COP27 has been a gruelling couple of weeks, with a mixed bag of real results and unresolved frustrations.
COP27 is the 27th Conference of the Parties for the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The meeting, scheduled between the 6th and the 20th of November, saw over 100 heads of state and governments represented in a discussion. The main points were ensuring the global temperature doesn’t rise and finding some way of paying damages to poorer, more disadvantaged nations who have been hurt by climate change.
Close attention was also paid to restricting the global temperature rise to 1.5℃ — although last year, the mean temperature reached 1.53℃ at its highest. Currently, some drastic trends predict our global temperature to rise to around 2-3℃ above normal by the year 2050, in what’s known as a ‘runaway greenhouse effect’. At this point, it becomes much easier for incredible changes in the Earth’s atmosphere to proceed, including rapid global warming.
1.5℃ refers to the average temperature as it sits above pre-industrial levels, indicating how far we’ve warmed the Earth in the last few 100 years. And while the Industrial Revolution began in 1760, this ‘slow’ rise to the present world temperature has only begun to accelerate greatly in the last fifty years. This has resulted in the death of coral reefs and marine microorganisms, the rise in sea levels with the melting ice caps and, as seen most recently, extreme flooding and heating events as the Earth’s biome is thrown into chaos.
So how did COP27 stack up, given all it had to accomplish?
Well, on the surface, an agreement was made that 1.5℃ was the goal for the next eight years. Of the 197 countries involved, a financial fund for assistance to other countries vulnerable to climate crisis was established, represented by 24 of these countries. The group will present its recommendations for using the fund in COP28 next year.
And that, in the opinion of many of the journalists attending the gruelling two-week event, was about the extent of the agreement. Instead of pursuing actions in the future, the delegation seemed more concerned with righting recent wrongs and ensuring against financial and economical ruin — valid points in their own right, but hardly likely to turn the state of world affairs as they increasingly grow worse.
For one, agreements failed to meet an all-around approval on the issue of fossil fuels and their eventual phasing out of the world economy. Several poorer countries, reliant on coal power, and several fossil fuel-based industries, were reluctant to make any significant effort. The conference also failed to stress the fact that 2025 will be a peak year for the 1.5℃ campaign, meaning a worldwide 43% emission must be met by that date. The current plans take off less than 1%, with attempts to back down on some of the decisions made at last year’s COP.
António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, remarked that a pact was needed, a “…pact in which all countries make an extra effort to reduce emissions this decade in line with the 1.5℃ goal. And a pact to mobilise — together with international financial institutions and the private sector — financial and technical support for large emerging economies to accelerate their renewable energy transition.” The Chief later reiterated to activists that he ‘felt their frustrations’ around the omission of any actual climate change funding or agreement around decreasing CO2 levels.
For the most part, national leaders, including Sherry Rehman, climate change minister for Pakistan and Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian foreign minister and president of the COP27 UN climate summit, are choosing to see the decisions made during the meeting as a historic victory. UNFCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiel also sees COP27 as ‘a determined way to move forward’, limiting the amount of backsliding now some agreement has been reached. If so, COP27 marks the start of what could be a series of promising discussions and agreements in the years ahead.
However, heavy criticism was inflected on Egypt, the host for this year’s COP, for attempting to use the event as a way of disguising ongoing human rights issues with the fund. The final agreement is thought by some to be a minimal gesture for a country where progressive views are badly needed, sidestepping real human and environmental rights for publicity’s sake. Several more initiatives around sustainable food growth and carbon trading markets were introduced at local levels.
Of the initiatives introduced, COP27 saw greenwashing criticised, bringing to light the misleading intentions of several companies attempting to appear more eco-conscious than they really are. An early environmental warning action plan was suggested, while an inventory of greenhouse emissions and a master plan for decarbonisation were announced.
The climate change fund marks thirty years of development and brings poorer and more vulnerable countries necessary relief. After the devastating floods in Pakistan early this year, which killed 1,700 people, it’s understandable why this assurance policy would be celebrated.
However, while we continue to push back discussions around carbon emissions, the critical dates remain the same. And if events continue, we might see a recurring pattern of devastating floods and heat waves every five years.
Sure, COP28 needs to focus on how the fund can be spent to stabilise better vulnerable countries, but also how the terms of the Paris Agreement can be actualised. We at Eartha sincerely hope this discussion isn’t derailed again.
- Boyle, Louise, Smith, Saphora. “Cop27: Historic deal reached to create climate damages fund but fails in ambitious emissions cuts” on yahoo! news. Date Published: 21st November, 2022. Site Link: http://bit.ly/3UdGXBf.
- “Delivering for people and the planet” on Climate Action. Date Accessed: 26th November, 2022. Site Link: http://bit.ly/3F2nOxR.
- Harvey, Fiona, Lakhani, Nina, Milman, Oliver, Morton, Adam. “Cop27 agrees historic ‘loss and damage’ fund for climate impact in developing countries” on The Guardian. Date Published: 20th November, 2022. Site Link: http://bit.ly/3V4yQZ8.
- Worth, Kiara. “COP27 closes with a deal on loss and damage: ‘A step towards justice’, says UN chief” on United Nations. Date Published: 20th November, 2022. Site Link: http://bit.ly/3ALxgTL.
About the author - meet Earthan James McCulloch
James is a literary student and environmental enthusiast who likes thinking about the better futures we could have (and those we best avoid). When not playing with other people’s dogs or taking long, mindful walks, he’s usually found reading and writing, often at the local library. You can check him out on his blog for something a little different, where he talks about all things literary or otherwise.