COP27 - We finally got an agreement, but not one that the planet can sustain

Massive flooding in Pakistan and Nigeria, wildfires in California, droughts in Somalia, heat waves across Africa, Europe, China and the USA: the devastations of climate change are mounting year-on-year and affecting more of us than ever before.

Two weeks at Sharm El-Sheikh was not going to solve all these impacts, but COP is a vehicle where world leaders, policymakers, companies, NGOS, academia, youth and other interested groups come together to negotiate, exchange opinions, share ideas, present successes, expand collaboration, and demonstrate creativity, always with the slender hope of an agreement that can put the planet on the right trajectory. 

But we did not quite get one. On Sunday morning, 20th November, a text was agreed by the parties to the UNFCCC. Key highlights include:

  • Limit temperature rise within 1.5 degrees C. Agreement to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees and recognizing that this requires GHG emissions reductions of 43% by 2030 (vs. 2019). 

  • Fossil fuel. Phase-down of unabated coal and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, reiterating the need to reduce methane emissions. 

  • Gap in adaptation. Notes the gap between existing adaptation measures and the levels needed to deal with the effects of climate change. Asks high-income countries to assist low-income countries with the finance, technology transfer and capacity-building for adaptation.

  • Loss and Damage. Agreement to establish a fund to compensate developed countries facing the brunt of climate impacts (but may not receive contributions from China and Saudi Arabia)

  • Finance. $4 trillion/year needed for renewables up until 2030 to reach net zero by 2050. Acknowledgment that this will require an overhaul of the financial system and its actors, including governments, development banks, central banks, commercial banks and investors. 

The agreement not to backtrack on the 1.5oC goal was hard fought, but we are not on the runway to peak emissions by 2050 and we are not on the path to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030. All parties agreed that that we’ll need to see “rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions” to meet this aim.  

On mitigation, the commitments agreed at COP27 sadly do not move us any further forward from COP26, with no clear agreement to phase-down all fossil fuels. Just days before the final text was agreed, the European Union’s climate policy chief, Frans Timmermans, had supported a request by India, the world’s second largest purchaser of coal, to phase down all fossil fuel use. 

Incredibly and much to the satisfaction of the G77 countries, we saw movement on a Loss and Damage fund to support countries facing the gravest consequences of climate change, but who historically are the least responsible for these catastrophic impacts. The EU and the US have finally capitulated to the creation of such a fund. Now, a working group of 34 countries will devise a mechanism over the next 12 months and present their recommendations at COP28 in the United Arab Emirates. So, at least some good news. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
“COP has taken an important step towards justice. I welcome the decision to establish a loss and damage fund and to operationalize it in the coming period. Clearly this will not be enough, but it is a much-needed political signal to rebuild broken trust.” 

So, is progress being made? In a Bloomberg NEF interview on 17th November, COP27 President, Sameh Shoukry was asked, “Are we tapping the breaks; are we taking our foot off the accelerator?” Mr Shoukry responded that all parties should fulfil their responsibilities to achieve deliverables. It is up to the parties to take the political will expressed by their leaders on the 7th and 8th November and translate in the negotiating rooms to take those ambitions forward.”   

This clearly did not happen, and the voices of concern heard from many corners of the world abound.    

President von der Leyen
“COP27 has kept alive the goal of 1.5oC. Unfortunately, however, it has not delivered on a commitment by the world's major emitters to phase down fossil fuels, nor new commitments on climate mitigation. But the EU will stay the course, notably through the European Green Deal and REPowerEU, because it is essential to keep the ambition of the Paris Agreement within reach.” 

Alok Sharma, COP27 President 
“Emissions peaking before 2025 as the science tells us is necessary. Not in this text.
“Clear follow through on the phase down of coal. Not in this text.
“Clear commitments to phase put all fossil fuels. Not in this text. 

As stated by EDP’s Executive Board Member and Group Chief Sustainability Officer, Miguel Setas in one of the side events in the Blue Zone, COP26 was seen as the commitment COP and centred in the global north; COP27 is the implementation COP, shifting the focus to the global south.  

In 2023, COP will move to its twenty-eight session in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where we look forward to greater demonstrations of “action”, more “lighthouse projects” and updates of the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) with very clear 2030 trajectories and action plans.

11/24/2022 12:30:00 PM

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Al-Karim Govindji

Al-Karim Govindji

Head of Public Affairs, Energy Systems

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DNV at COP27