COP27 – has any breakthrough been achieved?

The 27th annual UN climate summit, known as COP 27, ran from November 6 to 18, 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh on the shores of the Red Sea in Egypt, and was very dramatic. In the end it lasted longer than anyone could have foreseen. The last meeting took place on November 20th in order to establish a compromise on the drafting of the final report. And it was not about countries committing to phasing out all fossil fuels. This indecisivity has alarmed climate scientists and activists all around the globe, who had been urging for more serious actions against global warming. The organizers boast one key breakthrough, the so-called “loss and damage fund”, which will provide the weaker nations with financial assistance in dealing with the natural disasters that hit them. Nonetheless, are we sure about that?

COP27 was also named the Africa COP. The whole enterprise provided an opportunity to address, as it does on the yearly basis, the climate change peril. But this time it was also a chance for the whole African continent to stake its position on the climate challenge and show the unity of action in the confrontation with richer countries, not so willing to take responsibility for the catastrophes that take place in the Global South. 

“I think the COP in general was very controversial because the major political actors are getting together to pretend they want to make climate change a priority, but to me that’s just hypocrisy. They are going there because they have to. There are 25% more fossil fuel lobbyists this year than at COP26, which just goes to show how futile the climate crisis seems to policy makers and corporations (who are at the root of the problem)”

– says Sarah Luna, from student’s organization Oikos based at EDHEC grande école.

On the other hand, activists and representatives of ecological organizations were also present on the place, to ensure that their voice is not forgotten. This was a tough, but crucially important task – believe the ecological activist from around the world.

“Not a lot of us have the luxury of time to follow everything that’s going on at the COP. I followed through COP Swiss Youth for Climate or activist Camille Etienne or Anuna DeWever – what I learned through their lens was super valuable. That’s one thing. Another thing is the fact that these young people also represent me and they were able to talk to several Swiss media and Swiss politicians and raise our voice, the voice of the young generation who is truly concerned about what is going on. Having activists and students at COP is super important because it’s a first step in breaking the age gap between the concerns that we have” – adds Sarah Luna.

After three decades of pressure from developing countries, the EU has made a last-minute shift in blocking action on loss and damage. The result – which is being hailed as the most significant progress since the Paris Agreement – is a new agreement establishing a fund to help severely affected low-income countries bear the direct costs of extreme weather events caused by global warming. 

Breakthrough? Only a partial one, at best.

“We still don’t know who will fund it. There is still no clear plan for how the West will manage to keep emissions below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and it seems we will have to wait another year to get back to urgent discussions. The COP itself is an important starting point for dialogue on the greatest crisis we face. The only problem is that it cannot be the only place where once a year leaders come together to find solutions. Solutions must be discussed all the time and at all costs, because as I said, we are dealing with an emergency situation”

– Sarah Luna comments.

According to the agreement, the fund will initially draw on contributions from developed countries and other private and public sources, such as international financial institutions, to help rebuild physical and social infrastructure. More precise issues, or more controversial ones, regarding the fund (such as the criteria for applying for reimbursement and the procedure of transfering the money) have been pushed off to talks to be held next year. Thus, the whole endeavor has been put in doubt. 

We have to put our hopes once more into believing that the upcoming year is not going to tear up the whole agreement into just meaningless paper. And with this hope, we can mobilize ourselves into a more active stance, taking the example of Just Stop Oil activists from United Britain or the global movement of the Extinction Rebellion. 

In the end, as Sarah Luna says, “Similarly to all the movements that happen outside of COP with Extinction Rebellion or more recently the Dernière Renovation there is a goal to draw attention and make noise about what really is important. They’re more people dying because of climate change than during the whole pandemic crisis”.

There is one thing we can be sure about: the upcoming year is going to be one of the most important ones in the fight for climate justice. 

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