a “schizophrenic” deal between climate justice and the status quo on greenhouse gas emissions

COP27 ended at dawn on Sunday with the adoption of a text defined as “historic” on aid to poor countries affected by climate change, but without new ambitions regarding the reduction of greenhouse gases. A “half fig, half grape” agreement that much of the international community regrets.

After difficult negotiations that went beyond the scheduled times, COP27 concluded on Sunday 20 November with a controversial text on aid to poor countries affected by climate change but without new ambitions for the reduction of greenhouse gases.

The UN climate conference, which opened on 6 November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, ended at dawn more than a day late, becoming one of the longest in history.

“It wasn’t easy” but “we have finally completed our mission”, underlined its Egyptian president Sameh Choukri.

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A compromised final declaration was finally adopted, calling for a “rapid” reduction in emissions but with no new ambitions since the Glasgow COP in 2021.

An agreement “half fig, half grape”, estimates François Gemenne, researcher in climate geopolitics and member of the Giec (Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change).

Although the specialist recognizes an “important political step forward” in the creation of a fund intended to receive funding related to losses and damages in the countries of the South, he nevertheless deplores the absence of an additional commitment on the management of the reduction of greenhouse gases (gas emissions greenhouse).

An agreement that “does not act on causes”

“It is a schizophrenic agreement”, launches François Gemenne, author of “Ecology is not a consensus” (Fayard). “We agree to pay for the damages caused by global warming, but on the other hand we refuse to do more to try to limit these damages.”

A position shared by the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, who himself reacted to the COP27 results by evoking “an important step towards justice”, but insufficient objectives.

“We need to drastically reduce emissions now, and that’s a question this COP hasn’t answered,” he said.

COP27 obviously allowed for the creation of a specific financial fund: “this is great progress for the countries of the South”, repeated François Gemenne to France 24. But the latter reminds us that it is a reparation fund which it allows, no more, no less, the application of the principle “the polluter pays” or “who breaks, pays”.

“You don’t act on the causes. Until you act more on the causes (greenhouse gas emissions), there will be more associated damage, and therefore more costs.”

The climate geopolitical researcher, also a professor at the University of Liège in Belgium, reminds us: we have to get out of fossil fuels. A long-awaited decision, but on which the COP has left its mark. “The countries that oppose are the hydrocarbon producing countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Russia, but also many emerging countries that fear jeopardizing their development objectives,” explains François Gemenne.

According to him, much of the fight against global warming in the coming years will focus on this point.

“Will emerging countries choose a carbon-intensive development trajectory (like that of Europe, China or the United States) or will they be able to choose a carbon-free development trajectory that is not based on fossil fuel extraction? ” asks François Gemenne, calling for greater cooperation, technology transfer and investment in the countries of the South.

No obligations imposed on the main GHG emitters

The COP27 final statement also reaffirmed “the Paris Agreement goal of continuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”.

Ambitious goal, but do we give ourselves the means to achieve it? François Gemenne replies in the negative. “This goal today seems like a chimera,” he says. “If we set this target without committing ourselves to intermediate targets, we will never get there”, continues the researcher, judging it essential to make short-term resolutions (carbon balance targets within the week or within the month), and not to medium or long term, as is currently the case. “Anyone who takes these goals knows that he will no longer be in office, or even that he will be dead, when we reach this horizon.”

For Annalena Baerbock, German environmental minister for foreign affairs, “hope and frustration” are mixed at the end of this new climate convention. “We’ve made a breakthrough on climate justice — with a broad coalition of states after years of stagnation — but the world is wasting precious time on the 1.5C trajectory,” she said.

“I welcome the progress made at COP27, but there is no time for complacency,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Meeting the 1.5°C pledge is vital for the future of our planet,” he wrote, adding: “More needs to be done.”

Same disappointment shown by the Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans. “The world won’t thank us when tomorrow it hears only excuses,” he said. “What we have here is too short a step forward for the people of the planet. It doesn’t provide enough additional effort by major emitters to scale up and accelerate their emissions reductions.”

Major emitters including China, which isn’t even sure if it participates in the repair fund. “China agrees to invest money, but does not want to be forced to do so and not up to par with industrialized countries”, explains François Gemenne, recalling however that he is the first global transmitter of GES.

On Sunday, Switzerland regretted that the COP27 summit did not impose obligations on the main emitters of greenhouse gases and assured that it will ensure an adequate contribution to the fight against climate change.

“The states have agreed on a work program up to 2026. However, this does not expressly bind the countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions,” according to a statement from the Federal Office for the Environment. “Switzerland regrets this decision and will work to ensure that these countries also contribute,” the statement continued.

For now, the fund will be provided by industrialized countries, historic polluters such as Europe, the United States, Japan and Russia. The height of the contributions has not yet been fixed, specifies the researcher in climate geopolitics. “We have to assess the extent of the damage, tangible and intangible (related to migration and loss of cultures), and it will be a difficult assessment,” he says.

Pakistan’s climate change minister Sherry Rehman, incumbent chair of the powerful G77+China negotiating group, had previously said the fund was “not about charity” but “an down payment on long-term investments in our common future and an investment in climate justice”.

Following the COP, the Minister of Environment of Antigua and Barbuda, Molwyn Joseph, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) said: “Aosis has promised the world not to leave Sharm el-Sheikh without being able to establish a loss and damage response fund. This 30-year mission is now accomplished.”

With the AFP

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