In the aftermath of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP27, which closed over the weekend following two weeks of intense negotiations, many argue that very little progress was made on the phasing out of fossil fuels.
While this could be seen as good news for the oil and gas lobby, climate activities believe that the main driver of the climate crisis has not been addressed. However, the final outcome in the form of an agreement that established a funding mechanism to compensate vulnerable nations for loss and damage from climate-induced disasters is still seen as a step in the right direction.
Amid heightened concerns about global energy security, the world’s eyes were on Sharm El-Sheikh over the past two weeks, as COP27 brought together heads of state and delegates – including ministers, scientists, policy-makers, members of civil society, IGOs, activists and youth – in a bid to push climate action to the forefront, seeking to deliver on the Paris Agreement.
After missing the Friday night deadline, COP27 ended on Sunday, 20 November 2022, once negotiators reached conclusions on “the most difficult items of the agenda,” including a loss and damage facility with a commitment to set up a financial support structure for the most vulnerable by the next COP in 2023.
In addition, the agenda covered the post-2025 finance goal and the so-called mitigation work programme. This is expected to reduce emissions faster, catalyze impactful action, and secure assurances from key countries that they will take “immediate action” to keep on the path towards 1.5°C.
The decision to establish a loss and damage fund came after developing countries made strong and repeated appeals for such a fund to compensate the countries that are the most vulnerable to climate disasters, yet who have contributed little to the climate crisis.
While this agreement is seen as “a welcome step in the right direction,” many believe that there appeared to be “little forward movement on other key issues,” particularly on the phasing out of fossil fuels, and “tightened language” on the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In line with this, warnings from environmental activities and other organisations point out that new language, including “low emissions” energy alongside renewables as the energy sources of the future, is “a significant loophole.” It is said that the undefined term could be used to justify new fossil fuel development against the clear guidance of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA).
António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, highlighted that work is required to “drastically reduce emissions now – and this is an issue this COP did not address.” Guterres also underscored that the world needs to end its addiction to fossil fuels by investing “massively” in renewables while emphasising the need to make good on the long-delayed promise of $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries, establishing clarity and a credible roadmap to double adaptation funds.
Furthermore, the UN chief renewed his call for just energy transition partnerships to accelerate the phasing out of coal and scaling up renewables, reiterating the call he made during his opening speech at COP27 for a climate solidarity pact.
“A pact in which all countries make an extra effort to reduce emissions this decade in line with the 1.5-degree goal. And a pact to mobilise – together with international financial institutions and the private sector – financial and technical support for large emerging economies to accelerate their renewable energy transition,” outlined Guterres, adding that this is essential to keep the 1.5-degree limit within reach.
Backlash against ‘weasel words’ in COP27 text
Opposition to the cover decision text came from multiple sides, as it did not commit to “the swift, just, and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels,” despite calls from civil society organisations and governments worldwide, including India, Tuvalu, the UK, Norway, Denmark, Spain, and the EU, according to 350.org, which claims that people across the world are depending on governments to commit to phasing out oil, gas and coal in order to uphold the Paris Agreement.
Zeina Khalil Hajj, 350.org, said: “This conference cannot be considered an implementation conference because there is no implementation without phasing out all fossil fuels. The Egyptian Presidency is failing Africa, it’s failing frontline communities, it’s failing civil society, it’s failing its own promise to implement, and it is failing the recommendations of the science community.”
In line with this, Seve Paeniu, Tuvalu’s Minister of Finance, urged that “stronger language” is needed in the text for the cover decision “on a ban for new fossil fuel extraction and production” and underlined that “the phase-out of all fossil fuels must be included in the cover decision for this COP.” Tuvalu’s stance does not come as a surprise as the country recently became the second nation-state to call for the development of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, backing Vanuatu, which issued the same call in September 2022.