COP27 deal does little to avert future climate change disasters

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SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt. Sunday’s final decision at the U.N. climate conference marked a breakthrough in dealing with dangers already ravaging the planet, but little progress was made on emissions reductions that could avert even worse disasters.

It was the ambivalent outcome of talks that at times seemed on the brink of failure, as many rich nations called for deeper and faster climate action, while poorer countries said they needed help first to combat the effects of warming fueled largely by the industrialized world. .

Even as diplomats and activists backed the creation of a fund to support vulnerable countries after disasters, many worried that nations’ reluctance to adopt more ambitious climate plans had left the planet on a dangerous warming path.

“Too many parties today are not ready to make more progress on the climate crisis,” European Union climate chief Frans Timmermans told tired negotiators on Sunday morning. “What we have before us is not a sufficient step forward for people and the planet.

The ambiguous deal, which came after a year of record climate disasters and weeks of tense negotiations in Egypt, highlights the challenge of getting the entire world to agree on swift action on climate change at a time when many powerful countries and organizations are still invested in the current energy system.

UN negotiators agreed to help vulnerable nations hit by climate disasters

Rob Jackson, a climate scientist at Stanford University and director of the Global Carbon Project, said the world will inevitably exceed what scientists consider a safe limit for warming. The only questions are how many and how many people will suffer as a result?

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“It’s not just COP27, it’s the lack of action at all the other COPs since the Paris agreement,” Jackson said. “We’ve been bleeding for years.”

He blamed vested interests, political leaders and general apathy of the people for delaying action towards the most ambitious 2015. The Paris goal is to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Analysis by the advocacy group Global Witness found a record number of fossil fuel lobbyists among attendees at this year’s conference. Several world leaders, including this year’s COP hosts Egypt, held events with industry representatives and talked about natural gas as a “transition fuel” that could facilitate the transition to renewable energy. Although burning gas emits fewer pollutants than burning coal, the production and transportation process can lead to leakage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

In closed-door consultations, diplomats from Saudi Arabia and other oil and gas-producing nations rejected proposals that would have allowed the countries to set new and more frequent emissions reduction targets and called for a phase-out of all polluting fossil fuels. to several people with knowledge of the negotiations.

“We went to a mitigation workshop and it was five hours of trench warfare,” said New Zealand’s climate minister James Shaw, speaking about discussions on a program to help countries meet their climate commitments and reduce emissions across all sectors of the economy. “It was hard work just holding the line.”

Current human climate change efforts are woefully inadequate to prevent catastrophic climate change. A study released midway through the COP27 talks found that few countries have met last year’s conference call to step up their emissions reduction commitments, and the world is on the brink of warming well above 1.5 degrees Celsius, scientists say. this will lead to ecosystem collapse, an increase in extreme weather events and widespread hunger and disease.

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The world has nine years to avoid catastrophic warming, study suggests

Sunday’s agreement also fails to reflect the scientific reality outlined earlier this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the world must quickly reduce its reliance on coal, oil and gas. While an unprecedented number of countries, including India, the United States and the European Union, have called for talks on the need to phase out any polluting fossil fuels, the sweeping resolution merely reiterated last year’s Glasgow pact on the need to “phase out.” unreduced carbon energy.

“This is a consensual process,” said Shaw, whose country also supported the fossil fuel divestment language. “If there is a group of similar countries, we will not stand it, it is very difficult to do.”

But the historic deal on the Irreversible Climate Damage Fund, known in UN parlance as “losses and damages,” also showed how the COP process can empower the world’s smallest and most vulnerable countries.

Many observers believed that the United States and other industrialized nations would never make such a financial commitment, fearing liability for the trillions of dollars in damages that would be caused by climate change.

But after catastrophic floods left half of Pakistan under water this year, the country’s diplomats led a negotiating bloc of more than 130 developing countries to put “loss and damage financing arrangements” on the meeting’s agenda.

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“If there is any sense of morality and justice in international affairs … it should be solidarity with the people of Pakistan and the people affected by the climate crisis,” Pakistani negotiator Munir Akram said in the first days of the conference. “This is a climate justice issue.

Opposition from rich countries began to soften when leaders of developing countries made it clear that they would not leave the fund without loss and damage. As talks settled on Saturday, diplomats from the small island nations met with European Union negotiators to broker a deal that the parties eventually agreed to.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, said the success of the effort gave her optimism that countries can also do more to prevent future warming, which is necessary to keep her tiny Pacific nation from disappearing under rising seas.

“With the Loss and Damage Fund, we’ve shown we can do the impossible,” she said, “so we know we can come back next year and get off fossil fuels for good.”

And Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy at Climate Action Network International, saw another benefit of demanding payment for climate damage: “COP27 sent a warning shot to polluters that they can no longer get away with destroying the climate,” he said. .

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