COP27 does little to avert future catastrophes of climate change

Suspension

SHARM EL SHEIKH, EGYPT — The final decision of the United Nations Climate Change Conference on Sunday resulted in a breakthrough in the treatment of climate change Dangers that are already destroying the planet But it was made Little progress on emissions reduction measures It can avert worse disasters to come.

It was a double-edged outcome of negotiations that at times seemed on the verge of failure, as many rich countries argued for deeper and faster climate action and poorer countries said they first needed help dealing with the consequences of global warming mostly fueled by the industrialized world. .

Even as diplomats and activists at the summit, known as COP27, applauded Create a fund To support vulnerable countries after disasters, many have expressed concern that nations’ reluctance to adopt more ambitious climate plans has left the planet on a dangerous warming path.

“Many parties are not ready to make more progress today in the fight against the climate crisis,” EU climate chief Frans Timmermans told weary negotiators Sunday morning. “What we have in front of us is not enough to take a step forward for people and the planet.”

The equivocal agreement, reached after a year of record-breaking climate disasters and weeks of fraught negotiations in Egypt, underscores the challenge of getting the entire world to agree to swift climate action when so many powerful nations and organizations remain invested in the existing energy system.

UN negotiators reach an agreement to help countries vulnerable to climate disasters

It’s inevitable that the world will cross what scientists consider a safe warming threshold, said Rob Jackson, a Stanford University climate scientist and head of the Global Carbon Project. The only questions are to what extent, and how many people will suffer as a result.

study It was published midway through the COP27 negotiations It finds that few countries have followed a demand from last year’s conference to bolster their emissions-cutting pledges, and that the world is on the brink of burning more carbon than it can sustain – pushing the planet to a threshold that scientists say will lead to global warming. ecosystem collapseAnd the Severe weather escalates And the Spread of hunger and disease.

Jackson blamed entrenched interests, as well as short-sighted political leaders and general human indifference, for delaying work toward the more ambitious goal outlined in Paris in 2015. Limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

“It’s not just COP27, it’s the lack of action in all the other COPs since the Paris Agreement,” he said. “We’ve been bleeding for years.”

This year’s conference launched under inauspicious circumstances. The continuing effects of the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have caused a global economic crisis and prompted governments to scramble to provide their citizens with energy and food. The world’s two largest emitters – the United States and China – weren’t talking to each other.

Developed countries have not yet provided financial support to developing countries that is already several years overdue, undermining the collective trust needed to secure a meaningful agreement.

Civil society activists, who typically serve as the moral compass for UN negotiations, have faced unprecedented restrictions on their ability to protest due to the host country’s strict restrictions on public gatherings. Press conferences highlighting the link between human rights and the climate crisis disrupted by shouting matches About Egypt’s prison for political prisoners.

Meanwhile, many world leaders, including the Egyptian hosts of the conference, took advantage of the event promote Fossil fuel supplies and new energy agreements. COP27 President Sameh Shoukry described natural gas as a “transitional source of energy” that could facilitate the shift from fossil fuels to renewables.

A special meeting of African leaders during the conference demonstrated how difficult it is to abandon the exploitation of developing countries Profitable fossil fuel reservesespecially when they are having difficulty attracting investors for other, more sustainable projects.

“Africa needs gas,” said African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, as the hall erupted into applause. We want to make sure we have electricity. We don’t want to become a museum of world poverty.”

But Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change This year he said that to have a hope of achieving the 1.5 degree warming target, the world can’t build any new fossil fuel infrastructure. Although burning natural gas produces fewer emissions than burning coal, the production and transportation process can release methane, which is a powerful climate pollutant.

In closed consultations, diplomats from Saudi Arabia and other oil and gas-producing countries opposed language that called for phasing out all polluting fossil fuels, according to several people familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity. to discuss private deliberations. Many of those countries also opposed a proposal that would open the door for countries to set more frequent and ambitious emissions-reduction targets in specific industries and across their entire economies.

