After intense negotiations, the world’s biggest climate event, the UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, has ended with the adoption of a commitment to establish a fund for loss and damage intended to compensate vulnerable nations for climate-related disasters. However, the document, viewed by many as a long-awaited historical deal, failed to prevent the disappointment felt by some participants regarding the poor progress made on mitigation measures.
The deal on loss and damage was reached early on Sunday 20 November, on the very last day of the climate summit held in Egypt. It promises financial support to less wealthy countries that are vulnerable to climate disasters and suffer from extreme weather conditions triggered by global warming. Within the deal, wealthy nations have committed to establish a financial support structure for the most climate-vulnerable countries for the first time ever. Negotiators agreed to establish the system by the next COP in 2023 and also resolved to set up the post-2025 finance goal and the mitigation work program by then too.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the achievement “a step towards justice”. In his video message delivered from the conference hall in Egypt, Guterres admitted that “this will not be enough, but it is a much-needed political signal to rebuild broken trust.”
#COP27 has taken an important step towards justice.
I welcome the decision to establish a loss and damage fund and to operationalize it in the coming period.
Clearly this will not be enough, but it is a much-needed political signal to rebuild broken trust. pic.twitter.com/5yhg5tKXtJ
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) November 20, 2022
Trust and justice appear to refer to the imbalance between the rich countries that emit the most CO2 and the less well-off countries that are already badly affected by climate change. For instance, island countries suffer from rising sea levels while other developing countries are overwhelmed due to droughts and floods.
Molwyn Joseph, Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States which represents 39 island countries at COP27, said in his statement:
“We have literally exhausted all of our efforts here at COP27 to bring home the climate action commitments our vulnerable people desperately need. Today, the international community has restored global faith in this critical process that is dedicated to ensuring no one is left behind.”
“This is how a 30-year-old journey of ours has finally, we hope, found fruition today.”
“Much more is needed for the planet”
At COP27, negotiators also agreed to decrease methane pollution through the Global Methane Pledge. This aims to reduce human-caused methane releases by a minimum of 30% by 2030 compared to 2020. If this target is met, it could avert 0.2°C of warming by 2050. Of the five largest methane emitters, China, India, the United States, Russia and Brazil, only Brazil and the US have signed the pledge. Environmentalists claim that the commitment is insufficient and a new treaty should be drafted to reduce methane pollution.
However, despite the agreements achieved at COP27, not all the participants left the summit feeling satisfied. The European Union expressed disappointment about the climate deal as, according to the Union, it does not contain sufficient ambitions and commitments to mitigate global warming and keep the temperature below the 1.5 °C level. European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, commenting on the climate agreement, said:
“COP27 marks a small step towards climate justice but much more is needed for the planet. We have treated some of the symptoms but not cured the patient from its fever.” She described the deal over loss and damage as a crucial effort, highlighting that “there can be no lasting action against climate change without climate justice.”
Dissatisfied participants particularly emphasized that COP 27 had failed to reach an agreement whereby all countries promise to phase out all fossil fuels. Instead, the commitments were formulated as: “accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.” At the same time, the COP27 final text included a provision to increase “low-emissions energy.” However, this provision is not straightforward as it could mean boosting the use of wind and solar farms or nuclear reactors, and coal-fired power stations with built-in carbon capture and storage.