COP27 - the UN Climate Change Conference - ended on Sunday 20th November, two days over schedule with tense negotiations. The summit began two weeks prior with powerful statements resounding, "We will not give up... the alternative consigns us to a watery grave," Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis said, echoing the calls to action from the most vulnerable nations. The ensuing two weeks saw highs and lows, from the historic agreement on Loss and Damage finance to the increase in fossil fuel lobbyists’ presence at the summit. Here are ClimatePartner’s highlighted five key takeaways from the summit:
1. Loss and damage finance
The most significant outcome of COP27 was the historic agreement for a new funding arrangement for loss and damage. This effectively means that finance will be made available to developing countries most affected by climate change. The responsibility for the creation of this mechanism will sit with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), although many other details such as how funding will be collected and allocated are still to be determined.
A committee will meet in March 2023 to establish how payments should be made, and who should be making them. Developing nations have been requesting this type of funding since 1992, making this a huge victory for voices from the frontlines of climate disasters. The turning point for this addition was the EU and USA agreeing on the condition that vulnerable countries would be prioritised for funding and that the extension of funding would not reach big emitters (with big economies) who are still classified as developing nations such as China and Saudi Arabia. Thus far only a few nations have made pledges to this fund, so it stands more symbolically than practically post-COP27. The fund committee will make recommendations on how to implement both the new funding arrangements and the fund at COP28 in Dubai next year.
Decisions will also need to be made on how or whether emerging economies like China and India take part. Should they contribute? Many nations think they should. Should they receive pay outs? these two nations feel they should.
2. The fossil fuel industry made its presence known
There was a significant increase in the presence of fossil fuel delegation at the summit, be it countries or companies. Some have been quoted as saying the pavilions felt like an oil and gas trade fair.
The demands were clear from developed and developing nations, this was to be the COP where agreements were made to begin the phase-out of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the looming and booming presence of the fossil fuel delegation significantly influenced the final agreements once again. "A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels? Not in this text," said the UK's Alok Sharma, who was president of the previous COP summit in Glasgow. The final deal did not include commitments to "phase down" or reduce the use of fossil fuels, instead it included questionable new language about "low emissions energy" - which in turn suggests that there is scope for fossil fuels to be considered a part of a green energy transition.
On the bright side, it seemed that the petrol states’ determination to roll back on previous agreements to allow them to exploit their own oil and gas reserves was thwarted. Developing nations managed to hold the line on this one. In summary, there was zero progress, but at least things didn’t get worse!
3. Brazil is back!
One of the stars of this year’s summit was freshly re-elected Brazil president, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva (Lula). His presidential campaign was driven by a pledge to dramatically reduce deforestation in the Amazon, and he went as far as to suggest that he would like Brazil to host COP30 at a venue within the rainforest itself. Purposefully using COP27 as his first international appearance since his re-election, Lula led the lambasting of global leaders for ignoring the warnings about the plight of our planet whilst spending trillions of dollars on war.
The planet is at every moment alerting us that we need one another to survive," he said. "However, we ignore these alerts. We spend trillions of dollars on wars that bring destruction and death, while 900 million people in the world don't have something to eat.
Lula also called out rich nations to deliver on their past pledge and provide $100 billion a year to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A sentiment, whilst not directly a result of Lula’s rousing speech, continued throughout the summit, resulting in the Loss and Damage agreement.
4. 1.5 °C alive?
There is a 50/50 chance that we will pass this important marker in temperature increases within the next 5 years, passing it permanently in 2031. The EU and other developed countries were determined to keep to the target set in 2015, however, to achieve this, it was imperative an agreement was reached at COP27 on the phase-out of fossil fuels.
"I wish we got fossil fuel phase-out," said Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, the Climate Envoy of the Marshall Islands, "The current text is not enough. But we've shown with the loss and damage fund that we can do the impossible. So, we know we can come back next year and get rid of fossil fuels once and for all."
All paths already lead to COP28 in Dubai.
5. Net Zero claims to be more credible
Prior to COP27, the United Nations (UN) had already stated that more needed to be done to ensure that the Net Zero targets being set by nations were credible. Data shows that nations have made little progress in backing their long-term targets with interim, science-based goals.
During the period of COP27, Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities published a new set of recommendations on setting short, mid and long-term commitments. These include prioritising deep emission reductions, in line with science and ensuring that any offsets used are robust.
In addition, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) published a net-zero ‘Guidelines’ paper. This is intended to be a “single core reference text” for any organisation wishing to credibly use terminology relating to net-zero emissions and create meaningful targets.
The COP27 summit was not a complete failure. Unfortunately, oil and gas interests once again had too much sway on commitments to cut emissions, with the phase-out of fossil fuels being the key text missing from the summit’s final agreements. However, the historic commitment to the Loss and Damage fund was such a big win not only as an economic proposition but perhaps as importantly, as a political signal of rebuilt trust between nations.
To learn more, join our ClimatePartner Academy on the outcomes of COP27!