COP27 delivers climate fund breakthrough at cost of progress on emissions

  • COP27 climate summit wraps up after marathon weekend of talks
  • Final agreement will create historic climate finance fund
  • Negotiators say some blocked tougher emissions targets

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Countries wrapped up this year’s U.N. climate summit on Sunday with a tough deal to set up a fund to help those hit by climate catastrophe poor countries, although many bemoan the fund’s lack of ambition to tackle the emissions that cause them.

The agreement was widely hailed as a victory against the devastating effects of global warming already on fragile states. But many countries said they felt pressure to back away from tougher pledges to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to reach a landmark deal on a loss and damage fund.

Egypt’s COP27 chairman Sameh Shoukry scrambled to finalize the final agenda item to finalize the deal, with delegates – exhausted after a night of tense negotiations – raising no objections.

Although there was no stronger commitment to the 1.5C goal set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, “we followed the agreement here because we wanted to stand with the most vulnerable,” said German climate minister Jennifer Morgan apparently Shaken, he told Reuters.

Mexico’s chief climate negotiator, Camila Zepeda, summed up the mood of burnt-out negotiators when asked by Reuters whether the deal undermined the goal of strengthening ambition to fight climate change.

“Probably. If you can win, you win.”

loss and damage

The loss and damage fund deal marks small islands and other vulnerable states winning a diplomatic coup from the 27-nation European Union and the United States, which has long resisted the idea for fear such a fund could legitimize them for historical emissions responsibility.

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Those concerns were allayed by the pact’s call for funding to come from a variety of existing sources, including financial institutions, rather than relying on rich countries for disbursements.

The climate envoy from the Marshall Islands said she was “exhausted” but happy with the fund’s approval. “We’ve had so many people tell us this week that we’re not going to get it,” Casey Genil-Kigina said. “Glad they were wrong.”

But the fund is likely to be years away, and the agreement lays out only a roadmap for resolving lingering issues, including who will oversee the fund and how and to whom the funds will be allocated.

US climate change envoy John Kerry did not personally participate in the weekend talks after testing positive for COVID-19, but he welcomed on Sunday an agreement to “establish arrangements to address the devastating effects of climate change on vulnerable communities around the world”.

He said in a statement that he would continue to urge major emitters like China to “significantly increase their ambitions” to keep the 1.5C target.

fossil fuels sizzle

The cost of agreeing on a loss and damage fund is most evident in language about cutting emissions and reducing the use of polluting fossil fuels — known as “mitigation” in U.N. climate talks.

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The theme of last year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, was to maintain the 1.5C target – the threshold above which scientists warn that warming will spiral climate change to extremes.

Countries are then asked to update their national climate targets ahead of this year’s summit in Egypt. Of the nearly 200 political parties, only a fraction have done so.

While praising the loss and damage agreement, many countries condemned COP27 for failing to push mitigation further and said some countries were trying to roll back commitments made in the Glasgow Climate Convention.

“We have to fight relentlessly to hold Glasgow’s line,” Alok Sharma, the architect of the Glasgow deal, told the summit, visibly frustrated.

He cites some of the ambitious measures that have been stymied in negotiations on the final COP27 deal in Egypt: “Does the science tell us that peaking emissions by 2025 is necessary? Not in this paper. A clear follow-up to a gradual reduction in coal?” Not in this article. A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels? Not in this article.”

On fossil fuels, the text of the agreement at COP27 largely repeated Glasgow’s language, calling on all parties to accelerate “efforts to phase down unabated coal power and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

Efforts, including a pledge to phase out, or at least phase out, all fossil fuels have suffered setbacks.

A separate “emissions reduction work program” agreement was also approved on Sunday, containing clauses that some parties, including the EU, see as weakening commitments to more ambitious emissions reduction targets.

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Critics point to one part of it undermining Glasgow’s commitment to regularly update emissions targets – in language that the work plan “will not impose new goals or objectives”. Another part of the COP27 deal dropped the idea of ​​annual target updates in favor of a return to the longer five-year cycle enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

“It is frustrating to see overdue mitigation measures and measures to phase out fossil fuels being blocked by many big emitters and oil producers,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

The deal also mentions “low-emissions energy”, raising concerns among some that it opens the door to the use of natural gas – a fossil fuel that contributes to carbon dioxide and methane emissions.

“It didn’t quite break with Glasgow, but it didn’t raise ambitions at all,” Norway’s climate minister Espenbart Eid told reporters.

The climate minister of the Maldives, facing a future of flooding from climate-driven sea level rise, has bemoaned a lack of ambition to curb emissions.

“I recognize the progress we’ve made in COP27” and the loss and damage fund, Aminath Shauna said in plenary. But “we’re failing on mitigation … we have to make sure we step up our ambition to peak emissions by 2025. We have to phase out fossil fuels.”

(This story has been refiled to fix the typo in paragraph 10.)

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici, Dominic Evans and William James; Writing by Katy Daigle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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