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I am back from Sharm el Sheikh, the Egyptian city where the United Nations climate summit, known as COP27, was held this year. From all these summits I return with the same feeling of perplexity when agreements are reached in contexts as difficult as the current one (war in Ukraine, energy and price crisis, food insecurity, confrontation between China and the US…) and through of a system in any of the almost 200 countries that trade (among which are the highest emitters and those that live and get rich on fossil fuels) can block all decisions.
Of course, another thing is what is agreed or not in these appointments. On this occasion, the result has once again been insufficient to guide the planet towards the least dangerous warming possible. Although, at the same time, the door has been opened to be able to compensate the most vulnerable countries for the losses and damages linked to climate change for which they are the least responsible.
Simply talking about the success or failure of the summit means eliminating so many nuances that it can even be ridiculous. So I propose here a balance with the best, the worst and several issues that are open now and that I think will gain weight in the international climate agenda in the short and medium term.
the most positive
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All countries agreed to create a loss and damage fund. At the moment, it is only the commitment to put it into operation and much remains to be defined: how it will be fed (which countries and other organizations must contribute), to which nations it will be directed, what it will cover… A world of possibilities and negotiations opens up because , when it comes to loss and damage, almost everything is to be built.
Within this term can be included the impacts linked to extreme phenomena. These events (such as floods or droughts) have always occurred, but science warns that they will increase due to climate change. So what extreme events will the fund cover? Losses and damages also include long-term events, such as small state islands that could disappear due to rising sea levels. Can the disappearance of a nation be compensated financially? How much does that cost? Who will pay for the transfer of the millions of climate refugees who live on these islands?
These are some of the questions that are open now and that during the almost 30 years of summits have not been officially addressed. At COP27, for the first time, an item has been included in the official agenda for negotiations of losses and damages and very few expected that he would leave Sharm el Sheikh with a commitment to create such a fund. In fact, the developed countries were not in favor of the work, but the block pressure of the rest of the nations has achieved this progress.
In addition, important steps have been taken at this COP on these other issues:
- Early warning system. The UN has launched a plan so that the entire planet is covered by early warning systems. At those times, a third of the world’s population lives in areas that lack these essential life-saving services because they allow the population to react to extreme events.
- The return of Brazil The president-elect of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has made his first official trip outside his country after winning the elections precisely for the climate summit. And he has certified the return of this country, key in the fight against climate change, to the battle against global warming. In addition, he has asked the UN to hold the 2025 climate summit in the Amazon.
- The US commitment to its goal for 2030. Joe Biden has also visited COP27 just after the mid-term elections in his country. The good results of the Democrats boost their plans for the development of renewables and decarbonization.
- Europe will go beyond its targets by the end of the decade. The European Commission reported that the plans it is putting on the table for the implementation of renewables and to clean up the emissions transport sector will lead the community economy to even exceed its targets for 2030. By that date the commitment is to have reduced their emissions 55% compared to those of 1990, but they will fall by at least 57%.
the most negative
The most negative thing about COP27 is that the most ambitious objective of the Paris Agreement of keeping warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius is moving away. During the summit, the EU tried to include in the final declaration a strong call for countries to toughen their objectives for this decade, with an eye on China, to achieve that goal. But, far from achieving it, in the final stretch there were even some attempts to give up that objective and the EU threatened to withdraw from the negotiation.
- Without peak emissions in 2025. Among the objectives that the EU had set was also that the final declaration expressly mention that the planet must reach peak greenhouse gas emissions in 2025, the path established by science for meet the 1.5 degree target. But why is it important to maintain the goal of 1.5 degrees? Because “we cannot condemn to the drain those who are going to have a worse time with the warming,” Vice President Teresa Ribera explained to us in this interview at the summit.
- No mentions of all fossil fuels. The last summit in Glasgow closed with a mention to progressively reduce the use of coal to generate electricity. India, highly dependent on this fuel, felt attacked by that mention and at this year’s meeting asked that the same allusion to natural gas and oil be included in the final declaration. However, the proposal has not gathered enough support.
- Repression of the Egyptian Government. The summit has also served to focus on the authoritarianism of the Executive of Egypt. More than half a thousand people have been arrested during COP27 and for the first time in an event of this type, the demonstrations of the activists have been held inside the summit, on UN territory, for fear of arrests. It has also served to disseminate the case of the critical intellectual and symbol of the Egyptian opposition Alaa Abdelfatá.
to follow the track
There are other issues that have arisen or have been discussed in this Egyptian summit and that will have an impact in the coming months and years:
- Changes in the financial system. The final declaration of COP27 highlights the need to operate changes in the “financial system” and in its “structures and processes” to promote climate financing to accelerate mitigation and adaptation. Mention is made of “Governments, central banks, commercial banks, institutional investors and other financial agents”. This is an important debate that transcends the competences of the COPs. Among many negotiators present at the summit, the idea has also spread that, sooner or later, debt cancellation in developing countries will have to be faced for reasons related to climate change, for example, when they are hit by extreme events. .
- A tax on energy. The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, asked during the opening of the summit that governments impose taxes on the extraordinary profits that fossil fuel companies are making. In addition, that money must go to fight “increasing food and energy prices and to countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis.” Some countries have applauded the proposal and I believe that this issue will gain weight and support over time.
- Green image wash. Another interesting initiative sponsored by Guterres was also presented during this summit: a guide to combat greenwashing or green washing the image of companies and other non-state institutions. Fossil fuels are put in the spotlight by pointing out that the only possible way is to abandon them. This guide sets clear guidelines for detecting the greenwashing.
- Non-proliferation of fossil fuels. At the moment, there are only two small states that have openly defended it (Tuvalu and Vanuatu), but it is gaining more and more strength in the climate debate on whether sooner or later a treaty for the non-proliferation of fossil fuels will not have to be put in place that go gas extractions, oil and coal. Stopping the use of these fuels, the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions, is the only way to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
In other news
Apart from the climate summit, this week we have published these other news and reports:
Finally, I would like to recommend another report now that much of the attention is focused on the World Cup in Qatar. It is this piece about how the climate emergency does not reach the world of soccer by my teammates Miguel Ángel Medina and Clemente Álvarez.
A hug, thanks for reading and see you next week.
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