Breakdown: The United Nations COP27 Conference

Breakdown: The United Nations COP27 Conference

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP27 – has been full of events and disagreements. Here’s what you should know:

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP27, pushed into extra time last weekend even after two weeks of extensive deliberations among ministers, negotiators, and Heads of States of over two hundred UN member countries along with mayors, civil representatives, CEOs and climate activists over the future of climate change – and the actions that need to be taken in order to mitigate it.

Building on the goals embarked upon at COP26 in Glasgow last year, COP27 set out to deliver issues critical towards solving the climate emergency – “from urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience, and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change, to delivering on the commitments to finance climate action in developing countries.” The United Nations further adds:

“Faced with a growing energy crisis, record greenhouse gas concentrations, and increasing extreme weather events, COP27 seeks renewed solidarity between countries, to deliver on the landmark Paris Agreement, for people and the planet.”

Talking points

As it turned out, nations were not only deeply divided over financing poor countries coping with the impacts of climate change, but also on the proposal to phase out the use of fossil fuels to limit global temperature rises. Such, however, was the scale of division, that talks had to extend beyond the predetermined dates and into the weekend.

  • The ‘Loss and Damage’ fund: Following countries locking horns on whether richer nations should be paying into a compensatory fund to vulnerable states hit by disasters fuelled by climate change, Reuters reports:

“The COP27 summit follows a year of…disasters, from floods that killed more than 1,700 people in Pakistan to drought withering crops in China, Africa and the U.S. West. That has intensified developing country demands for a special ‘Loss and Damage’ fund. But with rich countries resisting such calls, the issue has been stalled for years.”

A number of developing countries such as the Pacific island country of Vanuatu have wanted a new financing facility established in the host nation Egypt, as opposed to larger countries like the United States which prefers a ‘mosaic’ of financial arrangements instead. It has even asked the International Court of Justice – the world’s highest court, to issue an opinion on this. An ICJ opinion, Reuters reports, “could carry moral authority and legal weight, strengthening calls for compensating poor nations.”

The BBC reports, That “the EU has said it would accept a new fund on loss and damage, with some conditions” such as expanding the number of countries contributing to the fund extended to include China. The EU Vice President also wants to “tie the establishment of the fund to tougher language on the phasing down of all fossil fuels and greater efforts to keep 1.5°C alive.”

  • The phasing down/out of fossil fuels: Here too, the debate rages strong. Last year in Glasgow, there was major contention against a number of richer countries wanting to completely ‘phase out’ fossil fuels, with countries like India and China in vehement opposition. Diplomats eventually settled on using ‘phasing down’ instead.

This time’s conference was essentially just much of the same, with just oil and gas among the major fossil fuels mentioned. Countries, rich and poor, were disappointed, and are looking to incorporate a wider range of fuels.

  • 1.5°C issue still alive and kicking:A rise of 1.5°C of global temperatures is viewed as a threshold to rather dangerous levels of global warming, and there is a global effort, as agreed in the Paris Agreement, to stay within the upper bound. There has been, however, considerable worry about this commitment being watered down with countries like India and China concerned about its scientific feasibility.

The official document from the Egypt conference has, in fact, pushed language back to the Paris Agreement of 2016 with the new aim being to keep global temperature rises to ‘well below’ 2°C instead.

  • US and China – lack of cooperation barriers to climate progress: Disagreements between the two largest emitters – especially in ‘loss and damage’ and climate finance – have thwarted progress considerably.

Traditionally, only developed nations, and not the larger emerging economies, such as China, India and Brazil paid/were expected to pay. Now, the larger countries, in the US and EU, want to expand that list to developing nations, with China at the top of the list.

The belief in the fact that China, the world’s second largest economy, could overtake the United States as the world’s largest emitter as soon as by 2030, and must thus shoulder the financing responsibility. However, with the US too consistently failing to deliver climate finance and China unwilling, diplomacy holds the key.

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