It's over. Cop 27 has finished even though it ran on for several days after its scheduled closing on Friday the 18th. An agreement was reached at the last minute! But where have we heard all this before? Cop 27 is certainly not the first cop to overrun. Not the first to create an agreement at the last minute and not the first to cause disappointment when people staggered from the last late night session and reviewed exactly what the agreement amounted to in the Cold Light of Day.
Alok Sharma, British politician, was chair of last year’s COP26. His aim was to hold on the 1.5℃ maximum and to work with nations to encourage them to increase their targets, their NDCs, to make sure that we will be able to limit the global temperature increase to that level. He was one politician to hold firmly to his brief throughout those 12 months, even though it proved extremely difficult to influence governments.
After all that extended negotiation at COP 27 he was one of the closing speakers. His disillusion was clear. I can’t find a recording of his remarks, but this is what he said:
COP26 PRESIDENT ALOK SHARMA’S REMARKS AT THE COP27 CLOSING PLENARY
Thank you Mr. President to you and your team for all your work. And I also want to thank the secretariat and the Chairs of the subsidiary bodies.
It hasn’t been easy. But I want to begin by recognising the progress on loss and damage. This is historic.
The decision that we have taken here has the potential to support and increase that support for the most vulnerable.
And I very much welcome that.
And the scale and the range of needs will require contributions from the widest range of sources and parties.
Of course the critical work now lies ahead to ensure that potential is realised.
But friends, and I have to say this, this is not a moment of unqualified celebration.
Many of us came here to safeguard the outcomes that we secured in Glasgow, and to go further still.
In our attempts to do that, we have had a series of very challenging conversations over the past few days.
Indeed 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.
We have had to battle to build on one of the key achievements of Glasgow.
The call on all Parties to revisit and strengthen their Nationally Determined Contributions.
We have ultimately reiterated that call here.
And it is critical that commitment is delivered by all of us, including by the major emitters in this room who did not come forward this year.
But we also wanted to take [a] definitive steps forward.
We joined with many Parties to propose a number of measures that would have contributed to this.
Emissions peaking before 2025, as the science tells us is necessary.
Not in this text.
Clear follow-through on the phase down of coal.
Not in this text.
A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels.
Not in this text.
And the energy text, weakened, in the final minutes.
Friends, 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.
Colleagues, I will not be in this chair at COP28, when our ambition, and our implementation, is tested in the Global Stocktake year.
But I assure you, indeed I promise you, that if we do not step up soon,
and rise above these minute-to-midnight battles to hold the line,
we will all be found wanting.
Each of us will have to explain that, to our citizens, to the world’s most vulnerable countries and communities,
and ultimately to the children and grandchildren to whom many of us now go home.
We Are Where We Are - still
So here we are at the close of the 27th COP and there is still no statement that fossil fuels are the problem. There’s a suggestion that gas is a low-emissions fuel - the EU even classes it as green. Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia was apparently a major opponent of sanctioning fossil fuels.
COP28 will be in Dubai. While Dubai no longer bases its economy on oil, oil is still a significant source of revenue for its neighbouring countries within the United Arab Emirates. Whether this matters or not is open to question. There has been a last-minute breakthrough at all the recent COPs: it is increasing clear that we have passed the last minute and still have not achieved the necessary action to control fossil-fuel emissions.
Sharma refers to emissions peaking before 2025. In fact we continue to pour emissions into the atmosphere, and apart from the pandemic year every year’s emissions have been greater than the year before. Atmospheric emission levels are at dangerous levels. We not only need to stop adding to them, we need to reduce the total emissions in the atmosphere. Pretty impossible, but even more difficult if we do not stop adding greater volumes of emissions to them year on year.. We can’t wait for COP28: we need action now. At the very least we must stop exploring for additional oil and gas. That is the message of the Just Stop Oil campaign. It makes perfect sense to me.
Lula, the new president of Brazil was at COP27. Although his opponent Bolsonaro refused to concede the election and his supporters barricaded roads, Bolsonaro did not reject the result as he had threatened to do, so Lula is firmly installed as president. Lula will protect the Amazon and he was prominent at COP27, calling for a reconstitution of the UN to give more power to African and developing nations.
Loss and Damage
Alok Sharma referred to the loss and damage agreement concluded in the last hours of COP27. This can be seen as the good news. Ever since the start of the COP series, small and developing nations, mainly in the southern hemisphere, have been calling on the rich western countries to pay them compensation for the damage caused by climate change. These countries are the first to be affected by the climate crisis and while their emissions are generally close to zero it is emissions from the wealthy west that have caused the damage. The developed nations have long avoided the issue, scared of continuing legal liability.
The EU urged that existing funds should be released to help the affected nations but the affected nations demanded that a dedicated fund should be established. The EU’s argument was that funds have already been allocated and a new fund would take longer to set up and put into operation. The affected nations resisted this, presumably because they wanted the money clearly defined and ring-fenced. At the 11th hour the EU backed off and the new fund was agreed.
$100 billion per year
There has been an agreement in place since 2020 that rich nations would send $100 billion per year to the vulnerable nations, but while some of the money has been paid there are still outstanding and unfulfilled promises. We must hope that donations to the new loss and damage fund will be prompt and complete.
Too Much - Too Many
Apparently there were over 35,000 participants at COP27. It’s suggested that there were more fossil fuel lobbyists than official delegates from the vulnerable nations. Does this really make sense? Surely the COP should be for the government missions alone. A COP is the culmination of a year’s activity. By the time it starts the delegates should be fully briefed with no need if further advice from lobbyists or anyone else. There may be a case for having a separate conference for businesses, charities and NGOs and so on. If it took place after the COP it could be a good idea: the forum for deciding how to implement the COP’s decisions.
Too Little - Too Late
The trouble is that it is becoming increasingly clear that it’s all too late. Some politicians talk about special events every 5 years. Don’t they realise that we haven’t got 5 years?
Before I get too maudlin and depressive let's talk about your carbon footprint. How is it coming along? Have you measured it? I'll be re-calculating mine in February, in other words at the end of the first quarter since I first measured it, to see how it’s changed. If you haven't done so, do you get yours done now so that you have a base for future comparisons. Link to the carbon calculator that I’m using below, but of course you'll find many others on the web.
Next week I’m in conversation with John Cossham, long-time deep green and winner of the Oxfam Carbon Footprint challenge. Apart from carbon footprints, he talks about our future and about people who believe that our future is severely limited. That's no reason for giving up hope, he explains. There are always opportunities to do things to help others.
That’s all for this week. Most of my programme is now set up right through until next February. I do like receiving your thoughts and ideas, so thanks, Ian Jarvis, I am looking in to the area you pointed out to me. Looks like a potential topic for a future podcast, although at this stage I'm not quite sure how far into the future that will have to be. Ian is a patron of the Sustainable Futures Report and so supports me in two ways; with a monthly contribution towards expenses, which helps to keep the podcast independent and ad free and with a fund of interesting ideas. You don't have to be a patron to put your ideas forward. I look forward to hearing from you whoever you are.
If you'd like to be a patron you can find all the details at patreon.com/SFR.
It remains for me to thank you once again for listening, to confirm that there will of course, as usual, be another episode next week – it's the one with John Cossham – and to wish you a good week.
I’m Anthony Day
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
Until next time.
Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/aitoff-388338/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2129860">Andrew Martin</a> from <a href=“https://pixabay.com//?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2129860">Pixabay</a>