The COP27 deal does little to prevent future climate change disasters


SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — The final decision from the UN climate conference on Sunday marked a breakthrough in addressing the dangers already plaguing the planet, but made little progress on emissions-cutting measures that could prevent even worse disasters.

It was a double-edged result of negotiations that at times seemed on the verge of failure as many rich countries called for deeper, faster climate action and poorer countries said they needed help first to deal with the impacts of warming, which is mainly fueled by the industrialized world.

Even as diplomats and activists welcomed the creation of a fund to support vulnerable countries after disasters, many worried that countries’ reluctance to adopt more ambitious climate plans had put the planet on a dangerous path of warming.

“Too many parties are not ready to make more progress today in the fight against the climate crisis,” European Union climate chief Frans Timmermans told tired negotiators on Sunday morning. “What we have before us is not enough as a step forward for people and the planet.”

The ambiguous agreement, reached after a year of record-breaking climate catastrophes and weeks of tedious negotiations in Egypt, underscores the challenge of getting the whole world to agree on rapid climate action as many powerful countries and organizations continue to invest in the current energy system.

UN negotiators reach agreement to help vulnerable countries in climate disasters

Rob Jackson, a Stanford University climate scientist and chairman of the Global Carbon Project, said it is inevitable that the world will exceed what scientists consider a safe warming threshold. The only question is how many and how many people will suffer?

“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 toward the most ambitious goal set in Paris in 2015 to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2. 7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

An analysis by the advocacy group Global Witness showed a record number of fossil fuel lobbyists among attendees at this year’s conference. Multiple world leaders, including this year’s Egyptian COP hosts, hosted events with industry representatives and talked about natural gas as a “transitional fuel” that could ease the transition to renewable energy. Although burning gas causes fewer emissions than burning coal, the production and transportation process can lead to the leakage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

In closed-door talks, diplomats from Saudi Arabia and other oil and gas-producing countries have opposed proposals that would allow countries to set new and more frequent emission reduction targets and advocate for a phase-out of all polluting fossil fuels. to several people with knowledge of the negotiations.

“We went to the mitigation workshop and it was five hours of trench warfare,” said New Zealand Climate Minister James Shaw, referring to discussions about a program designed to help countries meet their climate pledges and reduce emissions across all economic sectors to curb. “It was hard work to hold the line.”

Humanity’s current climate efforts are vastly inadequate to prevent catastrophic climate change. A study published midway through the COP27 negotiations found that few countries have complied with a demand from last year’s conference to strengthen their emissions reduction commitments, and that the world is on the verge of warming to well above 1.5 degrees Celsius — exceeding a threshold scientists say will lead to ecosystem collapse, escalating extreme weather and widespread hunger and disease.

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Sunday’s agreement also does not reflect the scientific reality, described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this year, that the world needs to rapidly reduce its dependence on coal, oil and gas. While an unprecedented number of countries – including India, the United States and the European Union – called for the phase-out of all polluting fossil fuels, the overarching decision merely reiterated last year’s pact in Glasgow on the need for undiminished coal power.”

“It’s a consensus process,” said Shaw, whose country also supported the ban on fossil fuel language. “If there’s a group of countries that are like that, we’re not going to face that. It’s very hard to get it done.”

But 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 liability for the trillions of dollars in damage climate change will cause.

But after catastrophic floods this year flooded half of Pakistan, the country’s diplomats led a negotiating bloc of more than 130 developing countries and demanded that “loss and damage financing arrangements” be added to the meeting’s agenda.

“If there is any sense of morality and justice in international affairs… then there should be solidarity with the people of Pakistan and the people affected by the climate crisis,” said Pakistani negotiator Munir Akram in the early days of the conference . “This is a matter of climate justice.”

Opposition from wealthy countries began to subside as developing country leaders made it clear that they would not leave without a compensation fund. As talks spiraled into overtime on Saturday, diplomats from small island states met with European Union negotiators to broker the deal the countries eventually agreed on.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, climate envoy to the Marshall Islands, said the success of that effort gave her optimism that countries could also do more to prevent future warming — something needed to keep her small Pacific nation from sinking into rising seas.

“We’ve shown with the 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 political strategy for Climate Action Network International, saw another benefit of demanding payment for climate damage: “COP27 has sent a warning shot to polluters that they can no longer be blamed for their climate destruction,” he said. . .

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