COP27, the “African COP”, has concluded in Egypt with final decisions that have activists celebrating and despondent in equal measures.
Overall, it is evident that the final outcomes of COP27 do not in any way respond to the scale and urgency of the global climate crisis.
“Despite the push from both civil society and the scientific community, it is deeply concerning that the draft text does not include a commitment for the phase-out of all fossil fuels, including gas. No commitment to an accelerated phase-out of coal or a commitment to peak emissions in 2025 has been achieved either, which means we have made no progress since Glasgow on this,” says Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) Climate Advocacy Lawyer Brandon Abdinor, who has been in Sharm El-Sheik for the past two weeks.
“The text maintains the ‘phase down’ of ‘unabated coal’ only, and not of oil and gas. On subsidies, the text only provides for the phase-out of “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies,” says Abdinor.
The Glasgow Climate Pact’s ambition to keep global average temperature increase to no more than 1.5ºC was only just retained. “With climate impacts already hitting hard during 2022 with flooding disasters in South Africa, Nigeria and Pakistan, it is deeply distressing that no strengthening of the COP26 position on mitigation was achieved at COP27,” says CER Head of Communications Lerato Letebele Balendran.
In a last minute amendment, the decision urging countries to update and strengthen their climate plans before COP28 was dropped from the final text.
The urgent need for a rapid acceleration of renewable energy worldwide is downplayed in the final decisions, which refers to “enhancing a clean energy mix, including low-emission and renewable energy, at all levels as part of diversifying energy mixes and systems, in line with national circumstances and recognizing the need for support towards just transitions”.
“This lukewarm language appears to be out of sync with global market trends, which now strongly favours renewables,” says CER Executive Director Melissa Fourie.
“It also appears to leave open the door for gas, a fossil fuel with significant environmental, climate and health risks.”
“The call to reform the global financial system is a welcome and necessary addition to the COP27 outcomes,” says CER Head of Corporate Accountability, Leanne Govindsamy, who also participated in various events at COP27.
“It is clear that existing global financial architecture has failed in many ways to respond to the climate crisis, and that any real progress in climate, poverty and sustainable development requires a radical transformation of our current financial systems and rules. Without this, developing and low-income countries will not only bear the brunt of climate disasters, with insufficient financing available for loss and damage caused by those disasters, but will also be forced to accept crushing debt.”
On loss and damage, decisions on the Santiago Network provides for the operationalising of the network to provide technical assistance; however, the Santiago Network is to support “developing countries that are particularly vulnerable” – a potentially restrictive definition that may be a point of dispute in future. While a funding arrangement is now on the table for the first time, funding arrangements have only been “considered”, with no guarantee of actual funding.
On adaptation, the final text merely “urges” countries to “urgently and significantly scale” adaptation finance, technology transfer and capacity-building for adaptation – losing the call to double the finance available for adaptation.
“While progress has been made on loss and damage, push-back from the fossil fuel industry, who were present in force and in numbers at this COP, combined with the energy crisis in the North, have prevented any meaningful progress towards the emissions reduction required by science,” says Fourie.
“National governments are increasingly running behind what science required, and what the market is doing – these changes are starting to happen despite governments.”
“We are relieved that the United Nations General Assembly Resolution recognising the right to a healthy environment has been included in the final text of the COP27 decisions – this is the first time that this right has been included in decisions of international environmental negotiations,” says CER Deputy Director Wandisa Phama.
“This text was almost excluded, but thanks to civil society mobilisation, this is now referenced in the COP27 decisions. Climate change is a human rights issue, and without a rights-based approach we will not make the progress we need to achieve climate justice for all.”
“CER also welcomes the endorsement of the recommendations of the High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities in the COP27 decisions,” says Govindsamy.
“These recommendations are aimed at holding accountable those companies who engage in cynical greenwashing through empty climate pledges.”