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


Sharm Alsheikh, Egypt
CNN

The world has failed to reach an agreement to phase out fossil fuels after a number of oil-producing countries “blocked” United Nations climate talks. Countries.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries at the UN’s COP27 climate summit in Egypt took the historic step of agreeing to create a “loss and damage” fund aimed at helping vulnerable countries deal with climate disasters and agreed that the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approx. half by 2030.

The agreement also reaffirmed the goal of keeping global warming at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

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

“It is very disappointing to see that the late steps on mitigation and phasing out of fossil energies are held back by a large number of gas emitters and oil producers,” German Foreign Minister Analina Berbock said in a statement.

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

“What we have in front of us is not enough to take a step forward for people and the planet… We should have done so much more,” Timmermans said.

An agreement to help the world’s most vulnerable countries deal with loss and damage represents a major advance in a contentious negotiating process.

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

Negotiators and NGOs monitoring the talks hailed the deal as a significant achievement, after developing nations and small island states banded together to ramp up pressure.

“The agreements reached at COP27 are a victory for our entire world,” AOSIS President Moloyne Joseph said in a statement. “We have shown those who have felt left out that we hear you, we see you, and we give you the respect and care you deserve.”

The creation of the fund has also become one of the main demands of the activists attending the summit. Unlike in previous years, when massive protests and loud calls to action became part of the action, this year the demonstrations have been silenced.

Protests are rare and mostly illegal in Egypt, and the Egyptian government has placed severe restrictions on protesters attending the conference.

However, the largest protest at the summit saw hundreds of activists marching on the venue last weekend, demanding climate payments. On Friday, 10-year-old Ghanaian activist Naqia Dramani received a standing ovation at the plenary session after calling on delegates to “be patient and do the math”.

Climate activists held a number of protests during the conference, calling for an end to fossil fuels and climate finance.

A senior Biden administration official told CNN that the fund will focus on what can be done to support losses and damages to resources, but does not include provisions for liability or compensation.

Reaching the agreement was not easy. The summit was originally scheduled to end on Friday, but it went into overtime with negotiators still trying to work out the details as the venue for the conference was being dismantled around them.

The United States 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 has said that losses and damages are not the same as climate compensation.

“‘Reparations’ is not a word or term that has been used in this context,” Kerry said on a final call with reporters earlier this month. He added, “We have always said that it is necessary for the developed world to help the developing world to deal with the effects of climate.”

Details about how the fund will operate remain murky. The script leaves a lot of questions about when it will be finished and running, and exactly how it will be funded. The text also mentions a transition committee that will help clarify those details, but it doesn’t specify specific future deadlines.

And while climate experts celebrated the win, they also noted the uncertainty ahead.

“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 forced from their ancestral homes,” said Annie Dasgupta, CEO of the World Resources Institute. “At the same time, developing countries are leaving Egypt without clear assurances about how the Loss and Damage Fund will be supervised.”

Climate experts said the outcome on one of the funds this year came in large part because the bloc of the Group of 77 developing nations remained unified, putting more pressure on losses and damages than in years past.

“They needed to be together to force the conversation we’re having right now,” Nisha Krishnan, director of resilience at the World Resources Institute Africa, told reporters. “The coalition has endured because of this conviction that we need to stick together to make this happen — and advance the conversation.”

For many, the Fund represents a years-long victory, propelled over the finish line by the global attention given to climate disasters such as the devastating floods in Pakistan this summer.

“It’s been a huge buildup,” former US climate envoy Todd Stern told CNN. “This has been around for a long time and it gets worse in vulnerable countries because there is still not a lot of money being invested in it. We can also see the actual disaster impacts of climate change getting more and more severe.”

Frans Timmermans of the European Union speaks to reporters during the summit.

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

Along with 1.5 degrees, the risks of severe droughts, wildfires, floods and food shortages will increase dramatically, scientists said in the latest report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

But while delegates at the summit emphasized the goal of keeping global warming at 1.5°C, climate experts bristled at the lack of mention of fossil fuels, or the need to gradually cut them to prevent global temperatures from rising. As it did last year at the Glasgow Summit, the text calls for a relentless phase-out of coal power, and the “phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies,” but it goes no further than to call for the phase-out of all fossil fuels, including That’s oil and gas.

“The impact of the fossil fuel industry has been found across the board,” Lawrence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation, said in a statement. The Egyptian presidency has issued a text that clearly protects the oil and gas countries and the fossil fuel industries. This trend cannot continue in the UAE next year.”

It took some dramatic action to hold on to the 1.5 score hit in Glasgow last year.

European Union officials on Saturday threatened to walk out of the meeting if the final deal failed to ratify the target of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In a carefully choreographed press conference, Timmermans, along with a full line-up of ministers and other senior officials from EU member states, said that “there is no better deal than a bad deal”.

“We don’t want 1.5C to die here and today. This is totally unacceptable for us.

Complicating the talks was the fact that Kerry, who was leading the US delegation, tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday. He continued to communicate with his team and foreign counterparts by phone, but his physical absence was notable during the time of crisis at the top.

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

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

After China froze climate negotiations between the two countries this summer, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to re-establish US-China contacts when they met last week at the G20 summit in Bali, paving the way for Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xi. Zhenhua to officially meet again.

“Without China, even if the United States … is going toward a 1.5-degree program, … if we don’t have China, no one else can achieve … that goal,” Kerry told CNN last week.

The two sides met during the second week of the COP, trying to pick up where they left off before China suspended the talks, according to a source familiar with the discussions. The source said they focused on specific action points, such as promoting China’s plan to reduce methane emissions — a powerful greenhouse gas — and the overall emissions target.

Unlike last year, there was no major joint climate declaration from the two countries. But the resumption of official contacts is seen as an encouraging sign.

This COP “has witnessed extensive exchanges between the two sides, led by Kerry and Xie,” said Li Xu, a Beijing-based global policy advisor for Greenpeace East Asia.

“The challenge is that they must do more than just talk, [and] “Also need leadership,” Xu said, adding that resuming formal dialogue “helps prevent the worst outcomes from happening.”

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