisis and high energy prices have created a reluctance among many nations to push for restrictions on fossil fuels.
The lack of proper leadership at the conference has also been pointed to as a reason for the poor outcomes. Critics have argued that Egypt’s presidency drastically underestimated the task and failed to fight hard enough for a strong agreement.
Lastly, the lack of trust between nations made both conversations and negotiations difficult from the start. The major cause of this was the failure of developed nations to deliver on their previous commitments to finance developing nations, as mentioned earlier.
Sadly, we posted a similar article to this a year ago, and the words written then are just as relevant today:
The issues of the climate crisis and global warming mitigation are clearly geopolitically complicated. The world is not a level playing field. Countries differ drastically regarding finances, resources, populations, economic interests, and size, and in their vulnerability to climate change damages. Considering this, expecting all countries to come to climate change agreements inherently means there will have to be heavy compromises, which fundamentally weaken climate change responses.
Relying on international summits like COP to solve the climate crisis is not going to work. Individuals, communities, and businesses need to act now to reduce their own impacts, and convince their governments to do the same.
Maslin, M., Parikh, P., Taylor, R., & Chin-Yee, S. (2022, November 22). COP27 will be remembered as a failure – here’s what went wrong. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/cop27-will-be-remembered-as-a-failure-heres-what-went-wrong-194982
Rott, N., Copley, M., Sommer, L., & Hersher, R. (2022, November 20). Did the world make progress on climate change? Here's what was decided at global talks. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2022/11/20/1137349916/did-the-world-make-progress-on-climate-change-heres-what-was-decided-at-global-t
McGuire, M. (2022, November 20). The big takeaway from Cop27? These climate conferences just aren’t working. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/nov/20/big-takeaway-cop27-climate-conferences-arent-working