On Sunday morning in Egypt, bleary-eyed politicians from nearly 200 countries signed a final agreement for the COP27 climate talks.
A new ‘climate justice’ fund for poor countries suffering the worst affects of rising temperatures was hailed as an historic step. But for many, the summit represented a dangerous step backwards in the fight against climate change.
Here are our eight key takeaways for the climate from the talks:
1. ‘Climate justice’ fund agreed for poor countries
Developing countries suffering from extreme weather worsened by rich countries’ carbon pollution are to get financial compensation under an historic agreement signed at COP27.
Poorer nations have been fighting for financial help towards “loss and damage” – money needed to rebuild and protect the physical and social infrastructure of areas devastated by the effects of climate change – for nearly three decades.
While finally agreeing the fund is a huge and important milestone (and the standout success story of COP27), the hard part starts now – there are no details yet on how it will be set up, how the finance should be provided, and where it should come from.
2. The goal of keeping global heating below 1.5C died
World leaders had previously agreed to do everything they could to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, because every fraction of a degree above that will wreak accelerating destruction.With the world already at 1.2C of warming, COP27 was widely seen as the final of all final chances to keep global warming within 1.5°C – even if many felt it was already too late.Now that goal, originally set in Paris in 2015, seems all but impossible after a summit that saw zero new pledges to cut carbon emissions or phase out coal, oil and gas use. A separate proposal to peak global emissions by 2025 – after which they would start falling – also failed to make the final agreement.
3. No clear commitment to phase out fossil fuels
Last year at Glasgow, a commitment to phase down the use of coal was agreed. It marked the first time a resolution on fossil fuels had been included in the final text of a COP summit. At COP27, some countries – led by India – wanted to go further and include a commitment to phase down all fossil fuels.
However, in the end their bid failed and the resolution included was the same as that in Glasgow.
President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates – host of next year’s COP28 climate summit – said his country would continue to deliver oil and gas “for as long as the world is in need”.
4. Attempts to rebrand gas as a ‘transition fuel’
The final text of COP27 contains a provision to increase “low-emissions energy”. This could mean many things, from wind and solar farms to nuclear plants, and coal-fired power stations fitted with carbon capture and storage. More worryingly, it could also be interpreted to mean gas, which has lower emissions than coal but is still a major fossil fuel.
Many countries at COP27, particularly those from Africa with large natural gas reserves to exploit, came to Sharm el-Sheikh hoping to strike lucrative gas deals.
5. World Bank reform discussed
A growing number of developed and developing countries called for urgent changes to the World Bank and other publicly-funded finance institutions. They say there has been a failure to provide the funding needed to help poor countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis.
Such reform could involve a recapitalisation of the development banks to allow them to take more risk and lend more money. By doing so, countries hope more private investors will join in.
6. Funding for climate adaptation kept
7. The US/China relationship rekindled
The US and China started working together on the climate crisis again at COP27. The US climate envoy John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua said on Saturday that they had resumed formal cooperation, which had been suspended after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this year.
8. Methane momentum continued
More countries signed up to the ‘methane pledge’ launched in Glasgow last year. There are now 150 nations (50 more than a year ago) that have pledged to cut emissions of the super-powerful greenhouse gas 30 per cent by 2030. However, China and India, the top two methane emitters, as well as Russia have not signed up for the pact.
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