After an overnight negotiating marathon, the participants in the UN climate summit in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, adopted a final statement on Sunday morning, a day and a half late. “The mountain has given birth to a mouse.”
In their final statement, participants at the UN climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, call for a “rapid” reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and reaffirm the target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That target was already set in Paris in 2015, but further agreements to bring it within reach have not been made.
There is also no progress towards a farewell to fossil fuels. Several countries, including India, supported by the European Union, had argued in Sharm el-Sheikh in recent days for a decision to phase out all fossil fuels at COP27. However, the final text simply adopts the wording already adopted in Glasgow, much to the dismay of the most progressive countries in this field.
Environmental organization Greenpeace therefore calls the summit a missed opportunity. “The oil states and a small army of 600 fossil fuel lobbyists have here prevented the final text heralding the end of fossil fuels,” said Yeb Sano, head of the international Greenpeace delegation in Sharm-el-Sheikh. ‘This is absurd. If we don’t move away from fossil fuels soon, we will cross the critical 1.5 degree threshold and no amount will be high enough to offset the cost of loss and damage. It’s that simple. If your bathtub overflows, you turn off the tap, you don’t sit back and buy a bigger mop afterwards.’
Shortly before the end of the meeting, the two hundred participating countries did reach an agreement on a loss and damage fund for the particularly vulnerable countries. More specifically, it concerns financing by the rich countries for the climate damage already suffered in poor countries. Countries that are already feeling the effects of global warming, such as Pakistan when flooded last year, have wanted such a fund for some time. How much money the fund will cost, who exactly has to pay and which countries may receive money is all still unclear. This will be discussed in the coming year.
‘Insufficient as a step forward for people and the planet’
On Sunday morning, the European Union, through European negotiator Frans Timmermans, sharply criticized the final text of the UN climate conference COP27. “What we have now is not enough of a step forward for humanity and the planet,” said the Vice-President of the European Commission.
‘There are insufficient additional efforts by the largest emitters to limit their emissions more quickly.’
In terms of loss and damage, according to Timmermans, the EU was faced with a ‘moral dilemma’. The proposals that were on the table in Sharm-el-Sheikh did not go far enough, but Timmermans stated that the EU did not want to simply shoot down ‘a fund for which vulnerable countries have been fighting for decades’. That would have been a “huge mistake and a great missed opportunity.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed disappointment on Sunday at COP27’s lack of ambition. “We now need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and that is an issue that this COP has not addressed,” he said after the climate summit.
Guterres previously praised the creation of the loss and damage fund for the particularly vulnerable countries in a statement. “Obviously this will not be enough, but it is a much-needed political signal to rebuild the broken trust.”
‘Limping in two minds’
Belgian climate minister Zakia Khattabi (Ecolo) is disappointed with the final text. “The mountain gave birth to a mouse,” says the minister, who conducted negotiations for the European Union in the field of climate mitigation. Khattabi welcomes the establishment of a fund for loss and damage, but regrets that this has come at the expense of efforts in the field of mitigation, containing the consequences of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
For me, the two go hand in hand, solidarity also means doing everything possible to avoid loss and damage. “Now we’re in two minds.” The minister recalls that recent reports indicate that we are on track for global warming of 2.5 degrees Celsius. “That is a catastrophe for humanity and especially for the most vulnerable countries.”
We need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions now – and that is an issue that this COP has not addressed.
The federal climate minister attributes the failure of a more ambitious text to “the lack of trust” between the negotiating parties. “This agreement was the only one possible in this context.” Although Khattabi does end on a hopeful note. “A new chapter is opening. The first rules should contribute to restoring confidence. That is a necessary condition for a more ambitious agreement in the future.”
‘We already do a lot’
Flemish Minister of the Environment Zuhal Demir is opposed to the new fund. “We agreed at the Belgian level that there would be no additional financing flows for damage to developing countries, because we already do climate finance today,” she said. ‘Frans Timmermans (the European delegation leader in Egypt, ed.) At one point took a position that is diametrically opposed to the Belgian one.’
According to Demir, our region already contributes enough. ‘Flanders is making 14 million euros available for climate adaptation. An additional fund costs money and it is the taxpayer who pays for it. We are already doing a lot, enough is enough.’