by Megan Corsano, Nadezhda Filina, Vincent Diringer, Charlie Bevis, and JP Arellano
COP27 is officially over and the response on the progress made has been mixed. Many have celebrated the unprecedented agreement to provide ‘loss and damage’ funding to vulnerable countries facing climate disasters. This is something that hundreds of groups have been calling for since the Rio Summit in 1992. The fund’s technicalities are still unclear, and we will have to wait until COP28 for full implementation.
This historic achievement, however, has been overshadowed by the failure of the final agreement to include the “phase-out of fossil fuels”, where it instead calls for the “phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. This struck a massive blow to many delegations and organisations calling for a just and equitable phasing out of fossil fuel use. There has also been criticism of the weakened references to science and the 1.5-degree target. Many believe that due to this Egypt, the Petro states and the fossil fuel industry got what they wanted, as current NDCs are still not in line with 1.5 or even 2 degrees. This failure in phrasing has reinvigorated calls for fossil fuel lobbyists to be banned from future COPs to limit conflict of interests.
There was other good news, however. Including “Nature-based solutions (NbS)” in the final cover decision was heralded as another first. The plan encouraged nations to consider NbS and ecosystem-based approaches in their mitigation and adaptation plans. Children and youth were also recognised in the final text as “agents of change”, and nations were encouraged to “include children and youth in their processes for designing and implementing climate policy and action” (see Article 55). If you would like to read the full COP27 Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan (the final cover decision), you can download it here.
Continue reading below for highlights of each thematic day in the second week of COP27.
Gender Day, November 14th
Under the #ActOnTheGap hashtag, November 14th was featured as Gender Day at COP27. In a series of high-level panels and multiple side events, gender-related issues of the climate crisis were discussed. Although “Gender and climate change” has been a provisional agenda point for this year’s conference, no significant commitments or pledges were made by negotiators. The urgent need to address the gender gap in a broader sense and not only in connection to tackling the climate crisis was evident as soon as the heads of state and governments appeared at the opening plenary. Among over 100 state leaders present at COP27, only 7 were women.
Although largely and systematically underrepresented at the highest political level, women (e.g. in their local communities) are a central driving force behind climate action. This evidence was brought to light by scientists and gender equality advocates who described experiences of their everyday fight against the climate crisis. The critical message of Gender Day discussions can be summarised as follows: there is an urgent need for a systemic change in all areas of climate protection to address the root causes of gender-related inequalities.
So, has COP27 contributed to tackling gender issues? By putting a Gender Day on the agenda, it (once again) has reminded the global community about the crucial importance of women in this fight. However, to close the gap (or at least move in this direction), women’s perspectives, needs and experiences should gain a constant and cross-cutting focus in all actions, be it climate finance or gender-sensitive climate education. There is still a long way to go.
Water Day, November 14th
Water is a crucial topic when talking about climate change. Too little water (drought) and too much water (flooding) can have devastating impacts and are only becoming more prevalent due to climate change – especially in Africa. That is why the COP27 presidency launched the ‘Action on Water Adaptation and Resilience initiative’ (AWARe). This will push for water and adaptation investments in the most vulnerable communities in Africa. The programme will aim to decrease water loss, implement policy for adaptation and encourage cooperation amongst nations and organisations.
Another major announcement was the ‘African Cities Water Adaptation fund’ (ACWA fund) which aims to bring US$5 billion to 100 African cities for urban water resilience. It is meant to support local leaders by providing access to funding and technological support to implement solutions. These solutions will include “integrated governance, watershed management, increasing sanitation service, improved stormwater and wastewater management.
Finally, at a conference side event, the Asia Development Bank announced a $200 million commitment to water resilience in the Asia Pacific region. During the accompanying panel event, representatives from the public and private sectors discussed how to mitigate emissions from this sector and also protect it from disruption caused by climate-related events. As to the former, it was highlighted that human waste management systems currently contribute more to global emissions than the shipping sector, yet nearly half of the world’s population is not yet connected to a formal waste management network. Thus, tackling the emissions from this sector is likely to become a leading issue. As to the latter, the panellists discussed the role of low-tech sewage solutions to address the fact that traditional systems tend to become overwhelmed during storm surges, heaving rainfall and similar events, preventing access to clean water and spreading water-borne diseases.
Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) & Civil Society Day, November 15th
This day was meant to increase engagement amongst civil society to ensure their perspective and views are meaningfully integrated into climate decision-making. To mark its significance, COP27 President H.E. Sameh Shoukry said: “The role of Civil Society and NGOs in the climate action process is absolutely crucial. Effective climate action requires a whole of society approach. All of us need to be involved and engaged from institutions to individuals in both acting and persuading others of the need to act.”
The critical development occurred in week one when the parties agreed on a work programme to implement the convention’s ACE wording, a goal that had been on the agenda since COP1. In effect, the ACE wording in the original convention, and later in the Paris Agreement, could not previously be operationalised as the UNFCCC signatories could not agree on the role of civil society in practice. Now, after 30 years, we have an idea of what this will look like. The agreement is imperfect, there are outstanding funding questions and vague promises that require clarification, but there is no denying that this is a major success.