“We went into the mitigation workshop, and it was five hours of trench warfare,” New Zealand Climate Minister James Shaw said. “It was hard work just to keep the line.”

Although an unprecedented number of countries – including India, the United States and the European Union – called for a COP resolution to reflect the need to phase out polluting oil, natural gas and coal, the comprehensive agreement only reiterated Agreement last year in Glasgow on the need to “relentlessly phase out coal power”.

“It’s a consensus process,” said Xu, whose country has also supported the language of phasing out fossil fuels. “If there were a group of similar countries, we wouldn’t advocate for that, it’s very difficult to accomplish.”

China, the world The largest annual contributor to greenhouse emissions, remained in the background for most of the conference. Country did not join A coalition of more than 150 countries in its pledge to reduce methane, which is nearly 80 times more polluting than carbon dioxide, in the near term. Its diplomats have also rejected suggestions that the Chinese government should join developed countries in providing financial support to the most vulnerable countries.

The delegates also rejected a proposal by the European Union and its allies that would have required all countries to start reducing greenhouse emissions by 2025.

Outside the negotiating rooms, an analysis by the advocacy group Global Witness showed a record number of fossil fuel lobbyists among attendees at this year’s meeting. Climate justice activist Asad Rehman recalls meeting an industry executive on one of the conference shuttles who told him the COP was the best place to make deals.

People think we came to these negotiations talking about climate. “We’re not like that,” said Rahman, executive director of the anti-poverty nonprofit War on Want, which has called for the United Nations to put in place a conflict-of-interest policy at climate conferences.

“The reality is that these climate negotiations speak to the political economy of the future,” he said. “Who will benefit and who will not? Who will survive and who will not?”

The study showed that the world has nine years to avoid catastrophic warming

However, the landmark agreement on a Fund for Irreversible Climate Damage – known in UN parlance as “Loss and Damage” – also demonstrated how the COP process can empower the world’s smallest and most vulnerable countries.

Many observers believe that the United States and other industrialized nations will not make such a financial commitment for fear of liability for trillions of dollars in damages caused by climate change.

But then catastrophic floods With a third of Pakistan left underwater this year, the country’s diplomats have led a negotiating bloc of more than 130 developing countries to demand that “loss and damage financing arrangements” be added to the meeting’s agenda.

In the early days of the conference, Pakistani negotiator Munir Akram said, “If there is any sense of morality and equality in international affairs… there must be solidarity with the Pakistani people and people affected by the climate crisis.” “This is a matter of climate justice.”

Resistance from rich countries began to wane as leaders of developing countries made it clear that they would not leave without financing the losses and damages. As talks stretched into overtime on Saturday, diplomats from the small island nations met with EU negotiators to broker the deal, which the countries eventually agreed to.

The success of the effort has given her optimism that countries can do more to prevent future warming — crucial to keeping her tiny Pacific nation from vanishing in rising seas, said Cathy Gitnell-Kijner, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands.

“We’ve shown through the Loss and Damage Fund that we can do the impossible. So we know we can come back next year and get rid of fossil fuels once and for all,” she said.

Harjit Singh, head of global political strategy for the International Climate Action Network, saw another benefit in demanding payment for climate damage: This may be what finally convinces major emitters to stop making the problem worse.

He said, “COP27 has sent a warning shot to polluters that they can no longer escape climate ravages.”

And while many questioned whether Sunday’s deal would make a difference to the trajectory of global warming, so did US Special Envoy on Climate John F. Kerry — who worked for a final agreement even as he was forced into isolation after contracting the coronavirus while in Sharm el-Sheikh. – I expected it would be.

“Every tenth of a degree of warming avoided means fewer droughts, fewer floods, less sea level rise and less extreme weather,” Kerry said. “It means saving lives and avoiding losses.”

Timothy Bocco and Evan Halper in Sharm el-Sheikh, and Brady Dennis and Michael Birnbaum in Washington contributed to this report.

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