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The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP), commonly referred to as COP27, concluded recently in Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt). The COP is the apex decision-making body of the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC). The COP has been held annually since the first UN climate agreement in 1992. An estimated 35,000 delegates from more than 190 countries participated in the Conference. The outcomes of COP27 have been termed as a mixed bag, with the decision to establish a Loss and Damage Fund being the most significant achievement. Apart from that, the outcomes have been termed as disappointing by most climate experts and activists.
What are the Key Outcomes of COP27?
On Loss and Damage: Developing countries have been seeking financial assistance for loss and damage for nearly 3 decades. It refers to money needed to rescue and rebuild the physical and social infrastructure of countries devastated by extreme weather. Countries have now agreed to set-up a fund to provide financial assistance to poor nations stricken by climate disaster. This is the biggest achievement of the Conference. However, there is no agreement yet on the mechanism of operation of the fund or how finance should be provided and administered.
|Read More: Climate Reparation: Loss and Damage – Explained, pointwise|
On 1.5°C Temperature Limit: At COP26 (Glasgow, 2021) countries had agreed to focus on a 1.5°C limit. Since the promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions weren’t enough to stay within the 1.5°C limit, countries had agreed to come back every year to make the commitments stronger. This is called the “ratchet mechanism“. Some countries tried to back out of the 1.5°C goal and get rid of the ratchet at COP27. They didn’t succeed, but a plan to get emissions to peak by 2025 was taken out, indicating lack of commitment towards climate action.
On Fossil Fuels: At COP26, a commitment to phase down the use of coal was agreed. At COP27, some countries, led by India, wanted to include a commitment to phase down all fossil fuels. It was a subject of intense debate but was not included in the final resolution.
The final text of COP27 contained a provision to boost “low-emissions energy”. That could mean many things, like wind and solar farms, nuclear reactors, and coal-fired power stations fitted with carbon capture and storage. It could also be interpreted to mean gas, which has lower emissions than coal.
Food Security: The COP27 agreed that “safeguarding food security and ending hunger” is a fundamental priority, and that communities can better protect themselves from climate effects if water systems are protected and conserved. Last year’s Glasgow Climate Pact made no mention of agriculture, food or water.
On Technology: COP27 saw the launch of a new five-year work program at COP27 to promote climate technology solutions in developing countries.
On Reform in Finance Institutions: The World Bank and other publicly funded finance institutions, have failed to provide the funding needed to help poor countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis. Reform discussed at COP27 involve a recapitalisation of the development banks to allow them to provide far more assistance to the developing world. The IMF has US$1 trillion available to lend to countries in financial distress, but only a small fraction of this is for climate finance.
On Adaptation: Of the US$ 100 billion a year promised to poor countries, only about US$ 20 billion goes to adaptation measures (like Building flood defences, preserving wetlands, restoring mangrove swamps and regrowing forests). In Glasgow, countries had agreed to double that proportion, but at COP27 some countries sought to remove that commitment. However, after some differences it was reaffirmed.
On Mitigation: A mitigation work programme has been launched in Sharm el-Sheikh, aimed at urgently scaling up mitigation ambition and implementation. The work programme will start immediately following COP27 and continue until 2030. Governments have also been requested to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their national climate plans by the end of 2023.
Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan: 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 US$ 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.
What were the other developments at COP27?
First, Countries launched a package of 25 new collaborative actions in five key areas: power, road transport, steel, hydrogen and agriculture.
Second, UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced a US$ 1 billion plan to ensure everyone on the planet is protected by early warning systems within the next five years.
Third, The G7 and the V20 (‘the Vulnerable Twenty’) launched the Global Shield against Climate Risks, with new commitments of over US$ 200 million as initial Implementation is to start immediately in a range of pathfinder countries.
Fourth, The Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation initiative (FAST) has been launched to increase the amount and quality of climate financing contributions to change agriculture and food systems by 2030.
Fifth, The new Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership, announced at the G20 Summit held in parallel with COP27, will mobilize US$ 20 billion over the next 3-5 years to accelerate a just energy transition.
