COP27 Sharm el-Sheikh | An analysis
Now that the desert dust of COP27 has settled, what can we say about Sharm el Sheikh’s outcomes?
The most tangible outcome is certainly the consensus on a Loss and Damage Fund. This fund, which developing countries have been championing for over 30 years, will provide much needed relief for the most vulnerable nations hit hard by climate impacts. How this fund will look is still unclear, as is who will benefit, who will pay and how much will be paid. These challenging questions have been postponed until COP28.
The Climate Finance Fund that was established at COP26 to support developing countries with their adaptation and mitigation efforts, on the other hand, is not setting a hopeful precedent. Payments by developed countries into the fund have, until now, fallen short of the 100 billion dollars pledged annually. Yet even if all promises were to be upheld , the money contributed to this fund will certainly not address the climate crisis’ real costs, which, over the past two decades, have nearly doubled from 1.6 trillion to 2.9 trillion annually . Judging by our current trajectory, this cost will certainly rise and with a resolution to reach peak emission by 2025 taken out of the final COP27 agreement , the 1.5 degree target reiterated in Glasgow looks ever more out of reach. While the window of opportunity to keep the 1.5 target alive is shrinking each year, it is still possible for the world to achieve the necessary 50% emissions reduction by 2030. This would mean, however, going cold turkey on our most devastating addiction: fossil fuels. This is the key challenge ahead of us.
While the reference to peak emissions was omitted in the end, the final text did include a first reference to tipping points. This nod to the fact that the climate does not warm in a gradual and linear fashion, but that we risk setting off feedback loops that will lead to rapidly escalating effects, is a critical one. One such tipping point may see the rainforests of the Amazon basin go from carbon sink to carbon source if deforestation is not meaningfully curbed. This tipping point is unfortunately already in sight: experts estimate that, at 24% deforestation, the rainforest’s water cycle will being to break down. We currently stand at 18% deforestation in the region. As research shows that the healthiest forests in the region are those under indigenous guardianship, Climate Alliance’s efforts to empower the indigenous peoples living in these forests and protect their human rights are of the essence when to comes to keeping this catastrophe at bay. Fortunately, both the importance of indigenous peoples and of cities and regions – both local actors with influence over key territory – were mentioned in the final declaration.
The local level
Cities and regions remain essential levers for change. Over 70% of global emissions already come from cities and this share will only rise as people continue to flock to urban centres. Yet subnational governments still lack a formal role at the negotiating table. The current top-down approach is showing its limitations in moving from commitments to action. Yet some progress is also being made in this regard: the first ever Ministerial Meeting on Urbanisation and Climate Change was held at COP27, focusing on housing and urban development while reinforcing the Paris Agreement commitment to multilevel climate action. Cities and regions after all will be necessary to help fill the gap, but, in the words European Committee of the Regions President Vasco Alves Cordeiro, “A new UN framework based on local and regional action is needed.”
All in all, COP27 made clear that tackling the climate crisis is above all a humanitarian effort that happens first and foremost on the ground and, which must be based in global solidarity and justice. Whether the international community can pull together in pursuit of this common goal, remains to be seen. Climate Alliance members, for their part, are staying the course.