The 27th annual Conference of Parties (COP27) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt on November 6 – 18, 2022. The agenda and numerous other documents for the COP are available here. The main issues of COP27 were (1) member parties’ emissions reductions and (2) loss and damage. We have highlighted a summary of the COP by Earth Negotiations Bulletin with some of the significant decisions
“Loss and damage” involves the costs to member parties such as Pakistan of climate events (e.g., flooding) that are triggered by the rise of emissions from other member parties such as the U.S. and Europe. Many small island states, such as Tonga and Tuvalu, are also pushing this issue because of sea level rise. Although the US and the EU have pledged to fund reparations for loss and damage, there is concern that acknowledging loss and damage will open up issues of liability and subject the US and EU countries to lawsuits. Already South Pacific islands such as Vanuatu have sued in the International Court of Justice, as described here.
There will be pressure on the US to help fund reparations and this could become an issue in Congress, as described here. With Republican control of the House, it will require considerable pressure to get the funding. But before January, 2023, Democrats will retain control during a lame duck session and it may be possible to get Congress to support Funding the US Fair Share of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). US funding on reparations will not come up in the immediate future because the loss and damage fund is not established – that will be left to a 24-member committee to report to COP28 in Dubai.
The 2015 Paris Agreement set up a methodology for member parties to declare their annual emissions and announce new (lower) targets for future years. These “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) are reviewed every five years; they were reviewed in Glasgow in 2021 (the 2020 COP was cancelled due to the pandemic). Many, including the US, EU and China announced new targets for 2030; the US NDC for 2030 is 52% below 2005 levels and many other parties also pledged a 50%+ reduction. This is in line with the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that keeping temperature rises below 2C will require halving emissions by 2030. COP27 was an opportunity to determine if parties are keeping to their commitments and are on track to lower emissions this fast. A number of parties complained at the COP that the world is not on track and urged more action. The EU in particular urged that all parties including developing countries increase ambition and hinted that financing, e.g. for loss and damage, might be contingent on all parties stepping up reductions. Only if the vast majority of parties commit to at least 50% reductions by 2030 can the breach of temperature limits be avoided.
One issue that continually arises at the COPs is fossil fuel production. In Glasgow, COP26 introduced the text “phase down of unabated coal power and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” after fierce debate about what that means. Many parties wanted text to read “phase out” of all fossil fuels but Saudi Arabia and other parties vetoed that. The term “unabated” was used to allow parties to claim that they were offsetting coal production with carbon capture and storage. The term “inefficient” was added to allow parties to claim that they were using sound financial means of funding fossil fuel production. These terms are in the COP27 decision but are likely to be contentious is future COPs.