What was achieved at COP27?

On the 20th November, the 27th annual United Nations Climate Change (UNCC) Conference, or more notably referred to as COP27, came to an end as negotiations settled following a fortnight of discussions and events attended by 92 heads of state and around 35,000 representatives of 190 countries. The conclusion – a cover decision, 10 pages long, setting out future initiatives, agreements and aims to mitigate, control and adapt the climate situation currently affecting the world. In this article, I will look to consider some of the key commitments arising from this agreement, whilst also deliberating on what areas will need improvement in order to better tackle climate change and ensure the target of keeping temperatures below 1.5C is adhered to.

Key Commitments
After negotiations carried on beyond the scheduled Friday end to the conference, and the anxiety of an international stalemate looked to be the likely result, a historic deal was struck between the 190 countries to establish a new fund for climate ‘loss and damage’. As looked into in my previous article, this fund seeks to add to the climate financing that already exists on a smaller scale, with more of the world’s wealthy states pledging money towards supporting and funding those countries most vulnerable to and most adversely affected by the consequences of climate change. The scale and significance of this agreement leads to belief that it is the most important initiative since the Paris Agreement at COP21.

More locally, the UK showed itself to be desirous of improvement as its delegates, earlier on in the event, pledged a further £200m to vulnerable African countries for new initiatives. £65.5m will go towards green tech innovation and significant clean energy investments with Kenya and Egypt and, in a new Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership, the UK will give more than £150m for protecting rainforests and natural habitats, including the Congo Basin and the Amazon. Having announced he was not going to attend given his recent election to Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak reversed his decision and gave a speech in which he confirmed that the UK will continue to deliver on their commitment of £11.6bn across all climate financing initiatives, with their funding for climate adaptation to be tripled from the £500m they gave in 2019 to £1.5bn by 2025.

Was COP27 an overall success?

Despite the positives as shown by the landmark agreement and the pledges made by our own government growing positively, there continued to be some concern in the wake of the conference as to whether this is enough and that more needs to be done.

There was much disappointment that no new commitments on phasing out the use of fossil fuels and cutting greenhouse gas emissions were included in the summit’s cover decision. Despite all of the financial pledging, which is not particularly taxing considering the wealth of donor countries, the real aim of the climate conferences is figuring out how and actually achieving the aim of staying inside the 1.5C temperature increase globally. Are we losing sight of this idea? The current situation could not be summarised better than when UN chief Antonio Guterres, demanding further climate ambition, stated that the planet is still ‘in the emergency room’.

Although the cover decision fails to include further initiatives in phasing out fossil fuels, it does include a reference to “low emission and renewable energy’. Commentators are wondering whether this is a loophole that might allow for further development of gas resources, as gas produces less emissions than coal, but nevertheless, still emits. Following last year’s decision to phase down the use of coal, an agreement to phase out the use of fossil fuels was seen as a necessary advancement on that. However, we will have to hope it is proposed and agreed upon at next year’s conference.

The pressing issue is that global temperatures will break the target of staying inside 1.5C. There is already a significant chance we will surge beyond that within five years and permanently go beyond it by 2031. If now was not the time to make that significant leap to phasing out the largest problem of them all, fossil fuels, then when is? Although much of the results of COP27 are promising, it does feel as if there was significant oversight in the cover decision. Unfortunately where we stand in 2022, we do not possess the liberty to be restrained in tackling this ever-growing rapidly developing crisis.

Article by Jeremy Page

Jeremy is currently undertaking the PGDL at BPP University. He provides paralegal and research assistance to the legal team at Prospect Law and has a special interest in commercial and international law.

Prospect Law is a multi-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy and environmental sectors with particular experience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers, engineers, surveyors and finance experts.

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