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Issues for COP27

The UN Climate conference (COP27) to be convened on November 6-18 at the Egyptian Red Sea resort Sharm El Sheikh will grapple with a number of issues that lie at the core of global climate action against a daunting political and economic backdrop. The negotiations are likely to be protracted, contentious and acrimonious, betraying a deepening North-South divide.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February triggered not only a political crisis but also an escalating hike in energy prices and threatened food shortages in dozens of countries dependent on Russian and Ukrainian grain supplies. The sanctions against Russia clamped by the US and Europe have raised the spectre of energy shortages in the UK and EU states during the winter.

Pakistan has been ravaged by heavy monsoonal rains preceded by fierce heatwaves causing colossal human and material losses. Scores of other countries all over the world experienced unusually high temperatures, heatwaves, drought conditions causing the drying up of rivers and lakes, and ferocious cyclones and forest fires.

Global carbon emissions have gone up to an all-time high recently, making the goal of limiting temperature increase to far below 2 degrees Celsius and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius proclaimed in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement unachievable. In April, the UN Climate Panel (IPCCC) released its sixth assessment report warning the world that unless carbon releases are reduced by 45 per cent by 2030 an unbearable climate catastrophe would be unavoidable.

In June 2022, the annual mid- year climate conference of senior officials and the two subsidiary bodies of the UN climate agreements took place in Bonn to discuss major issues which could not be resolved at COP26 in Glasgow. Based on a review of the outcomes of COP26 and the Bonn conference, climate change analysts have identified the following six priority issues for COP27.

1. Financial mechanism for addressing loss and damage: the loss and damage (L&D) issue refers to the persistent demands of poor countries and small island states for compensation for the irreversible damage inflicted by climate change. This issue has become synonymous with the imperative of climate justice since vulnerable countries had no role in creating climate change but are condemned to suffer its multiple threats. While the vulnerable countries, supported by G77 and China, have been demanding a dedicated funding facility for actions to “ avert and minimize” the negative consequences of climate change, developed countries have insisted that the hardships faced by vulnerable states can and should be addressed through adaptation.

At COP26, developing countries had pushed hard for the creation of an L&D financing facility. However, owing to the fierce opposition of the US and OECD countries, the conference established the Glasgow Dialogue to run until 2024 on possible funding arrangements relating to L&D.

At the first meeting of the L&D Dialogue in Bonn in June, developing countries demanded the creation of a financial facility immediately, not in 2024. The US and most other rich countries once again insisted that L&D funding requests should be referred to existing funding windows such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) although the Fund’s current mandate does not cover L&D funding and it has in any case never received the funding promised by developed countries. Developing countries seek “new and additional funding” for L&D-related actions. Developing countries also demand that L&D should be taken up at COP27 under a specific Agenda item.

2. Scale up support for adaptation: the sixth IPCC assessment has called for enhanced adaptation measures. This has encouraged developing countries to step up efforts for increased funding for adaptation which has so far received around a quarter of the funding approved by the GCF. At COP26, developed countries agreed to double funding for adaptation from the 2019 level by 2025 amounting to $40 billion!

At the Sharm El Sheikh conference, developing countries will demand substantial progress on the Global Goal on Adaptation (established in 2015 for defining a framework for enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience, and reducing vulnerability). COP26 set up a Glasgow–Sharm El Sheikh Work Program (2022-2033) for developing a binding GGA. At COP27, four workshops are envisaged under this programme.

3. Mitigation – strengthen national emission targets: the Glasgow Pact (containing the outcome of COP26) called on all states to “revisit and strengthen “their 2030 targets for emissions reductions through their Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs). So far, only 23 countries have submitted new or revised NDCs. A few others such as India, Australia, Mexico, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey and Vietnam are expected to declare revised emission reduction pledges prior to COP27.

Meanwhile, think tank Ember’s disclosure that European countries intended to invest over $48 billion on fossil fuel infrastructure to address the disruption of Russian supplies has dismayed climate activists. The Glasgow Work Program to scale up mitigation ambition has remained unimplemented.

4. Ensure fulfillment of the $100 billion annual climate funding pledge: at COP27, developing countries will once more press developed countries to fulfill their pledge announced in 2009 to collectively mobilize $100 billion for funding climate actions in developing countries.

Developed countries provided only $83.3 billion in 2020, marking a slight increase over the $79.6 billion provided in 2019.

At COP27, discussions are likely to commence on setting a new Collective Finance Goal to be agreed at COP28 due to be held in 2023 in the UAE.

5. Advance the global stocktake: at the June 2022 climate meeting, the scope and content of the Global Stocktake scheduled to be held during COP28 to assess progress in achieving the Paris Agreement goals was discussed without reaching a decision. Climate action groups have demanded that COP27 should seek to “ advance” the Global Stocktake by defining a common vision for future climate action.

6. Turn the Glasgow commitments into action: at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, commitments were made by groups of countries and businesses to (1) curb their carbon emissions; (2) stop and reverse deforestation; (3) accelerate the phase out of coal; (4) double funding for adaptation by 2025; and (5) end fossil fuel financing.

In Glasgow, more than a hundred world leaders promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. The EU and the US announced a partnership to drastically cut methane gas emissions by 2030. Climate activists have suggested that COP27 demand fulfillment of the foregoing pledges.

Shafqat Kakakhel, "Issues for COP27," The News. 2022-10-13.
Keywords: Environmental sciences , Climate change , Climate actions , Carbon emissions , Temperatures , Heatwaves , Ecosystem , Indonesia , Egypt , Turkey , IPCCC , COP26 , GCF