COP27 summit agrees on landmark climate ‘loss and damage’ fund, but does little to encourage rapid cuts to fossil fuel use | CNN


Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
CNN

Representatives of nearly 200 counties at the COP27 climate summit agreed to establish a “loss and damage” fund to help vulnerable countries cope with climate disasters Sunday morning in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

The entire COP27 agreement, of which the fund is a part, reaffirmed the goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – a key demand of many countries.

But while the agreement represents a breakthrough in the contentious negotiating process, it did not strengthen language on reducing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

The final text makes no mention of phasing out fossil-fuels, including oil and gas.

The final deal marks the first time countries and blocs, including longtime holdouts such as the United States and the European Union, have agreed to establish a fund for nations vulnerable to climate disasters worsened by pollution produced disproportionately by wealthy, industrialized nations.

After developing nations and small island nations banded together to mount pressure, negotiators and non-governmental organizations monitoring the talks hailed the establishment of the fund as a significant achievement.

“The agreements reached at COP27 are a victory for our entire world,” Malvin Joseph, president of the Alliance of Small Island States, said in a statement. “We have shown those who have been marginalized that we hear you, we see you, and we are giving you the respect and care you deserve.”

The fund will focus on what can be done to support damage and loss resources, but will not include liability or compensation provisions, a senior Biden administration official told CNN.

The US and other developed nations have sought to avoid provisions that would open them to legal liability and lawsuits from other countries. And in previous public comments, US climate envoy John Kerry has said damage and loss are not the same thing as climate compensation.

“‘Reimbursement’ is not a word or a word that has been used in this context,” Kerry said on a recent call with reporters earlier this month. He added: “We have always said that it is imperative that the developed world helps developing countries deal with the consequences of climate change.”

Details of how the funding will work remain unclear. Many questions remain as to when the text will be finalized and implemented, and how it will be funded. The text also mentions a transitional committee that will help hammer down those details, but does not set a specific future deadline.

And while climate experts celebrated the victory, they also noted uncertainty going forward.

“This damage and loss fund will be a lifeline for poor families whose homes have been destroyed, farmers whose farms have been destroyed, and islanders who have been displaced from their ancestral homes,” said Ani Dasgupta, CEO of the World Resources Institute. “At the same time, developing countries are leaving Egypt without clear assurances about how damages and damage funds will be managed.”

The impact on funding this year was largely because the G77 bloc of developing nations remained united, using increased leverage over losses and damages compared to past years, climate experts said.

“They need to come together to force the conversation we’re having right now,” Nisha Krishnan, director of resilience for Africa at the World Resources Institute, told reporters. “The coalition is organized because of the conviction that we needed to come together to deliver this — and push the conversation forward.”

For many, the funding represents a years-long hard-fought victory, pushed to the finish line by global attention to climate disasters like Pakistan’s devastating floods this summer.

“It was like a big build-up,” former US climate envoy Todd Stern told CNN. “It’s been going on for a long time and it’s becoming more difficult for vulnerable countries because they haven’t got a lot of money in there yet. As we can see the real catastrophic effects of climate change are getting more and more intense.”

Global scientists have warned for decades that warming must be limited to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels – a threshold that is fast approaching as the planet’s average temperature has already risen to around 1.1 degrees.

Beyond 1.5 degrees, the risk of extreme droughts, wildfires, floods and food shortages will increase dramatically, scientists say in the latest report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

But while summit delegates reaffirmed the goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, climate experts expressed dismay at the lack of mention of fossil fuels or the need to cut them to prevent global warming. Like last year’s Glasgow summit, the text calls for phasing out unsustainable coal power and “phasing out subsidies on inefficient fossil fuels”, but does not call for the phasing out of all fossil fuels, including oil and gas.

“The impact of the fossil fuel industry was seen everywhere,” Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation, said in a statement. “The Egyptian presidency has created a text that clearly protects oil and gas petro-states and fossil fuel industries. This trend cannot continue in the United Arab Emirates next year.

The 1.5-degree number hit in Glasgow last year also took some dramatic action.

On Saturday, EU officials threatened to walk out of the meeting if they fail to support a final deal to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In a carefully choreographed news conference, the EU’s green deal czar Frans Timmermans, along with a whole line of ministers and other top officials from EU member states, said that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

“We don’t want 1.5 Celsius to die here and today. That is totally unacceptable to us,” he said.

In addition to the final agreement, the summit produced several other important developments, including the resumption of formal climate talks between the US and China – the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

After China froze climate negotiations between the two countries this summer, U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to re-establish U.S.-China communications when they met at the G20 summit in Bali last week, with U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua Will meet again formally.

“Without China, even if America is moving toward a 1.5-degree program, which we are if we don’t have China, nobody else can achieve that goal,” Kerry told CNN last week.

The two sides met in the second week of the COP, trying to pick up where they left off before China suspended the talks, a source familiar with the talks said. They focused on specific action points, such as scaling up China’s plans to reduce emissions of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — and their overall emissions targets, the source said.

Unlike last year, there was no major, joint weather announcement from the two countries. But the resumption of formal dialogue was seen as an encouraging sign.

Li Shuo, a Beijing-based global policy adviser for Greenpeace East Asia, said the COP had “comprehensive exchanges between the two sides under the leadership of Kerry and Xi.”

“The challenge is that they must do more than talk, [and] Leadership is also essential,” Shuo said, adding that the resumed formal dialogue “helps avoid the worst outcomes.”

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