The COP27 agreement does little to prevent future climate change disasters
Even as diplomats and activists applauded fund creation to support vulnerable countries after disasters, many were concerned that the reluctance of nations to adopt more ambitious climate plans had left the planet on a dangerous warming path.
“Too many parties today are not ready to make more progress in the fight against the climate crisis,” European Union climate chief Frans Timmermans told weary negotiators on Sunday morning. “What we have in front of us is not enough of a step forward for people and the planet.”
The ambiguous agreement, reached after a year of record climate disasters and weeks of difficult negotiations in Egypt, highlights the challenge of getting the whole world to agree on swift climate action when many powerful countries and organizations remain invested in the current energy system.
Rob Jackson, a climatologist at Stanford University and chair of the Global Carbon Project, said it was inevitable that the world would exceed what scientists consider a safe warming threshold. The only question is how much and how many people will suffer because of it?
“It’s not just COP27, it’s the lack of action at all the other COPs since the Paris Agreement,” Jackson said. “We’ve been bleeding for years.”
He blamed entrenched interests, as well as political leaders and general human apathy, for delaying action on the most ambitious goal set in Paris in 2015. limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
An analysis by advocacy group Global Witness found a record number of fossil fuel lobbyists among attendees at this year’s conference. Several world leaders, including this year’s COP hosts Egypt, held events with industry representatives and talked about natural gas as a “transition fuel” that could facilitate the transition to renewable energy. Although burning gas produces fewer emissions than burning coal, the production and transportation process can leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
In closed-door consultations, diplomats from Saudi Arabia and other oil- and gas-producing countries backed away from proposals that would have allowed countries to set new and more frequent emission reduction targets and called for a phase-out of all polluting fossil fuels, according to multiple people with knowledge of the matter. on negotiations.
“We went to a mitigation workshop, and it was five hours of trench warfare,” said New Zealand’s climate minister James Shaw, referring to talks on a program designed to help countries meet their climate pledges and reduce emissions across all economic sectors. “It was hard work just holding the line.”
Humanity’s current climate efforts are woefully insufficient to avoid catastrophic climate change. Study published in the middle of the COP27 negotiations found that few nations had met a demand from last year’s conference to increase their pledges to cut emissions, and the world is on the brink of warming well above 1.5 degrees Celsius – crossing a threshold that scientists say will lead to ecosystem collapse, escalating extreme weather conditions and widespread starvation and disease.
The weekly agreement also does not reflect scientific reality, described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this year, that the world must quickly reduce its dependence on coal, oil and gas. Although an unprecedented number of countries — including India, the United States and the European Union — have called to express the need to phase out all polluting fossil fuels, the sweeping decision only reiterated last year’s Pact in Glasgow on the need for a “gradual reduction of unabated energy from coal”.
“It’s a consensus process,” said Shaw, whose country also supported the fossil fuel phase-out language. “If there is a group of countries that are like that, we will not stand for it, it is very difficult to make it happen.”
Yet the historic agreement on a fund for irreversible climate damage – known in UN parlance as “loss and damage” – also showed how the COP process can empower the world’s smallest and most vulnerable countries.
Many observers believed that the United States and other industrialized countries would never make such a financial commitment for fear of being responsible for the trillions of dollars in damage that climate change would cause.
But after catastrophic floods left half of Pakistan underwater this year, the country’s diplomats led a negotiating bloc of more than 130 developing countries to push for “financial arrangements for loss and damage” to be added to the meeting’s agenda.
“If there is any sense of morality and fairness in international affairs … then there should be solidarity with the people of Pakistan and the people affected by the climate crisis,” Pakistani negotiator Munir Akram said in the first days of the conference. “This is an issue of climate justice.”
Resistance from rich countries began to soften as leaders of developing countries made it clear that they would not go without a loss and damage fund. As talks dragged on Saturday, diplomats from the small island nation met with European Union negotiators to broker a deal that the nations eventually agreed upon.
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, the climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, said the success of the effort gave her optimism that countries could also do more to prevent future warming — something necessary to keep her tiny Pacific nation from disappearing into rising seas. are growing.
“We’ve shown with the loss and damage fund that we can do the impossible,” she said, “so we know we can come back next year and get rid of fossil fuels once and for all.”
And Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy for Climate Action Network International, saw another benefit of demanding climate damages: “COP27 sent a warning to polluters that they can no longer get away with their own climate destruction,” he said. .
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