Renewed vows, a mega fund and some red lines: what you should take away from COP27

This Sunday, after long and difficult negotiations which far exceeded the scheduled timetable, COP27 ended at dawn on Sunday after adopting a highly disputed text on aid to poor countries affected by climate change but without new ambitions for the reduction in greenhouse gases. After more than two weeks, the major UN climate conference ended more than a day behind schedule, making it one of the longest COPs in history.

World leaders were unanimous in their disapointment: “We need to drastically reduce emissions now, and that is a question that this COP has not answered,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. The European Union said it was “disappointed”, while British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for “doing more”.

Thirty six hours overdue

Out of the first-ever delay of the sort came out a timid yet unanimous final declaration, resulting from many compromises. It calls for a “rapid” reduction in emissions but without new ambition compared to the last COP in Glasgow in 2021.

This edition however was marked by the adoption of an emblematic resolution, described as historic by its promoters; the compensation for the damage caused by climate change already suffered by the poorest countries. This issue of climate “losses and damage” in poor countries had almost derailed the conference, before being the subject of a last-minute compromise text which leaves many questions unanswered, but acknowledges the principle of the creation of a specific financial fund.

The impacts of climate change are multiplying

The text on emission reductions was also hotly contested, with many countries denouncing what they considered to be a step back from the ambitions defined at previous conferences, namely the objective of the Paris agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial era.

As they stand today, the commitments of the signatory countries of the agreement do not make it possible to meet the Paris objective, nor even that of containing the rise in temperature to 2°C compared to the pre-industrial era, when humans began to use mass fossil fuels responsible for global warming. These commitments, assuming they are fully met, would at best put the world

on course for +2.4°C by the end of the century and, at the current rate of emissions, on that of a catastrophic +2.8 °C.

A fund to support vulnerable countries

The agreement enacts the principle of the creation of a specific financial fund and provides for a special committee to settle the operational details by the next COP28, in twelve months, in Dubai.

This highlights the immediate need for new, additional, predictable and adequate financial resources to help developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the economic and non-economic impacts of climate change. Among these possible modes of financing is explicitly the creation of a response fund for loss and damage, a strong demand of developing countries, which have united on this issue.

This new fund opens new questions, particularly about funding. New clashes could emerge on the issue of contributors, with the issue being led by the United States who insists that China be part of it. US climate envoy John Kerry has announced that he is working to increase the US contribution to $11 billion, which would make Washington “the first single contributor to the climate economy”.

Think twice next time you say net zero

To put an end to the display of “zero emission” objectives without substance, a group of UN experts is drawing red lines for companies and entities that commit.

“Green-hushing” is a discrete variation of greenwashing, a mistake made by too many companies to show themselves as champions in the fight against global warming while keeping the details of their commitment silent. While 80% of global emissions are “covered” by promises of carbon neutrality, a fraction of these commitments translate into serious roadmaps.

According to the COP27 group of experts, businesses should no longer be able to say they are on the path to “net zero” without having a detailed transition plan, setting short and medium-term objectives in accordance with the objective of 1 .5°C. The company – or entity – that commits should also publish the status of its progress, through verified and comparable data. And this is not the latest development in the fight against climate claims: experts have been calling on governments to regulate “net zero” commitments, with a Commission proposal aiming to oblige very large companies to have a strategic plan compatible with the 1.5°C objective.

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