Sixth, Important progress has been made on forest protection with the launch of the Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership, which aims to unite action by governments, businesses and community leaders to halt forest loss and land degradation by 2030.
What is the significance of COP27?
First, Creating a specific fund for loss and damage marked an important point of progress, with the issue added to the official agenda and adopted for the first time at COP27. The Governments agreed to establish a ‘transitional committee’ to make recommendations on how to operationalize both the new funding arrangements and the fund at COP28 next year.
Parties also agreed on the institutional arrangements to operationalize the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage, to catalyze technical assistance to developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
Second, The Cover Decision also included ‘transition to sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production‘. This is significant as India’s Prime Minister has pitched for environmentally-friendly lifestyle through his Mission LiFE (lifestyle for environment) since COP26.
Third, further commitments to a deal on slashing methane emissions were struck on the sidelines, indicating increasing focus on methane emissions. Brazil also committed to introducing a zero-deforestation law for the Amazon in 2023, withCongo and Indonesia also showing intent to follow suit.
What are the issues/concerns with COP27?
First, COP 27 failed to include any new agreements on curbing fossil fuels or setting new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Second, The mitigation work programme was a key part of the Glasgow Climate Pact’s efforts to “keep 1.5°C alive”. But COP27 did not allow the programme to check progress against the promises made in Glasgow.
Third, Ahead of the COP 27, new analysis from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned that the amount of adaptation finance flowing to developing countries is currently five to 10 times lower than what is needed. Developed countries have still not delivered on the promise of providing US$ 100 billion annually to finance both mitigation and adaptation.
Fourth, the developed countries are pushing for agriculture to be included under climate action under The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture. It is a framework under the UNFCCC that recognizes the potential of agriculture in tackling climate change. The Koronivia decision addresses six interrelated topics on soils, nutrient use, water, livestock, methods for assessing adaptation, and the socio-economic and food security dimensions of climate change across the agricultural sectors. India has held that emissions from the agricultural sectors are not “luxury” emissions but “survival emissions” of the poor. Poor and Marginal Indian farmers lack the capacity to support climate action.
What should be done going ahead?
First, To be successful, the programme should focus on dialogue between policymakers rather than negotiation or politics. The developed countries have repeatedly failed to recognize their historical contributions and torpedoed attempts to enhance climate finance. Establishing Loss and Damage Fund is a promising start but a persistent effort is required to make it operational. Else it will remain another empty pledge like earlier promises on Green Climate Fund.
|Read More: Climate Finance: Meaning, Need and Challenges – Explained, pointwise|
Second, According to IPCC the only way to keep greenhouse gas emissions within a 1.5°C limit is to take action across the entire chains, including production, consumption and loss and waste. In this context, circular economy should be mainstreamed.
|Read More: Circular Economy: Meaning, Benefits and Opportunities – Explained, pointwise|
Third, Actions are the key and not mere promises. One pledge after another, with several such pledges per COP, are not necessarily fruitful. Measuring progress through actions that eventually lead to direct emissions reduction is what the developed countries ought to demonstrate to the world. In climate action, no sector, no fuel source and no gas should be singled out for action.
Fourth, At COP27, India negotiated from a position of strength and ensured that the debate moved from coal phase out to fossil phase down. This push exposed the hypocrisy of oil and gas producers, mainly the US and Saudi Arabia, and the text settled on coal phase down, (as in COP26, Glasgow). India should continue to corner gas and oil-producing countries to ensure that the world is on track to achieve the 1.5°C target.
Apart from the Loss and Damage Fund, COP27 has left much to be desired. Countries have lacked intent to enhance their climate action, which bodes poorly for the future. The shortsightedness of developed countries is evident as climate change manifests itself through rising extreme weather events. There is a need to realize that window to act is closing-in fast before the irreversible changes in the climate systems. Hopefully, talks on Loss and Damage fund may change the course of climate negotiations and action.
Syllabus: GS III, Conservation, Environment Pollution and Degradation.