Diplomats from nearly 200 countries concluded two weeks of climate talks in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt late on the last day of the COP27 conference, 20 November, by agreeing to establish a fund that would help the poorer, more vulnerable countries cope with climate disasters. A committee with representatives from 24 countries will work out the finer details of the fund over the next year.
The deal follows more than three decades of calls from developing nations for the richer nations to provide compensation for the costs of destructive weather events linked to rising temperatures. The USA and other wealthy countries had long been against the idea for fear that they could face unlimited liability in the future, which the new agreement precludes.
However while the new climate agreement deals with the damage from global warming, the 45 000 participants at a conference dubbed ‘Implementation’ did little to tackle the level of greenhouse gas emissions that are the root cause of the climate crisis. To keep global warming at relatively safe levels, experts from the UN’s climate Change committee and the International Agency are agreed that all nations must drastically cut their emissions much more rapidly.
“This [mitigation] outcome moves us forward,” said Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change executive secretary. “We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage – deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”
Package of decisions
Set against a difficult geopolitical backdrop, COP27 nonetheless resulted in countries delivering a package of decisions that at least reaffirmed their commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and strengthen action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, as well as boosting the support of finance, technology and capacity building needed by developing countries.
Aside from the creation of the specific ‘loss and damage’ fund, and among a raft of less ground-breaking decisions, COP27 saw some progress on adaptation, with governments agreeing on the way to move forward on the Global Goal on Adaptation, which will conclude at COP28 and inform the first Global Stocktake, improving resilience amongst the most vulnerable. New pledges, totalling more than USD 230 million, were made to the Adaptation Fund at COP27. These pledges will help many more vulnerable communities adapt to climate change through concrete adaptation solutions. COP27 president Sameh Shoukry announced the Sharm el-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda, enhancing resilience for people living in the most climate-vulnerable communities by 2030. The UN Climate Change’s Standing Committee on Finance was requested to prepare a report on doubling adaptation finance for consideration at COP28 next year.
The cover decision, known as the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan, highlights that a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investments of at least USD 4-6 trillion a year. Delivering such funding will require a swift and comprehensive transformation of the financial system and its structures and processes, engaging governments, central banks, commercial banks, institutional investors and other financial actors.
Serious concern was expressed that the goal of developed country Parties to mobilize jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020 has not yet been met, with developed countries urged to meet the goal, and multilateral development banks and international financial institutions called on to mobilize climate finance.
Young people in particular were given greater prominence at COP27, with the UN Climate Change executive secretary promising to urge governments to not just listen to the solutions put forward by young people, but to incorporate those solutions in decision and policy making.
“We have a series of milestones ahead. We must pull together, with resolve, through all processes, may they be national, regional, or others such as the G20. Every single milestone matters and builds momentum,” said Simon Stiell. “The next step for change is just around the corner, with the United Arab Emirates’ stewardship of the First Global Stocktake. For the very first time we will take stock of the implementation of the Paris Agreement. It will independently evaluate the progress we have made and if our goals are adequate. It will inform what everybody, every single day, everywhere in the world, needs to do, to avert the climate crisis.”
Mr Stiell reminded delegates in the closing plenary that the world is in a critical decade for climate action. A stark report from UN Climate Change underpinned his remarks, as well as discussions throughout the two-week conference. According to the report, implementation of current pledges by national governments put the world on track for a 2.5°C warmer world by the end of the century. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that greenhouse gas emissions must decline 45% by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C.