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Good COP, bad COP? Experts weigh in on the Egyptian climate summit

A deal struck at COP27 was hailed as a ‘new dawn for climate justice’, but limited progress was made when it comes to actually reducing emissions

For decades, poorer countries have been imploring richer nations to compensate them for the damage caused by climate change. And for decades their calls have gone unanswered. Until now. 

In the Egyptian desert over the weekend, delegates at the COP27 climate summit finally agreed to set up a ‘loss and damage’ fund to help developing nations deal with a crisis that they’ve barely contributed to. 

Exact details have yet to be thrashed out, but the pledge is a hugely symbolic step and a big win from a climate summit that few had high hopes for.

Despite the ‘loss and damage’ agreement, however, COP27 offered scant signs of progress when it comes to actually reducing emissions. Missing from the final text was any commitment to phase-out fossil fuels – the number one priority in reducing emissions.

Here, three experts give their verdict on the summit. 

Yeb Saño, head of Greenpeace’s COP delegation

“The agreement for a loss and damage finance fund marks a new dawn for climate justice. Governments have laid the cornerstone of a long overdue new fund to deliver vital support to vulnerable countries and communities who are already being devastated by the accelerating climate crisis.

Moving forward into discussion of the details of the fund, we need to ensure that the countries and corporations most responsible for the climate crisis make the biggest contribution. That means new and additional finance for developing countries and climate vulnerable communities not just for loss and damage, but for adaptation and mitigation too.

Cop27

Hitherto rich countries have resisted calls to compensate poorer ones for climate change. Image: Hamish John Appleby/Climate Visuals

Developed countries must make good on the existing $100bn (£84bn) per year pledge to support low income countries to deliver carbon-cutting policies and increase resilience to climate impacts. They must also implement their commitment to at least double funding for adaptation.

Encouragingly, a large number of countries from north and south voiced their strong support for phasing out all fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – which is what implementing the Paris agreement will take. But they were ignored by the Egyptian COP presidency. Petro-states and a small army of fossil fuel lobbyists were out in force in Sharm el-Sheikh to make sure that it did not happen.

In the end, if all fossil fuels are not rapidly phased out no amount of money will be able to cover the cost of the resulting loss and damage. It is that simple. When your bathtub is overflowing you turn off the taps, you don’t wait a while and then go out and buy a bigger mop.”

Climate groups have been left disappointed by the lack of a commitment to phase-out fossil fuels. Image: Veeterzy

Sara Shaw, Friends of the Earth International 

“It is a relief that the loss and damage fund has finally been established, after decades of struggle. But, right now, it is an empty fund, and we have a huge challenge ahead to ensure that developed countries contribute to it, in line with justice and equity. We must not see a repeat of the abysmal performance of rich countries failing to provide the already inadequate $100bn (£84bn) a year promised over a decade ago.”

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now

“In the last fortnight, the climate justice movement rallied around a desert in Egypt to demand a radical transformation of our global economy and society.

The battle for loss and damage was won, and this deal offers a sliver of hope for vulnerable countries who are already facing the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. They have fought tooth and nail for this outcome and it is a testament to their decades of perseverance that we are even discussing it at all. This is an historic win for them, and for civil society too. It is a small piece of the justice we have demanded for so long.

There are still huge battles ahead to ensure this move results in additional, equitable funding arrangements for loss and damage, and the UK must play a pivotal role in pushing that forward here in the West.

But the COP process must change if we are to really make headway in fighting the climate crisis. With over 600 fossil fuel lobbyists patrolling the halls and striking deals on the side for new projects, and even the BP chief executive listed as a country delegate sitting in negotiations, this was like inviting arsonists to a firefighting convention.”

Main image: Neil Palmer/IWMI/Climate Visuals 

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