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Why the UN climate summit COP27 will be remembered as a failure

Dubbed “Africa’s COP”, the 27th UN Climate Change Summit (otherwise known as COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, was set to promote climate justice, as it is the continent most affected but least responsible for the climate crisis.

Negotiations for a fund that would compensate developing countries for loss and damage caused by climate change dominated the negotiations.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, well after the Friday deadline, member states agreed to establish such a fund – a victory for developing countries.

However, who will pay and how this financial assistance will be provided to help countries like Pakistan recover from climate disasters remains to be negotiated next year.

The COP27 deal fell short of the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact promise to “phase out coal power”, despite India’s proposal to phase out all fossil fuels.

The text also announced no new goals or commitments, threatening the goal of limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C, established seven years ago in the Paris agreement. Instead, there has been a call for new country pledges, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), for COP28 – another one-year delay.

Developing countries entered COP27 hoping for progress on three fronts: climate finance and delivering $100bn (£84.6bn) a year as pledged in 2009, global decarbonisation and recognition responsibility of developed countries to pay for loss and damage. Only one of them was affected to any degree.

So why did COP27 fail? And what can be done before the next summit — COP28 in Dubai — to ensure progress?


COP27 was overshadowed by Russia’s war on Ukraine, which has strained gas supplies from pipelines, prompting many countries to increase their national fossil fuel reserves.

The invasion meant that oil and gas producing nations grew more influential at COP27, undermining negotiations. World leaders concerned about soaring energy prices and the escalating cost of living were reluctant to act boldly on fossil fuels.

This was reflected in the watered-down text in which the Egyptians slipped in a provision to boost “low-emission and renewable energy”, which is a nod to natural gas (cleaner than oil and coal but still a fossil fuel).

Time and place

The timing of COP27 was unfortunate. The first week occurred during the US midterm elections, as much of the world’s media scrutinized its finely balanced outcome. The second week coincided with the G20 summit in Bali, which further diverted attention and meant that many world leaders did not attend.

To make matters worse, negotiations dragged on into the weekend, just as attention turned to the World Cup and associated controversies in Qatar.

It’s very different from COP26 where the world remained engaged throughout the summit.

The only demonstrations allowed were those authorized by the Egyptian security forces inside the site. With media attention already limited, the limited but significant civil society presence at COP27 struggled to keep the pressure on the hosts.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri leads the closing session of the COP27 climate conference at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Center in Egypt. AFP

During the summit, the movements of local residents were limited by numerous roadblocks. Holding a COP meeting in a military dictatorship in an area of ​​the country where security is tightly controlled and the local population is oppressed and fearful was likely always going to hamper effective negotiations.

Lack of leadership

International diplomacy is difficult and requires a great deal of time, effort and skill. The reason the 2021 COP26 in Glasgow resulted in agreements on deforestation, methane emissions and other issues was partly because the British and Italian hosts worked hard to reach consensus over the course of the conference. additional year provided by the pandemic.

The Egyptian Presidency of COP27 has underestimated this task. As negotiations continued into the early hours of Sunday morning, Egyptian COP27 President Sameh Shoukry said, “It’s really up to the parties [countries] to find a consensus.

This is in stark contrast to COP26, where conference president Alok Sharma fought to the bitter end to secure a deal. Negotiations have only been intensified in the past 48 hours to secure an agreement on loss and damage, and even then some of the largest emitters (China and India) have refused to contribute to the fund.

Lack of confidence

The biggest failure was the lack of trust. This is mainly because the promised $100 billion per year has yet to fully materialize. This is a relatively small amount of money considering that Qatar alone would have spent $220 billion to host the 2022 World Cup.

Money to support adaptation to climate change has also not been forthcoming. The money is there, the challenge is the will to allocate it where it is really needed.

And the biggest sticking point was loss and damage. At COP26, the US, EU and UK, with the support of China, blocked the establishment of the Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility, as they did not want to be held liable effects of climate change.

In Egypt, a statement was released at the last minute indicating that such a fund for loss and damage would eventually be created. This is a step in the right direction and it has been celebrated by developing countries.

But there was no agreement on the scale of the flow of funding, who pays and, importantly, who controls and manages those funds. Currently, only 10% of climate finance reaches local communities and the new facility will need to address this disconnect.

Countries like China and India have opted out of contributing to these funds. India opposed including terms such as “current large emitters” in the text as it expects large historical emitters to contribute to the funds.

This was perhaps also the case for China 30 years ago. But now China’s historic emissions are almost as high as the EU’s, so it shows emissions per capita and has reaffirmed its status as a developing country.

There are several lessons for COP28 and Dubai. First, start negotiations now and work hard for the next 12 months so that all countries are ready to get a clear deal by the end.

And the next COP must conduct an open and transparent process so that all countries understand what is being negotiated and that trust can be restored.

In Dubai, countries with relatively unambitious pledges must be pushed to increase their pledges so that there is a chance of sticking to the 1.5˚C limit with a focus on phasing out fossil fuels.

Finally, high-income countries and wealthier emerging economies should contribute to adaptation funds and a transparent and effective facility for loss and damage.

As an African COP, COP27 wanted to center the negotiations around climate justice. This idea will need to be at the heart of the COP28 negotiations, as it will require putting money on the table for adaptation, loss and damage and a rapid ramp-up of renewables.Why the UN climate summit COP27 will be remembered as a failure

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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