The twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Sharm El Sheikh finished one and a half days late, with the final gavel coming down on Sunday morning, 20 November 2022. A key question in Sharm El Sheikh was whether the conference would be able to take steps to close the gap between the objectives of the Paris Agreement and actual action. Another key question was international support for developing countries in general and funding to deal with loss and damage caused by climate change in particular. Researchers from the Wuppertal Institute attended the conference and have summarised the key outcomes of the negotiations.
COP27 faced tremendous logistical challenges. The atmosphere at the sprawling venue was tainted by the ubiquitous presence of Egyptian security personnel keeping both civil society and delegations under surveillance. Under these circumstances, progress was extremely slow, even by COP standards. A record number of agenda items remained unfinished during the first week, spilling over into the second. Still, in the end, the conference delivered key results by agreeing to establish a loss and damage fund. Whether this will actually provide what vulnerable countries expect, however, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, with regard to mitigation, the COP missed an opportunity to strengthen decarbonisation and anti-fossil fuel norms, there was hardly any progress.
Key outcomes of COP27
"While COP27 made history by finally yielding to the long-standing demand of developing countries to establish a dedicated facility for loss and damage, it did little to prevent loss and damage from occurring in the first place by containing climate change," Wolfgang Obergassel, Co-Head of Research Unit Global Climate Governance at the Wuppertal Institute, explains. "Regarding mitigation, the "Sharm El Sheikh implementation plan" barely goes beyond the Glasgow Climate Pact agreed at COP26 last year. The Egyptian presidency apparently did not attach much importance to a strong outcome on mitigation. For example, it never included the Indian proposal on phasing out all fossil fuels, not just coal, in its draft texts."
On a more positive note, the conference did manage to agree on a work programme to enhance mitigation ambition and implementation that will allow for specific opportunities and barriers along concrete sectoral systems to be discussed. "It could, however, have been even more specific had it built directly on the achievements of the Glasgow conference, e.g., by discussing specific roadmaps for the phase-down of coal and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. With the broader scope of work that was agreed in Sharm El Sheikh, it remains to be seen whether the work programme will indeed be able to tackle concrete questions regarding increasing ambition and implementation."
"However, it should also be noted that ultimately the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit will not be kept alive by adopting COP decisions, but by strengthening and implementing nationally determined contributions (NDCs)," Christof Arens, Senior Researcher at the at the Wuppertal Institute's Global Climate Governance Research Unit, points out. "The COP can play a facilitative role, but what ultimately counts is action on the ground. And the countries who demanded a fossil fuel phase-out and other actions are entirely free to write respective targets and actions into their NDCs and then implement them."
Establishment of a Just Transition Work Programme
A somewhat surprising outcome of COP27 was the establishment of a Just Transition Work Programme, the details of which will be spelled out in the coming year. But, international cooperation on just transition is already happening. An initial "Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP)" was already announced last year targeting South Africa and a second one for Indonesia was launched at the G20 summit in Bali in parallel to COP27. Other JETPs are currently being negotiated with India, Vietnam and Senegal. "Just Transition Energy Partnerships are a promising vehicle for leveraging finance for and implementing energy transformations, and I expect that other countries will follow." says Dr. Lukas Hermwille, Senior Researcher at the Wuppertal Institute's Research Unit Global Climate Governance. "A Just Transition Work Programme makes sense to pool this experience, extract lessons learned and develop good practice guidelines and tools, for instance on how to measure progress towards achieving a just transition."
In addition to observing the negotiations, the Wuppertal Institute also participated in a number of side events. The Institute's own official side event, co-organised with the University of Technology Sydney, Ecologic, Climate Analytics and WISE Europa, focused on science-based targets and sectoral climate clubs to trigger industrial transformation. Other side events focused on the potential role of emissions trading.
Virtual Wuppertal Lunch
On 12 December 2022 from 12.30, the scientists will discuss their assessment with external experts at the "Last Call for 1.5 Degrees" virtual Wuppertal Lunch. Details of the programme will follow soon.
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