2022: The World This Year

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2022: The World This Year
COP27: Hits and Misses

  Akriti Sharma

TWTW#196, 31 December 2022, Vol. 4, No. 45


What happened?

On 20 November, the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) culminated in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The summit took place from 6-20 November. 

In UN's words: "COP27 builds on the outcomes of COP26 to deliver action on an array of issues critical to tackling the climate emergency- from urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience, and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change, to delivering on the commitments to finance climate action in developing countries." 

COP27 recognized 'just transition', a concept emphasized by developing countries, as an important element of the discussions. It states its goals under four broad areas of concern- mitigation, adaptation, finance, and collaboration. COP27 will keep the 1.5 C target alive and work to keep warming well under 2C, look for implementation of the Glasgow Pact, and review NDCs. While COP26 chalked the Global Goal on Adaptation, COP27 aims to enhance the implementation of the adaptation goals.

On 6 November, the UN Secretary-General said: "Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator." On 20 November, in his closing remarks, he welcomed the decision to establish a loss and damage fund, which is an important step toward achieving climate justice. 

The conference was attended by leaders from various countries including US President Joe Biden, and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

What is the background?

First, the significance and outcome of COP 27. COP is the highest decision-making body to review the progress of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to limit climate change. It includes the parties that are signatories to the Convention. It assesses the measures taken by the signatories to limit climate change and the overall goal of the UNFCCC. In COP 27, a wide variety of concerns like climate justice, financing, adaptation, and mitigation were discussed.

Additionally, COP 27 culminated with some prominent outcomes like the introduction of “loss and damage” which refers to the costs already incurred due to climate change-related weather anomalies and extreme events. It underlined the differing socio-economic impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities. COP 27 attempted to gain momentum for ensuring climate justice even though a lot needs to be done. The US, Spain, Sweden, Japan, France, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, the Republic of Korea, and Iceland announced an additional USD 172 million Adaptation Fund for climate-vulnerable developing countries. 

Second, the current state of the climate crisis. The year witnessed many extreme weather events like floods in Pakistan, heatwaves, and wildfires in Europe, wildfires in the US. Extreme weather anomalies are manifestations of climate change and with the increased frequency and intensity, it is imperative for COP to review and assess the efforts to address the climate crisis before it's too late to act. 

Third, lack of implementation. In COP 26, 2021, three deals on deforestation, coal, and methane were signed. However, there is a lack of focus on implementing the outcome of subsequent Conferences that occur each year. Effective monitoring mechanisms can ensure the implementation of the outcome of COP. Additionally, there is a persistence of gaps in achieving the climate targets. The developed and rich countries were expected to come to COP27 with revised NDCs as a follow-up to the Glasgow Summit in 2021. However, the submitted targets have not been very ambitious. Climate Action Tracker noted that only Australia has substantially enhanced the NDCs. The achievement of the COP has remained mediocre.

Fourth, differences in the expectation of the developing and developed worlds with regard to climate finance. The developing countries voiced their concerns regarding inadequate climate finance and the inability of the developed countries to keep up with their commitments regarding increasing funding for developing and least-developed countries to undertake climate action.  Currently, the investments by the developed world are around USD 500 million, which is less than the required investments. The developing countries have called for securing USD one trillion by 2030 to accelerate climate action. If climate finance by the developed countries is not released in adequate amounts, climate adaptation will be a difficult target to achieve. On the other hand, the developed countries have been reluctant to increase climate financing and have not met the commitments, highlighting the inability to undertake historical responsibilities.

Fifth, the emphasis on fossil fuels by Africa against the backdrop of energy poverty. African countries have advocated for developing fossil fuel resources to address energy poverty. Against the backdrop of the Ukraine-Russia War, African countries realized the potential to develop their fossil fuel industry. At the same time, many European countries turned towards Africa for their fossil fuel demands that were crippled due to the war. Namibia's petroleum commissioner said: "There are a lot of oil and gas companies present at COP because Africa wants to send a message that we are going to develop all of our energy resources for the benefit of our people because our issue is energy poverty." On the other hand, Africa’s energy poverty was recognized.  Egypt and the US announced a major package of support of over USD 150 million for adaptation launched at a special session on "Advancing Adaptation Action in Africa." It aims to provide clean energy to Africa while addressing its energy needs.

Sixth, a dissatisfied civil society. Activist Greta Thunberg who has been a face of the climate crisis from civil society did not attend COP 27 and termed it as a “forum for greenwashing.” She stated that the space for civil society has shrunk. Other activists pointed out the dominance of the oil and gas companies at the Conference. There were marches and protests during COP27 by the civil society organization against the lack of implementation of climate targets, violation of human rights while undertaking climate action, the lost relevance of climate summits, and allegations to gas Africa to move towards exploring the fossil fuel industry to achieve energy security.

About the author

Akriti Sharma is a Doctoral Scholar at the  National Institute of Advanced Studies.

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