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COP27 delivers a historic win and a major disappointment

The climate talk in Egypt ended with an agreement to pay to help vulnerable countries with climate disasters but without a vow to phase out fossil fuels

COP27 delivers a historic win and a major disappointment
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

On Sunday, negotiators from nearly 200 countries at the COP27 UN climate summit in Egypt agreed to set up a “loss and damage” fund to help vulnerable countries cope with climate disasters.

The deal for a loss and damage fund marked a triumph for small islands and other vulnerable nations in winning over the 27-nation European Union and the US, which had long resisted the idea for fear that such a fund could open them to legal liability for historic emissions.

“This COP has taken an important step towards justice. I welcome the decision to establish a loss and damage fund and to operationalize it in the coming period,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message.

According to experts, it likely will be several years before the fund exists. The agreement sets out only a roadmap for resolving lingering questions, including who would oversee the fund, how the money would be dispersed – and to whom.

The agreement, called the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan, also reaffirmed efforts to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However, the summit failed to agree to phase out fossil fuels. Critical details about how countries are expected to meet their commitments were left unresolved.

Last year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow focused on keeping the 1.5C goal alive. This year, countries were asked to update their national climate targets before this year’s Egypt summit. Only a fraction of the nearly 200 parties did so.

While praising the loss and damage deal, many countries decried COP27’s failure to push mitigation further.

On fossil fuels, the COP27 deal text essentially repeats wording from Glasgow, calling up parties to accelerate “efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

Efforts to include a commitment to phase out, or at least phase down, all fossil fuels were thwarted.

COP28, to be held in the UAE, will see what is known as a “global stocktake,” examining whether pledges to cut emissions made by close to 200 countries that signed the agreement go far enough to curb warming emissions.

“We will need everyone pulling in the same direction in solidarity,” said Majid Al Suwaidi, director general of COP28, at the closing plenary sessions at Cop27 in Egypt. He added that action needed to be accelerated on “all fronts” before the crucial climate summit convenes at Expo City Dubai in the UAE. “We have to leave no stone unturned. And no country or community behind.”

Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas comes to the Middle East on 23 November 2022. Click here to know more.

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