The sense of urgency has not yet entered the room – taking stock of the first week of COP27
Author: Tibor Schaffhauser

Just before midnight on Saturday evening, the technical negotiations of the UN COP27 climate conference currently taking place in Egypt have ended, giving the opportunity to the ministers arriving in the second week to reach political agreements. Although we have seen some progress and the positions of developed and developing countries have converged, there is still a lot of work ahead of the negotiators in the second week of the conference in order to be able to talk about real results in Egypt. A quick analysis by a colleague of the Green Policy Center on site.

The technical subsidiary bodies of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the SBSTA and SBI, concluded their work late Saturday night at the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, thus ending the technical negotiations and allowing the political negotiations with the participation of the ministers responsible for energy, environmental protection and finance on the open issues to begin in the second half of the conference. Although the parties managed to reach an agreement on several technical issues, solutions are still waiting for the really big topics.

Several technical issues were closed, or at least an agreement was reached to continue the work. It is an important step forward that the parties managed to finalize several detailed rules defining transparency and monitoring rules, which are essential in order to see how we are doing in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, despite the opposition of some developing countries, it was also agreed that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the organizations responsible for civil aviation and shipping, ICAO and IMO, will continue to cooperate in the future in order to take appropriate steps to reduce emissions. Since these sectors are serious emitters, proper coordination between the various organizations is important. However, some developing countries feared that the new sectoral strategies of these bodies would require their national airlines and shipping companies to make major improvements and investments in order to reduce emissions, so they tried to slow down the negotiations, but a compromise was reached in order to maintain cooperation between the organizations.

In addition, the second technical dialogue of the Global Stocktake was also an important result, as this allowed the parties to better understand how they are doing with the implementation of their national emission reduction policies and what difficulties they have, where they will need additional support. The Global Stocktake process is one of the most important tools of the Paris Agreement, as every five years countries review how they are doing with their national commitments and can then define new medium-term commitments. In view of the fact that, according to the latest reports of the UN environmental and climate change organizations, we are not aligned with the 1.5°C temperature goal necessary to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change, therefore it is definitely important to increase the level of ambition.

However, the results of first week’s negotiations cannot be described successful in terms of the negotiations under the mitigation work program designed to increase the mitigation ambition as soon as possible. According to the latest science, we must halve our global emissions by 2030, which is why this work program was created at last year’s climate conference in Glasgow, and the task of this year’s conference would be to finalize the rules of the process and launch its work. Unfortunately, for the time being, opinions are still divided on many issues. According to the developed countries, the process should last until 2030 and should result in a real increase in ambition with the involvement of the private, civil and the financial sectors along the lines of the ministers’ annual political guidelines. Compared to this, some of the developed countries see only a one- or two-year work program, where the developed countries share their experience, technology and money with the developing ones. According to their point of view, until the developed countries make more resources available to them, they will not be able to make progress in reducing emissions. While this is a completely well-founded claim on the part of some developing countries, it is less so on the part of the Gulf-states which still hold a developing status to this day, or China or Brazil, which are among the largest economies. The ministers must bridge these differences of opinions in the second week.

One of the tools to do this can be to solve the issue of financing. Until now, the question of compensating for loss and damage caused by the negative effects of climate change has caused serious debates. Now it has been included in the agenda at the Egyptian climate conference, despite the fact that it was opposed by several developed countries. According to their point of view, there are already financial mechanisms under the UN to deal with the issue and the establishment of a new financial fund would not solve the issue by itself, however, for the sake of progress, they see a chance for the developed countries to give in to the demands of the developing countries. However, the European Union and its member states have regularly emphasized that public funds alone will not be sufficient to solve the challenges caused by climate change, and it is necessary to align the entire global financial processes to a climate-friendly operation. However, the developing countries only evaluated this as a distraction, so the issue was not put on the agenda in the end.

To make the task before the ministers even more complicated, not only the mitigation work program, but also a possible adaptation work program is currently being developed in Egypt. Here, the developing countries want to connect the two processes and only agree to the extension of the mitigation work program until 2030, if this also happens in the case of the adaptation work program.

The negotiations are also complicated by numerous technical challenges; the organizers are not handling situation well in many ways; issues with the internet, sound systems and overall organization cause a lot of difficulties for negotiators to participate effectively, and the Egyptian authorities are trying to make it impossible for civil organizations to participate in the conference, while almost 600 oil and energy industry lobbyists were able to take part – a new record. And then the delegates even have to deal with the surveillance of the Egyptian secret service, while such important topics as military emissions, which accounts for around 5% of global emissions, are not even on the agenda. The ministers therefore face very serious challenges in the second week of the conference in order to call the COP27 negotiations a success.

