Posted on 28 November 2022
Despite the landmark decision to create a fund for loss and damage and a handful of other highlights, COP27 was a disappointment, falling far short of what the climate emergency requires, writes Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF global climate and energy lead.
As a politician, a climate negotiator and an environmentalist, I believe it is important to remain optimistic, to build on the positives and to encourage rather than complain. Coming home from COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, I find myself sorely tested.
The talks were a grave disappointment. Despite progress – on loss and damage, and on the role of nature in the climate process – the negotiations were poorly organised, delivered little and even, in the crucial issue of the energy transition, took the process backwards.
On behalf of the vulnerable people who will suffer from our collective failure in Sharm El-Sheikh, I am frustrated and angry. But, so as not to alienate the negotiators, officials and lobbyists from those countries seeking to slow progress towards a zero-carbon world, I will couch my reflections on COP27 in the diplomatic language of United Nations decisions:
Recalling the 2015 Paris Agreement, and the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact, and acknowledging the grave crisis posed by climate change and the continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions:
We take note that after two weeks of talks, the COP concluded without making any significant progress on preventing climate impacts, without addressing the level of climate emergency we are facing and with trust in the process undermined.
We also take note that in labelling this round of negotiations as the “Implementation COP”, the Egyptian presidency set its sights too low. While it is true that governments do need to implement the promises they have made in previous rounds of the climate talks, COPs are the opportunity to show leadership, to increase ambition and to demonstrate a sense of purpose. All of those were absent from the COP in Sharm El-Sheikh.
Noting with growing concern
We note with concern the barriers placed on civil society involvement in the COP process by the host country. Freedom of speech is a universal right: every individual should be able to make their voice heard, to peacefully protest and demonstrate, especially over such an issue as existential as climate change. We should not allow countries to host the COP if they refuse to respect those rights for their own people and for all participating stakeholders.
We note with serious concern that the industrialised world has still failed to make good on its promise to direct an annual $100 billion in climate finance to developing countries – a promise that was first made in 2009, and reaffirmed in Paris in 2015. This failure casts a cloud over the one unambiguous step forward at COP27 – the promise of a loss and damage fund for vulnerable countries.
We also note with concern the lack of progress towards a Global Goal for Adaptation. The talks failed to establish a common understanding of how to accelerate action to support adaptation, to help vulnerable communities cope with the impacts of climate change.
We note with grave concern that the strong wording around 1.5°C of the Glasgow Declaration was weakened at COP27. Its decision speaks of a “transition to low emission energy systems”, leaving the door open for nuclear energy and natural gas. Countries failed to agree to a final text that insists that fossil fuels be phased out. With global emissions continuing to rise, and the UN warning that we are on course for 2.8°C of warming, this is no time for backsliding.
Indeed, our continuing failure to rapidly slash emissions risks turning a loss and damage finance facility into a ‘fund for the end of the world’, endlessly compensating the world’s most vulnerable for ever more severe and costly climate impacts. COP27 should have done so much more.
Finally, we take note that the negotiations were plagued with logistical and organisational shortcomings, which left delegates spending too much time travelling, in meeting rooms that were too hot or too cold or too noisy, with limited or no internet connectivity, and even short of food and water. There is too much work to be done at COPs for delegates to have to spend time looking after their basic needs.
Looking ahead – to Montreal and the UAE
For all of COP27’s disappointments, we must look forward. We must hope that the momentum this COP built on decisions around nature - such as including nature-based solutions in the final cover decision - can help negotiators reach a strong agreement on the Convention on Biological Diversity at COP15, at Montreal in December. We urgently need a Paris Agreement for nature.
We must also hope that COP28, to be held in the United Arab Emirates next year, can be the COP of credibility, that it can rebuild trust in the process and recover the sense of progress and hope that is so vital for successful climate talks.
We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes made at COP27, where we squandered an opportunity to move forward. Each future Conference of the Parties needs to be properly organised, with clear objectives, well-elaborated expected outcomes and leadership that can move the world towards a resolution of the climate emergency.
It is the least that the climate emergency requires.
- WWF's closing press statement HERE
- WWF's COP27 Expectations Paper HERE
- Driving Systems Transformation: A WWF Manifesto from COP27 to COP15 HERE