Here’s What Happened at COP27
“We are in the fight of our lives. And we are losing. 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.”
These were the harsh realities stated by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, in his opening remarks at COP27.
Much of the world has been shaken by extreme weather events this year. Following this summer's monsoon flooding in Pakistan, which claimed more than 1,700 lives and resulted in damages of at least $30 billion, action on climate change gained new urgency.
It was a stage-setting start for COP27, with negotiators from nearly 200 countries in attendance. The importance of the conference is clear: it’s the sole forum for all nations to convene on climate change.
Talks concluded on Sunday 20th November. Here’s a roundup of the outcomes you need to know.
The Positives of COP27
COP27 resulted in countries delivering a package of decisions. Following the inclusion of loss and damage on the conference agenda, parties agreed to create a legacy.
The new Loss and Damage Fund is part of the Sharm El-Sheikh Implementation Plan on climate change. For the first time ever, developed countries are to pay for damages caused by climate change to developing countries.
Donors will contribute to the global fund to protect the lives and livelihoods of those suffering most from climate change-related disasters. Developed countries have committed to mobilizing a total of $100 billion of international climate finance annually from 2020 until 2025 to help the most vulnerable countries and small island states, in particular, in their mitigation and adaptation efforts.
The package also saw countries:
- Reaffirm their COP21 Paris Agreement commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels
- Commit more finance for adaptation (flood defenses, wetland preservation, mangrove restoration, regrowing forests)
- Boost the support of finance, technology and capacity building needed by developing countries.
For now, the new fund package is still solely a promise. How it will work is yet to be defined or implemented. Who pays and who benefits will be decided at the next conference — COP28 will take place in Dubai in 2023.
The Shortfalls of COP27
The conferences aren’t perfect and have understandably faced much scrutiny this year, not least down to some of the decisions made surrounding the geopolitics leading up to the event. Reflecting on the resulting outcomes, or rather lack thereof, the world was correct, at least in part, to be cautious this year.
A proposal that would have moved to phase out all fossil fuels saw no movement. It’s likely that some countries at COP27, particularly those from Africa with ample reserves to exploit, came to Sharm el-Sheikh hoping to strike lucrative gas deals. There were more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists in attendance. This number rose 25% from last year, and these lobbyists outnumbered participants from frontline communities affected by the climate crisis.
At the same time, the new agreement was secured with vague language around limiting the causes of climate change, particularly surrounding the burning of fossil fuels.
The bottom line is that critical details about how countries are expected to meet their commitments were left unresolved. However, while there were drawbacks to COP27, in light of the severity of the climate crisis, the world must remain hopeful for what comes next.
The Work Still to be Done
What stemmed from the talks in Egypt is still only one small part of the work that needs to be done to slow and ultimately reverse climate change. Next, a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is required, costing an estimated USD 4-6 trillion a year.
To achieve that, we must rethink how we do almost everything, and most crucially:
- How do we get there?
- Who will contribute?
- How would this funding be delivered?
The financial system and its structures and processes must be transformed, and governments, banks and investors must become even more engaged. Businesses need to work on reducing their impact, particularly backtracking biodiversity destruction and targeting emissions reductions. On an individual level, we need to understand our carbon footprints and aim to minimize impact, starting at home.
This conference is not the be and end all — concrete change is happening amongst all sectors. Companies are setting science-based targets and taking action now. The retailers we work with aren’t waiting to see what will happen next but rather driving emissions reductions across their supply chains.
Governments, businesses and individuals are inspired to do more. Many countries have already begun reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and investing in renewable energy. And at Vaayu, we always say, “where there is ambition, there is hope.”
COP27 and the future UN conferences are still one of the only (and greatest) global collaborations of ambition. While the outlook for our planet is still far from ideal, some progress has been made this year. Climate progress is crucial, and we sincerely hope the conferences continue to drive that.