The 27th Conference of the Parties in Sharm el-Sheikh ended late in the morning, after hours of late-night negotiations. Jacopo Bencini Policy Advisor and Head of the Italian Climate Network Delegation to COP27 commented: “We were expecting a transitional COP, in a global context weakened by the pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine, the food and price crises, and growing conflict. Anything but an optimal scenario to make any progress, despite the disastrous advance of the climate emergency. The possibility of discussing the creation of financial instruments on Loss and Damage was undoubtedly the only positive note before leaving for Egypt.
The countries of the Global South, however, saw a glimpse in this confusing scenario and, with great political and negotiating unity, managed to reach the decision to create a Loss and Damage Compensation Fund, an achievement that has been pursued for at least 30 years by the G77 group of developing countries and global civil society. During the two weeks in Sharm el-Sheikh, these countries, together with China, succeeded in bringing both the European Union and, finally, the United States, which appeared very underwhelmed in the negotiations this year, to their positions. The European Union played a central role in unblocking the second week of negotiations by relaunching with an update of its NDC and moving closer to the G77 position.
However, the creation of the Fund cost a lot in terms of finance and mitigation, issues that were in fact postponed to COP28, while – positively – the goal of staying within +1.5°C and the acceptance of IPCC reports in the negotiation process remain alive on paper. Despite the fact that global emissions continue to grow, and the world is heading increasingly towards a situation of no return, the African COP unblocks the multilateral system from the point of view of compensation for historical responsibilities, a taboo subject for over thirty years,” Bencini continues. What was decided in Sharm el-Sheikh will remain. It is now necessary to focus immediately on updating the national targets towards COP28 and on finding financial resources to support the global transition, even through a restructuring of the global financial system, a theme that emerged strongly in Sharm el-Sheikh”.
For each of the negotiation topics that Italian Climate Network followed directly from the rooms with its observers, we now see a detailed analysis, with a final concluding statement.
Loss and damage
Historical and unexpected result of the countries of the Global South, in particular of island states, the most fragile ones, and African states. Establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund under the Paris Agreement to be operational by COP28 with the help of a Transitional Committee composed of a majority (14 out of 24) of members from the global South. The Committee will have the task of setting up the work to create a taxonomy of compensable Loss and Damage. An arduous task and a tight timeframe, but the Fund is now there and there will be no turning back. A third pillar is added to the Paris Agreement in addition to mitigation and adaptation. Among the ‘challenges’ arising from Loss and Damage to be met collectively is the inclusion of migration.
Even at COP27, the goal of mobilising USD 100 billion per year for climate finance is not achieved, while needs increase. The COP itself, in its final decision, speaks of at least USD 4 trillion to stay on a trajectory towards zero emissions by 2050. The final decision of the COP endorses the proposal, circulated strongly over the two weeks, for a reform of the global financial system and multilateral development banks, now clearly inadequate to the magnitude of the challenge. Important inclusion in the final text of the theme of aligning financial flows to the Paris targets, also according to the new UN anti-greenwashing guidelines for private actors. Finally, the COP urgently calls on rich countries to contribute to the second round of funding of the Green Climate Fund, which in 2021 was able to invest a record 10.8 billion dollars, a sum that is still far removed from real needs.
National Commitments (NDC)
COP27 was supposed to be the COP of implementation. In Glasgow, in fact, countries had promised to present updates of their national commitments if not in line, at least with a trajectory compatible with the +1.5°C scenario. Only 33 out of nearly 200 did so. The final decision of COP27 copies, pastes and references Article 28 of the Glasgow Climate Pact again inviting countries to update their pledges but specifying “on 2030 targets“. Updates are due by the end of 2023.
Mitigation and energy
The goal of keeping global temperature rise within +1.5°C is maintained alive, but with less strong language than in Glasgow. No reference to peak global emissions by 2025, the ‘red line’ demanded by the EU in line with IPCC reports. The coupling of renewables and low-emission energies is confusing and does not explain how they can coexist towards the +1.5°C target. No progress on the phase out of fossil fuels. The divisive Glasgow paragraph is kept identical: phase down from coal unmitigated by capture and storage and exit from inefficient fossil subsidies. The importance of protecting and [restoring] nature as it can contribute to climate mitigation is also emphasised.
No specific reference to the doubling of adaptation funds promised in Glasgow, nor to the timeframe for doing so. The question remains implicit, since in any case the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan is based on the Glasgow Climate Pact. The text is very skimpy compared to previous drafts, and there is no reference to the Global Goal on Adaptation, nor to the Glasgow – Sharm el-Sheikh work programme initiated at COP26. Neither is there sufficient emphasis on the need for all Parties to have National Adaptation Plans,specific to the characteristics of the territory and based on local and indigenous knowledge.