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UN climate conference – Balancing between finance and ambition

UN climate conference – Balancing between finance and ambition

This week, the 27th annual climate conference of the United Nations the COP27 begins under the presidency of Egypt. The “African COP”, as the developing countries refer to the conference, faces serious challenges: it must simultaneously increase the ambition to reduce emissions in order to maintain the climate goals and preserve a ray of hope for small island states of survival, as well as meet the developing countries’ huge financial expectations. Will the Egyptian presidency manage to reach agreements acceptable to all parties and what role will the European Union play in all of this?
Although we are currently mostly occupied with the energy price crisis, we must not forget the challenges caused by climate change. That is why it is worth paying attention to Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, where delegates from nearly 200 UN countries are expected to discuss the most burning issues of international climate policy in the next two weeks. And there are plenty of burning issues; this year we have all felt the negative effects of climate change on our own skins, just think of the summer droughts and forest fires, or the floods in Pakistan that claimed 1,500 lives and caused 30 billion dollars in damages.
One of the most controversial topics in the coming weeks will be related to these events; the so-called Loss and Damage negotiations. According to the IPCC, the climate change scientific advisory body of the UN, climate change threatens the lives and livelihoods of 3.3-3.6 billion people in the future. Climate change strongly affects the poorest strata of the population, as they are much less able to adapt to its negative effects; developing countries are therefore demanding a new financial fund to compensate for the damage caused by climate change. Since developing countries generally emit less greenhouse gases and they are still affected by climate change, they are calling upon developed countries to finance this new fund due to climate justice and the “historical responsibility” of developed countries. However, opinions differ as to what amount would be sufficient; calculations are about expected damage between 1-1.8 trillion and 5.6 trillion dollars by 2050.
The United States, as well as the European Union and its member states, have so far opposed the establishment of a separate financial fund, fearing that, if it is created, there will be no limit to the financial claims of developing countries. During the negotiations, the EU has also underlined that there are already an existing fora for the topic under the UN umbrella, and that developed countries have undertook to mobilize 100 billion dollars yearly to support the climate protection efforts of developing countries. Since we have not yet succeeded in achieving this goal, the developing countries are distrustful of the developed countries for the time being.
In order to rebuild trust, several European member states have already offered resources to deal with Loss and Damage, and developed countries have pledged to double the resources offered for adaptation action. Furthermore, developed countries are also developing a delivery plan on reaching the 100 billion dollar per year goal, and started negotiations to define the new long-term climate financing goal as well. However, according to the position of the EU and its member states, public resources alone will not be sufficient to curb climate change, so we recommend starting negotiations on how to bring global financial processes in line with the 2050 climate neutrality goals. It is still an open question whether this topic will be on the agenda or whether developing countries will only see it as a distraction from the immediate mobilization of finance.
The chance of survival of small island states is an open question at the moment as well. If we cannot keep the rise of the global average temperature below 1.5°C, several of these countries may drown in the sea, so it is really a matter of life and death for them to reduce emissions as ambitiously as possible. Last week, the UN environment and climate change organizations both published their assessments on how we are doing in the fight against climate change. While we could be optimistic after last year’s climate conference because of the new commitments announced there. according to these latest analyses, we are no longer doing so well in terms of implementation. Among the major emitters, only the EU and the USA have reduced their emissions, while the global GHG emissions have reached new all-time record high levels. Another cause for concern is the fact that even if the current commitments are fully fulfilled, we can still expect a warming of around 2.8°C by the end of our century – not aligned with the 1,5°C pathway recommended by science and necessary for the survival of small island states.
For the EU and its member states, the progress under the mitigation work program up to 2030 during COP27 is therefore of outstanding importance, so that the countries of the world can formulate more ambitious climate policy steps as soon as possible. This is not only important for the survival of small island states, but if we can keep climate change under control, its negative effects will cause less loss and damage, and the we need to mobilize less resources to compensate for those. As we can see, everything is connected with everything, which is why the Egyptian COP presidency will be in a difficult situation in the next two weeks. We can hope for all of our sake that they manage to deliver on the expectations of all sides, both on ambition and finance.