Located in Egypt, people referred to COP27 as the “African COP” with the hope for a focus on equity and supporting developing countries who will be disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis.
Let’s look at what we achieved during COP this year and what remains undone.
COP27 achieved the first ever “Loss and Damage” Fund in history. Big developed nations, like the US and those in the European Union, are major contributors to the climate crisis as they have released the largest amounts of greenhouse gasses. Thus, G77 members, which is a coalition of developing countries, amplify that those most responsible for emissions should pay for the cost of damage for nations most affected by climate impacts. However, who will pay into this fund, how much, and which countries will benefit was not established and pushed off until COP28. On a positive note, agreements confirmed to operationalize the “Santiago Network”, which is a platform that connects developing countries to technical assistance and resources to address loss and damage.
Developed countries previously committed to providing US$100 billion by 2020 to developing countries to finance mitigation projects, to reduce nations’ greenhouse gas emissions, and adaptation projects, to build more resilient infrastructure to climate impacts. However, this goal was not meet with countries only providing US$83.3 billion in 2020. COP27 had plans to double the adaptation finance; however, no new goals were developed, and the commitment for doubling adaptation finance was pushed till 2025. Additionally, studies have shown that developing countries actually need US$1 trillion in 2030 to support external finance – far off from current commitments.
COP27 failed to get a commitment from all parties to phase out fossil fuels – the main cause of global warming. Vague language was included instead to “[accelerate] efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. This is included in the Sharm el-Sheik Implementation Plan which summarizes the main decisions determined during party negotiations. The words “unabated” and “inefficient” allow for interpretation and loopholes that continue the use of these high carbon-emitting resources.
Many firsts did occur at COP27. Negotiators acknowledged that the “transformation of financial systems and its structure and processes” is necessary to deliver climate finance – which recognizes the current inadequacies of capitalism to address climate change. Language about human rights, such as the right to clean, health, and sustainable environment, was written in the final COP text. The importance of nature-based solutions and ocean-based action was recognized. More holistics approaches to agriculture that include food systems, food security, nutrition, role of Indigenous peoples, women, and small-scale farmers was recognized through a 4-year work programme. The first-ever youth envoy was adopted at COP27 to highlight the need for children and youth representation in decision-making! The first work program on Just Transitions was established to build workforce development opportunities for communities in need – a major demand with indigenous, labor, youth, women and gender, and disability justice advocates
The honesty and power of climate justice leaders keeps me sustained and empowered in this movement. While this is a global issue, the solutions are local – and we need to listen to frontline communities and support community-based work. Transformative action to keep global temperatures below 1.5 degree Celsius continues to stall due to interests of big fossil fuel companies. We need to hold our leaders accountable to supporting the well-being of people and recognize the power we have to enact change.
Over the next 7 years, we need a rapid deployment of clean energy technology to achieve the United States emissions reductions of 45% by 2030. I want to be a part of work programs that center Just Transitions and create job opportunities for low-income communities and communities of color. I call on all students at UConn to imagine, believe, and become the future you want to see. We cannot let the 1.5 degree Celsius goal slip. Start to envision how you can align your personal, academic, and career goals with climate action, and join us in community as we transform our culture to a more just, clean place.