The decision taken on Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement is a major step forward in the establishment of an emission reduction credit generation mechanism, or CO2 removal mechanism, to replace the Kyoto Protocol’s previous flexible mechanism, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The document contains an annex in which the procedures by which this mechanism will be operational begin to take shape, with guidance on, among other things, the validity period of credits, the transition from CDM, the establishment of a registry, and the use of credits to achieve NDCs.
The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice in its upcoming meetings will have to continue working on the operational modalities of the implementation of the article, and for this, Art. 10 invites Parties and admitted observer organisations to present their views.
One point that caused discussion at the COP is to consider in this mechanism not only credits from emission reduction, but also from CO2 removal activities. The text in Article 19 invites Parties and admitted observer organisations to present their views on activities involving removals, including monitoring, reporting, leakage prevention and prevention of other negative environmental and social impacts. Essentially, the next few months will be a discussion on which removal activities to consider. In this regard, the absence in the text of references to the protection of the human rights of the native, local and indigenous peoples living in the areas affected by the projects, led the main civil society groups to call for the text to be withdrawn, but then approved.
Youth and ACE
The Presidency invested heavily, at least in form, in the inclusion of youth in the negotiation process, including through the appointment of the first ever Youth Delegate of the COP Presidency, a previously unseen figure. In the final decision, the COP encourages countries to involve young people in national delegations to the negotiations. It supports the creation of a ‘youth climate dialogue’ and the appointment of a special youth envoy at the UN level. The COP takes note of the COY17 (Climate Change Conference of Youth) Manifesto, but the Youth4Climate initiative, now managed by UNDP (United Nation Development Programme), is never mentioned in the final decisions. Positive step forward on Action for Climate Empowerment with the inclusion of human rights protection in the text of the final decision.
The first draft of the final text saw, to the surprise of activists, an entire chapter devoted to human rights, gender politics, climate migration, and anti-discrimination in climate action. In the text approved on 20 November, the chapter is entirely deleted. Instead, a paragraph remains between the initial statements framing the subsequent decisions, which in fact reproduces the preamble of the Paris Agreement on human rights without departing much from it. The only substantial difference is the reference to the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. It is also noted that there are few surviving references in other parts of the text more related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, rendering the language on human rights effectively inoperative. Negatively assessed in conjunction with the decisions on Article 6. Also disjointed is the point about the notion of climate justice placed in a separate paragraph. An overall step backwards for human rights that worsens the overall quality of the decisions of this COP.
The text lacks an ad-hoc section on this topic; it mentions the urgent need to address the climate crisis and biodiversity loss in a synergetic manner, but a reference to the upcoming COP15 and the urgent need for an ambitious and transformative agreement to protect biodiversity to be adopted in Montreal is completely absent. The importance of protecting, conserving, restoring and making wise use of nature and natural ecosystems is emphasised, noting the importance of preserving the cryosphere and biodiversity, and the critical role of protecting, conserving and restoring water-related ecosystems and their key role in adaptation is recognised. Regarding nature-based solutions and UN Resolution 5/5, nothing more than a vague mention. Oceans were mentioned as the subject of structured meetings and dialogues in 2023 in the first drafts, initiatives later deleted from the final decision along with references to increased funding for REDD+ Projects.
There is a reference to the recommendations of the High-Level Expert Group on the net-zero emission commitments of non-state actors in order to increase transparency and accountability of the climate commitments of companies, investors, cities and regions. Reference is therefore made to the recommendations of the Report presented at COP27 against greenwashing. We never heard of this platform at COP27, but Guterres had invited non-state actors to publish their net-zero commitments on a public platform to feed into the official UNFCCC portal by COP28.
“The Russian-Ukrainian conflict has shaken the multilateral system out of the deadlock of the last few years and this COP has shown the emerging and vulnerable countries that, if united, they have the numbers to bring the West to their positions where there is a possibility. – explains Jacopo Bencini of the Italian Climate Network – In a way, this COP changes geopolitics with the creation of a shared and not imposed system of global offsets. It remains to be seen how the new fund will be developed and who will actually be willing to contribute’. In securing the Glasgow goals – and in particular that of containing global warming within +1.5°C – the G20, a multilateral forum now intrinsically linked to the COPs in defining priorities, played a central role. It is now up to countries, hoping that the conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine will end as soon as possible, to return to ambition and present new mitigation and finance commitments by the next COP28 in Dubai. In short, get back to work on all the issues sacrificed in Egypt in the name of the agreement on Loss and Damage.