The ups and downs of COP27 

Led by these seven women from the global south, a large demonstration “flooded” COP27 to demand loss and damage funding for what is lost in climate change-induced flooding, including health, land, life, nature and livelihoods. PHOTO: Albin Hillert/LWF

By Mattias Söderberg

This year’s climate summit, COP27, is now over. As in the past, it was a complicated meeting. Participating countries had to prolong the negotiations by more than a day before a final agreement was reached. Where do we stand now, and has the summit made a difference to our climate? 

One good result 

Using a positive lens, COP27 ended with a good result. In fact, a historic good result. This was the year when countries from all over the world finally agreed to provide financial assistance to people and countries facing climate-related loss and damage after 30 years of discussion. 

With this agreement, the world community recognises that climate change is a threat, and that we must work together to address the consequences of climate related events and disasters. This recognition is an important step forward, as the debate over the past 30 years has been filled with mistrust and disappointment. The decision to establish a fund to address climate-induced loss and damage offers hope. It can enable support for communities affected by, for example, floods and lasting droughts. 

It has taken this long to reach this agreement because it acknowledges that climate-related disasters, and the associated loss and damage, are a shared responsibility. This means that large polluters will face a big bill. Researchers point out that future climate disasters may be substantial enough to cause entire countries to disappear. As a result, the amount of the bill is difficult to comprehend. For this reason, the agreement is not that concrete when it comes to who must pay for climate-related loss and damage. 

It will probably take some time before the fund begins to have a real effect, as the parties must establish the details. There is no doubt, however, that it is still a good result and that it is a clear signal to developing countries that they are not alone. 

The bad results 

Unfortunately, there is not much else that was positive about COP27. The summit did not improve our ability to find solutions to the rapidly growing climate crisis, and both commitments to and decisions about action and money are missing. 

A major challenge is that global warming is rapidly passing the 1.5 C degrees that scientists have identified as crucial to keep the consequences of climate change at a reasonable level. When the temperature rises by more than 1.5 C degrees, we risk passing “tipping points” where, for example, the Amazon or the Russian tundra are affected. This will cause changes to the climate that could have major consequences that cannot be rolled back. 

Precisely for this reason, it is deeply disappointing that the countries could not agree that fossil fuels must be phased out or agree that the countries’ climate plans must be updated so that the 1.5-degree target can be realistically achieved. 

The low level of ambition when it comes to reducing emissions is directly linked to another disappointing result. During the negotiations, the oil-producing developing countries did not want concrete agreements on a green transition as it will have a direct effect on their economies and opportunities for growth. 

These countries know that there is a need to focus on green transition in the long run, but they find it difficult to see how their economies will have the opportunity to keep growing if their income from oil disappears. A UN decision that oil must be phased out could, for example, affect the countries’ opportunities to attract investment and thus their development opportunities. 

It is a fair concern, and that is exactly why cooperation on the green transition is so important. How can oil-producing countries be helped to find new development opportunities? And how can opportunities for green growth be created? There is a need for cooperation and investment. Therefore, it is a great disappointment that there were no additional concrete agreements about financial flows or climate finance at COP27. 

The ups and the downs 

Looking at the COP27 results it’s clear there is still a long way to go before we find a way to deal with the climate crisis. Yet with the agreement on loss and damage, we can see that international diplomacy can have an effect and that the long and difficult UN negotiations can deliver results. 

Next year, countries will meet again at COP28 – this time in Dubai. Time is running out, and all the countries in the world need to be convinced that now is the time to step up and improve their climate ambition. So now we must scale up our push and call for climate justice! I hope our governments will listen as we continue our call for action this coming year. 

Mattias Söderberg of DanChurchAid is co-chair of the ACT Alliance Climate Justice Reference Group.