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What Happened At COP27?

COP27 ended with an equal sentiment of frustration as it did last year in Glasgow, but we are here (yet again) to give the run-down of this year’s Conference of the Parties alongside some of our commentary.

When COP27 started more than two weeks ago, the world expected that the (now) mystified 1.5 goal would be reaffirmed as implausible, which some argued would be a positive step forward in setting realistic climate actions to ensure that any decimal degree above 1.5 would be mitigated and accounted for. Nevertheless, country representatives left COP27 with their continued commitment to the 1.5 goal - something that may not foster trust in their action-plans as 1.5 may now be a convenient facade for climate ambition that we will ultimately not meet.

“Ultimately, the agreement by almost 200 nations reached after all-night discussions did not go further than the weakened Glasgow COP26 pledge to phase down polluting coal power and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

What many argue has been the reason for this is the role of fossil-producing nations to acted as a stumbling block in negotiations for tougher phase out of fossil fuels in the move to decarbonisation. 636 fossil fuel lobbyists registered at COP27, an increase of over 25% from COP26 held last year in Glasgow. In comparison to 176 delegates last year, the UAE had 1,070 registered delegates of which 70 were classed as fossil fuel lobbyists which should raise alarm bells in relation to the true meaning of energy justice and proportionality in the said negotiations where other large stakeholders to the climate crisis - such as the youth - were scarcely represented in the COP27 negotiations.

“With time running out to avert climate disaster, major talks like COP27 absolutely must advance concrete action to stop the toxic practices of the fossil fuel industry that is causing more damage to the climate than any other industry. The extraordinary presence of this industry’s lobbyists at these talks is therefore a twisted joke at the expense of both people and planet.”

“This Cop has weakened requirements around countries making new and more ambitious commitments [on cutting emissions]. The text [of the deal] makes no mention of phasing out fossil fuels, and scant reference to the 1.5C target.” said Laurence Tubiana (the CEO of the European Climate Foundation). However this, perhaps, should not come as a surprise given the current geopolitical climate that the COP27 took place in. Countries with the least influence on GHG emissions are already feeling the deadly impacts of the climate crisis while the countries with power have amped up their fossil fuel consumption as a result of the war in Ukraine. The current, minimal, progress made in the Conferences of the Parties is incomparable to the 2015 Paris Agreement despite the fact that we need more not less than what countries pledged 7 years ago.

The influence of fossil fuel lobbyists as well as oil-producing states in this COP raised concerns that we already borne before this conference began: had this presidency been too lenient with the fossil industry to begin with? It is a question to bear in mind whether this COP was doomed to begin with as a result of this. This further raises eyebrows as next year’s COP will be taking place in Dubai, hosted by the UAE - one of the largest oil producers.

COP27 did not come without some virtues. States agreed to a historic loss and damage fund for developing countries. This would pay out to rescue and rebuild the physical and social infrastructure of countries ravaged by extreme weather events and should be set up within the next year. However, which countries would provide the funds, the criteria such will be assessed on and most importantly, the amount payable has not been set by the agreement. However, without ambitious and practical mitigation strategies across the board, the impacts of climate change will continue to hit those most vulnerable and a loss and damage agreement - while an important step in apportioning the blame - will be ineffective and ultimately costly where climate change is not effectively and rapidly mitigated. This is also despite the fact that the $100 billion pledged by developed nations for 2020 is still not met two years later.

The Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan, highlights that a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investments of at least $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.

It may be time to reconsider the path-dependence that such negotiations create and seek to negotiate stronger, more coherent and more inclusive deals at a smaller scale to improve the efficiency and results of such conferences.

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