COP27: Summit agrees to help climate victims. But it does nothing to stop fossil fuels


Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

The world has failed to agree on phasing out fossil fuels after marathon UN climate talks were “blocked” by a number of oil-producing to land.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries took the historic step at the COP27 UN climate summit in Egypt to agree to create a loss and damage fund designed to help vulnerable countries cope with climate disasters. half by 2030.

The agreement also reaffirmed the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

However, an attempt to tackle the biggest source of global warming driving the climate crisis ended in fiasco after a number of countries, including China and Saudi Arabia, blocked a major proposal to phase out all fossil fuels, not only coal. .

“It is beyond frustrating to see overdue mitigation and fossil energy phase-out measures being held back by a number of major emitters and oil producers,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement.

Addressing the summit early Sunday morning, European Union climate chief Frans Timmermans said the EU was “disappointed” with the final outcome of the summit.

“What we have before us is not enough as a step forward for people and the planet… we should have done a lot more,” said Timmermans.

However, the agreement to help the world’s most vulnerable countries deal with loss and damage is a breakthrough in a contentious negotiation process.

It is the first time that countries and groups, including long-standing holdouts like the United States and the EU, have agreed to create a fund for countries vulnerable to climate disasters exacerbated by pollution disproportionately caused by wealthy, industrialized countries.

Negotiators and non-governmental organizations observing the talks hailed the deal as a major achievement, as developing and small island states joined forces to step up the pressure.

“The agreements reached at COP27 are a victory for our entire world,” Molwyn Joseph, president of the Alliance of Small Island States, said in a statement. “We showed those who felt neglected that we hear you, we see you, and we give you the respect and care you deserve.”

The creation of the fund also became one of the main demands of activists attending the summit. Unlike previous years, when huge protests and loud calls to action became part of the event, demonstrations were muted this year.

Protests are rare and mostly illegal in Egypt and the Egyptian government has imposed strict restrictions on protesters attending the conference.

Yet the summit’s biggest protest last weekend saw hundreds of activists march through the hall demanding climate payments. On Friday, 10-year-old Ghanaian activist Nakeeyat Dramani received a standing ovation in plenary after calling on delegates to “have a heart and count.”

Climate activists staged a number of protests during the conference, demanding an end to fossil fuels and climate finance.

The fund will focus on what can be done to support resources for loss and damage, but it will not include any liability or compensation provisions, a senior Biden administration official told CNN.

It was not easy to come to an agreement. The summit was originally set to end on Friday, but negotiators were still trying to work out the details as the conference venue was being dismantled around them.

The US and other developed countries have long sought to avoid such provisions that could expose them to legal liability and lawsuits from other countries. And in previous public remarks, US climate envoy John Kerry had said that loss and damage are not the same as climate recovery.

“‘Reparations’ is not a word or term that has been used in this context,” Kerry said during a recent phone call with reporters earlier this month. He added: “We have always said that it is imperative for the developed world to help developing countries deal with the impacts of climate.”

Details of how the fund would operate remain murky. The text raises many questions about when it will be completed and become operational, and how exactly it will be financed. The text also mentions a transition committee that will help set those details, but does not set any specific future deadlines.

And as climate experts celebrated victory, they also noted the uncertainty for the future.

“This loss and damage fund will be a lifeline for poor families whose homes have been destroyed, farmers whose fields have been destroyed and islanders who have been driven from their ancestral homes,” said World Resources Institute CEO Ani Dasgupta. “At the same time, developing countries are leaving Egypt with no clear guarantees on how the loss and damage fund will be managed.”

A result on a fund came this year largely because the G77 bloc of developing countries remained united and exerted more influence over loss and damage than in previous years, climate experts said.

“They had to be together to force the conversation we are having now,” World Resources Institute Africa director of resilience Nisha Krishnan told reporters. “The Coalition has held on because of this belief that we needed to stick together to make this happen – and to drive conversation.”

For many, the fund represents a long-running, hard-fought victory, pushed over the finish line by global attention to climate disasters such as the devastating floods in Pakistan this summer.

“It was like a big buildup,” former US climate envoy Todd Stern told CNN. “This has been around for a while and it is getting all the worse for vulnerable countries because there is still not a lot of money being put into it. As we can see, the actual impacts of climate change on disasters are becoming more and more intense.”

Frans Timmermans of the EU addresses reporters during the summit.

Global scientists have been warning for decades that warming should be limited to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels – a threshold fast approaching as the planet’s average temperature has already risen to about 1.1 degrees.

Above 1.5 degrees, the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages will dramatically increase, scientists said in the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

But while summit delegates reaffirmed the goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, climate experts expressed dismay at the lack of fossil fuels being listed, or the need to phase them out to avoid global temperatures are rising. Like last year’s Glasgow summit, the text calls for a phase-out of unabated coal energy and “phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”, but goes no further than to call for a phase-out of all fossil fuels. including oil and gas.

“The influence of the fossil fuel industry was across the board,” Laurence Tubiana, CEO European Climate Foundation, said in a statement. “The Egyptian presidency has produced a text that clearly protects oil and gas states and the fossil fuel industries. This trend cannot continue in the United Arab Emirates next year.”

It took dramatic action to even hold on to the 1.5 degrees that hit Glasgow last year.

On Saturday, EU officials threatened to leave the meeting if the final agreement did not endorse the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In a carefully choreographed press conference, Timmermans, flanked by a full lineup of ministers and other top officials from EU member states, said that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

“We don’t want 1.5 degrees Celsius to die here and today. That is completely unacceptable to us,” he said.

Talks were further complicated by the fact that Kerry, who led the US delegation, tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday. He continued to communicate with his team and his foreign counterparts by phone, but his physical absence was noticeable during the summit crises.

US climate envoy John Kerry gestures to his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua during the COP27 summit.

Aside from the final agreement, the summit brought several other important developments, including the resumption of formal climate talks between the US and China – the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

After China froze climate talks between the two countries this summer, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to restore communication between the US and China when they met at the G20 summit in Bali last week, which paved the way for Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua to formally meet again.

“Without China, even if the U.S. is moving toward a 1.5 degree program, if we don’t have China, no one else can meet that goal,” Kerry told CNN last week.

The two sides met during the second week of the COP and tried to get back on track before China suspended talks, according to a source familiar with the talks. They focused on specific action points, such as improving China’s plan to reduce emissions of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – and their overall emissions target, the source said.

Unlike last year, there was no major joint climate announcement from the two countries. But the resumption of formal communication was seen as an encouraging sign.

Li Shuo, a Beijing-based global policy adviser to Greenpeace East Asia, said this COP saw “extensive exchanges between the two sides, led by Kerry and Xie.”

“The challenge is that they have to do more than talk, [and] must also lead,” Shuo said, adding that the renewed formal dialogue “helps avoid the worst outcome.”

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