Energy Day, November 15th
Energy was set to be a crucial day at COP27; going into the summit, one of the key hopes was that assistance could be provided for Africa’s clean energy transition. The dilemma was how to reduce the number of people on the continent (currently 568 million) who lack access to electricity without relying on cheap fossil fuel power stations, which will likely need to be decommissioned in only a few years.
On 15 November, the COP Presidency formally announced the ‘Africa Just and Affordable Energy Transition Initiative’ (AJAETI) in response to this problem. This incorporates a three-pronged approach, which will (1) consolidate technical and policy expertise to ensure affordable energy to 300 million additional people on the continent, (2) increase the energy sourced through renewable generation by 25% by 2027 and (3) transition 300 million people onto cleaner cooking fuels. This initiative demonstrates the bold ambition required to balance development in Africa whilst stabilising or hopefully reducing emissions. However, the AJAETI focuses on information sharing rather than explaining where the funding for these shifts will come from; in practice, the former without the latter is unlikely to have the impact envisioned.
Additionally, this COP saw the second Just Energy Transition Partnership agreed upon, this time between the G7 and Indonesia. This will provide $20 billion – half from public funds and the other half privately sourced – to guarantee Indonesia’s energy systems can move away from a reliance on fossil fuels. This initiative more than doubles the funds promised as part of the first JETP, which was agreed upon with South Africa and was announced at COP26. However, as with that agreement, this one looks beyond the energy sources used. It also seeks to create new skilled jobs and underscore economic growth, which should help prevent communities reliant on the fossil fuel sector from being left behind in the transition. Whilst the necessity of Indonesia’s shift to renewables cannot be overstated – it is still a major global coal burner – the emerging pattern of one JETP a year does not align with the urgent need to move all countries towards clean power generation as soon as possible.
Biodiversity Day, November 16th
After strong initial support for forest conservation at COP26 that saw 145 countries pledge to save these essential environments, only 26 nations followed through and entered into the UK-led Forests and Climate Leadership Partnership at COP27. The lack of engagement in forest conservation is partly due to concerns about the available funding and political willpower. A lack of financing mechanisms has made the pledge challenging for developing countries, while activists and delegates have flagged the draft text’s mention of “healthy forests” in the context of climate action did not specifically include critical forest types and left the door open for continued logging. Despite Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s promise to end Amazon deforestation by 2030, forest conservation took a step back at COP27.
Nature-based solutions (NbS) saw gains in Sharm el-Sheikh through the launch of the ENACT (Enhancing Nature-based Solutions for an Accelerated Climate Transformation) initiative by the Egyptian COP27 presidency, Germany and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The programme is meant to coordinate action on climate and biodiversity loss through NbS.
According to an IUCN press release, ENACT’s primary goals are to:
- Enhance the protection from and resilience to climate impacts of at least 1 billion vulnerable people, including at least 500 million women and girls.
- Secure up to 2.4 billion hectares of healthy natural and sustainable agricultural ecosystems through the protection of 45 million ha, sustainable management of 2 billion ha, and restoration of 350 million ha.
- Significantly increase global mitigation efforts through protecting, conserving and restoring carbon-rich terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems.
Yearly reports on global NbS commitments will be made at subsequent COPs.
Solutions Day, November 17th
COP27’s final day was all about solutions, both in terms of those already in place and those still under negotiation.
As the name implies, Solutions Day was an opportunity for governments, civil society, and other entities to come together and share best practices for adaptation and mitigation measures. The events and discussions were meant to be a source of inspiration and collaboration for envisioning a cleaner and healthier world. The solutions discussed at the various events tended to focus on three areas of climate action: zero-emission transport, cities and building resilience. As we anticipated before the start of COP27, this “African COP” had a significant focus on building resiliency across the African continent, with initiatives led by the Egyptian presidency and other African-led coalitions to share best practices and put implementation systems into place.
The Egyptian presidency also launched the ‘Low-Carbon Trust for Urban Sustainability’ (LOTUS), which challenges leaders to decarbonise their public transport systems through vehicle electrification and transportation alternatives. The LOTUS program identifies five key challenges that need to be addressed before progress can happen: financing, policymaking, policy coherence, siloed thinking and the regulation of informal transport operators. These items were identified as current problem areas that would need to be overcome to achieve widespread transport decarbonisation.
A crucial part of decarbonisation includes rethinking infrastructure systems. The Sustainable Urban Resilience for the Next Generation (SURGe) initiative was established to increase urban resiliency through housing, water, mobility, waste and energy projects. The Egyptian presidency launched SURGe alongside UN-Habitat and ICLEI – a network of more than 2,500 local and regional governments – to share climate adaptation strategies for urban areas.
One event on the conference’s closing day saw the launch of the Sharm-El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda, which includes multiple initiatives led by both African state and non-state actors to support building climate resilience across the continent. The group agreed on 30 Adaptation Outcomes to achieve by 2030, including initiatives related to food and agriculture, water and nature, oceans and coastal, human settlements, infrastructure, and – perhaps most crucially – finance delivery.
With COP27 over, we now have our eyes set on the biodiversity COP15 in Montreal, where delegations will discuss biodiversity protection this December (7th-19th). As climate breakdown looms on the horizon, one can only hope that more and more people will wake up to the reality of the climate emergency and implement strong and democratic policies that keep the 1.5°C goal alive, which is now at grave risk.
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