COP27 is complete. Some analysts are praising a new loss and damage union between rich and poor, but big issues remain on fossil fuels.

Loss and damage

The key achievement from COP27 has been, writes EDIE, a loss and damage finance mechanism in 2023, and for the responsibility of the mechanism to sit with the UNFCCC under the Paris Agreement.

Loss and damage is about rich countries paying poor countries which neither created nor benefited from the industrialisation driving climate change.

Or as The Guardian puts it: ‘For the first time in 30 years of climate talks, developed countries agreed to provide finance to help rescue and rebuild poorer countries stricken by climate-related disasters, known as a loss and damage fund.’

“COP27 has done what no other COP has achieved,” said a jubilant Mohamed Adow, director of the thinktank Power Shift Africa. “This has been something which vulnerable countries have been calling for since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.”

Behind the headlines, the reality is more complex. The fund has been included in the COP27 text, but how quickly it can be mobilised, funded and deployed remains unknown for now.

Secondly, there is a serious question surrounding vexed priorities. It is reasonable to argue that the agreement of a fund to pay for climate damage is less important than concentrating on actions that limit or stop climate damage first.

Some argue, justifiably, that under this logic the world would create an infinite amount of money to pay for climate damage while never actually stopping it from happening, plainly a futile approach.

In terms of UK impacts, pre-COP the scenario was that the UK continues to supply key funding commitments, spending £11.6 billion on international climate finance.

‘Recognising the existential threat climate change is already posing around the world – from catastrophic floods in Pakistan to drought in Somalia – the Government will commit to triple funding for climate adaptation as part of that budget, from £500m in 2019 to £1.5bn in 2025,’ explains the government.

There’s every hope more money will be spent by the UK on the loss and damage fund. But how much, and how fast, remains uncertain.

Failure on 1.5 and fossil phase out

Arguably more important than loss and damage for both global and UK climate policy are failures from COP27.

The Guardian analysis runs that the Sunday morning deal that was greeted with euphoria by developing countries for the loss and damage fund was being damned as a severe disappointment by most of the rich world.

Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the European Commission, said: “What we have in front of us is not enough of a step forward for people and planet.

“It does not bring enough added efforts from major emitters to increase and accelerate their emissions cuts. It does not address the yawning gap between climate science, and our climate policies. The EU came here to get strong language agreed and we are disappointed we didn’t achieve this.”

Alok Sharma said, “Those of us who came to Egypt to keep 1.5 degrees alive, and to respect what every single one of us agreed to in Glasgow, have had to fight relentlessly to hold the line.

“I said in Glasgow that the pulse of 1.5 degrees was weak. Unfortunately, it remains on life support. And all of us need to look ourselves in the mirror, and consider if we have fully risen to that challenge over the past two weeks.”

The sense is that a big fossil fuel lobby at COP27 stymied advancements on targets and strategies to strengthen 1.5 – arguing for example that the likes of carbon capture should be seen as crucial, while ignoring calls for tighter targets on the fossils that release carbon in the first place.

The head of the EU executive, Ursula von der Leyen, said, “COP27 has kept alive the goal of 1.5C. Unfortunately however, it has not delivered on a commitment by the world’s major emitters to phase down fossil fuels, nor new commitments on climate mitigation.”

The leader of the European parliament’s delegation to Sharm el-Sheik, the Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout, was blunter in his criticism. “Europe had to fight to the end to maintain last year’s ambition. But this is insufficient if we want to meet the climate goals. I can therefore only conclude that 2022 has been a lost climate year.”

Behind closed doors at the summit, the fossil fuel states forced other countries to fight tooth and nail merely to preserve the inadequate status quo, is The Guardian’s damning conclusion.

So, for UK policy, there is simply no new fossil fuel phase out agreement for us to adhere to. It didn’t happen at COP27.

We can continue to push ahead with the UK net zero agenda, and indeed the UK can push harder and act as an exemplar to the rest of the world.

But the truth remains that for this year, nothing came from the conference that could truly drive fast improvements nor challenge the reality that, for now, no climate conference has ever got rid of the biggest source of climate change; fossil fuels.