The 27th Conference of the Parties in Sharm El-Sheikh was labelled as the implementation
COP, where commitments were to be translated into actions. It was the hope that it would
build on the foundations laid in Glasgow, with all countries agreeing to revisit and
strengthen their 2030 climate pledges. Unfortunately, less than 30 have done so, which
arguably set the precedent for this failure of a COP.

But whilst COP27 failed to hit the mark on most things, there were some outcomes that for some may be seen as progress.

The main topic covered was that of loss and damage finance, with a fund finally being agreed at the very end of the conference. The aim of the fund is to tackle climate injustice by providing financial aid to poor nations already experiencing the effects of climate change.
Though on paper the fund comes across as a major victory there are a number of potential
issues that come with it. The exact details are unclear, with questions over who will contribute towards it, who controls it and who will receive the funds remaining unanswered. Furthermore, based on the track record of previous climate finance pledges it’s unlikely to succeed in achieving its aims and is most probably a more symbolic agreement.

A closely related theme is that of climate adaption which also received much overdue attention at a COP. The issue is that most climate finance up to now has gone towards mitigation, which is absolutely necessary, however as mentioned the effects of climate change are being felt now. We have left climate action so late that we must redistribute these funds to help both mitigate and adapt. Adequate annual climate adaption costs are thought to be $160-340 billion a year by 2030. Plans for climate adaption were laid out in the Sharm El-Sheikh Adaption Agenda which outlines 30 needed outcomes to help protect those living in the most climate vulnerable areas by 2030. If achieved, it’s thought that it will help improve the climate resilience of 4 billion people.

Another hot topic at COP27 was that of fossil fuels. Critical attempts to extend the phase down of coal agreed in Glasgow to cover all fossil fuels were unsurprisingly unsuccessful. Any progress in this area was undoubtably made harder by the presence of 636 fossil fuel delegates. They were however successful in their mission, with the inclusion of a provision to boost ‘low emission’ sources in the text. This term is subjective to interpretation and so provides a loophole for fossil fuels.

More discouraging news with regard to fossil fuels was the increased interest of countries to
expand production, most noticeably in Africa. The reasoning behind this was that it would
be used as a ‘transitional fuel’ to boost development, just as the richer global North and
Western countries once did. Whilst the moral basis for this argument is certainly a fair one,
we simply cannot afford to expand fossil fuel exploration and production if we are to meet
the target of total emission reduction of 45% by 2030, which is what’s needed to have any
chance of keeping the planet below 1.5°C. Another solution must be found.

The built environment was also discussed at length at COP27. It’s an important area as over 38% of energy related emissions are generated by the built environment, with its impacts growing. For example, there has been a 5% rise in the operational emissions in the building sector since 2020. These increasing impacts has prompted the development of multiple initiatives such as the UN 2030 built environment breakthrough outcomes. This states that all new projected completed from 2030 are to be net zero in operation and have at least 40% lower embodied carbon.

Whilst there were a variety of other announcements that came out of COP27 that could be
considered a success, ultimately it has fallen well short of the mark needed relative to the
size and time scale of actions required. COP27 marks another year of failed climate action as
climate change gets a year worse. This lack of ambition is once again letting down poorer
nations and leaving them to bear the brunt of climate change. 1.5°C and beyond looks an
almost certainty, with a 50/50 chance of at least temporarily reaching this number within
the next 5 years. Alok Sharma concluded COP27 saying this goal is now on life support, even
the greatest optimist would struggle to agree with him.

Dan Smith

Helping business make sense of Net Zero, ESG, CSR & Sustainability

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