The COP itself risks becoming lost and damaged

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As COP27 enters its second week, Friends of the Earth’s policy officer in Sharm El-Sheikh, Clare O’Connor, provides her initial views on what has happened so far and what we can expect during the rest of the UN climate summit in Egypt.

What has happened so far?

As the first week of COP27 came to a close on the Global Day of Action, the direction of decisions (or lack thereof) began to emerge. While negotiations moved slowly, running commentary amongst climate activists in Sharm-El-Sheikh is that the COP itself risks becoming lost and damaged. 625 fossil fuel lobbyists are in attendance and civil society presence is controlled, with protest opportunities limited.

Progress at UN climate summits has often been slow due to the intransigence of richer, developed countries, and week one of COP27 has proven to be no different. Draft decisions on mitigation, climate finance, and establishing a Loss and Damage funding facility are being negotiated and are due to be completed by the end of week two. However these are already behind schedule, with disagreements and issues of responsibility and liability delaying an outcome. In closing statements by states on Saturday evening, disappointment was expressed by many at the inability to reach agreement on several agenda items.

Former President Mary Robinson addressed the public at the COP on Saturday, expressing her hope that the legacy of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh will be a strong overarching decision text as part of which  governments step up to deliver on a temperature limit of 1.5°C. This overarching or ‘cover’ decision is the umbrella text of the negotiations, which is now being drafted. She also stressed the importance of establishing a new funding facility for the Loss and Damage caused by climate change.

The Taoiseach last week committed €10 million to the new Global Shield initiative, an insurance-based initiative that has been accused of being a distraction from the core demand of countries of the Global South: the establishment of a dedicated Loss and Damage financial facility to compensate developing countries for the suffering climate breakdown is causing.

Outside of the negotiation rooms, conversations are turning towards how states must also take the lead and collaborate at an international level outside of the COP processes. Proposals for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty are gaining traction, with 2 countries - Tuvalu and Vanuatu - voicing support for this new international mechanism to phase-out fossil fuels globally. Ireland, as a founding member of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) at COP26, and having already banned new licences for fossil fuel exploration, has potential to to be the EU’s first Fossil Fuel Treaty champion and several organisations are calling on Ireland to endorse the Treaty.

What are the priorities coming up in the 2nd week of the COP?

1. Delivering on Climate Finance 

Coming into Week 2 we will expect to see climate finance issues take centre stage.  Finance for adaptation supports countries to prepare and respond to climate impacts. Historically it has not received the same attention and funding as mitigation (i.e. reducing emissions). At COP26 in Glasgow, a 2-year programme was launched to decide a Global Goal on Adaptation. Global South countries want a new framework established at COP27, but rich countries are slowing progress, stating the procedural issues need to be ironed out first.

Although states have yet to meet the annual $100 billion in climate finance already pledged to developing countries, a New Collective Quantified Goal on climate finance must be set before 2025. The general feeling is that progress towards a decision on the new goal has been moving too slowly and is not getting very far. 

The high level meetings will commence in Week 2, and two high-level ministerial meetings are taking place on Monday where Minster Ryan will be present. The topics on the agenda for these meetings include setting a new collective goal for climate finance, setting a financial goal for adaptation, a Loss and Damage finance, and ironing out details around carbon markets.


2. Loss and Damage Finance

The issue of Loss and Damage has been added as an official agenda item at COP for the first time. Loss and damage refers to  the adverse impacts of climate change that are permanent and cannot, or will not be avoided by mitigation or adaptation. However, as Week 1 came to a close, progress had been excruciatingly slow on this topic. Developing countries want a new dedicated loss and damage financing facility set up under the UNFCCC and in operation by 2024. However, rich countries have been accused of using delay tactics and being overly cautious.

The US is asking for any such facility to exclude any provisions which would allow developing countries to make claims against historic emitters and hold them liable for climate damages. The US has repeatedly removed liability language, however new draft text on issue is expected on Monday.


3. Ambition and the Mitigation Work Programme

In order to stay within the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5C of global warming, the IPCC has indicated that global greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025, and be reduced by 43% by 2030. Discussions around implementation of the Paris Agreement involve how to ensure all countries deliver on their climate action pledges, or ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs), and increase their ambition level through new pledges in 2025. A draft text with options for the Mitigation Work Programme has been issued but no outcome has been agreed upon, and negotiations will continue in the second week.


4. False Solutions & Article 6

The implementation of Article 6  of the Paris Agreement regarding carbon markets was extremely controversial in COP26 in Glasgow and this is likely to remain the case this year. It is also vital that the decision at COP27 says no to carbon offsetting, geoengineering, techno-fixes and other false solutions that allow polluters to continue to extract and burn fossil fuels for years to come. This focus on carbon markets and carbon removals risks undermining the Paris Agreement and resulting in grabbing and human rights abuses, particularly against indigenous peoples. Recommendations on carbon removals  from one of the UN negotiating workstreams this week have been extremely concerning and will likely remain a hot topic of discussion inside and outside of the negotiating rooms into Week 2.


Further background information on these issues can be found in the COP 27 briefing of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition here.