The world is still ‘on the brink of a climate catastrophe’ after the agreement reached at the UN COP27 climate summit on Sunday, and the biggest economies must make new commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse, climate experts and activists have warned.
The deal reached in Sharm el-Sheikh early Sunday morning, after a marathon final negotiating session that lasted 40 hours past its deadline, has been hailed for providing poor countries with financial assistance known as the name of loss and damage. A fund will be set up by wealthy governments for the rescue and reconstruction of vulnerable areas hit by climate catastrophe, a key demand from developing countries over the past 30 years of climate negotiations.
But the result was widely seen as a failure of carbon dioxide reduction efforts, after oil-producing countries and major emitters weakened and scrapped key commitments on greenhouse gases and elimination. progressive fossil fuels.
Mary Robinson, chair of the Elders Group of former world leaders, former president of Ireland and two-time UN climate envoy, said: “The world remains on the brink of climate catastrophe. Progress made on [cutting emissions] was too slow. We are on the cusp of a clean energy world, but only if G20 leaders take responsibility, keep their word and strengthen their will. The responsibility lies with them. »
António Guterres, Secretary General of the UN, warned: “Our planet is still in the emergency room. We need to drastically reduce emissions now – and that’s an issue this cop hasn’t addressed. The world still needs a giant leap towards climate ambition.
Oil-producing countries have thwarted attempts to strengthen the deal, said Laurence Tubiana, one of the architects of the 2015 Paris climate accord, now chief executive of the European Climate Foundation . “The influence of the fossil fuel industry has been seen across the board,” she said. “This COP has weakened the requirements for countries making new and more ambitious commitments [on cutting emissions]. The text [of the deal] makes no mention of phasing out fossil fuels and makes little reference to the 1.5°C target.”
She blamed hosts Egypt for letting their regional alliances influence the final decision, a claim strongly denied by the hosts. Next year, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP) will take place in Dubai, hosted by the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s largest oil exporters.
Tubiana warned: “The Egyptian presidency has produced a text that clearly protects oil and gas states and fossil fuel industries. This trend cannot continue in the UAE next year.
During the talks, nearly 200 countries agreed that a loss and damage fund, which would pay to save and rebuild the physical and social infrastructure of countries ravaged by extreme weather events, should be established later this year. next.
However, there is still no agreement on how much should be paid, by whom and on what basis. One of the main objectives of the EU during the talks was to ensure that countries classified as developing countries in 1992 when signing the UNFCCC – and therefore without an obligation to act on emissions or provide funds for help others – be considered as potential donors. These could include China, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, as well as Russia.
Under the final agreement, these countries can contribute on a voluntary basis.
John Kerry, the US presidential special envoy for the climate, who tested positive for Covid on Friday evening and spent the rest of the summit isolating himself in his hotel, fixed China in his sights in a statement after the end. of the conference.
“Reducing emissions over time is a matter of math, not ideology. That’s why all nations have a stake in the choices China is making in this critical decade,” he said. China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, as well as the world’s second largest economy, and is second only to the United States in cumulative historical emissions since the industrial revolution.
“The United States and China should be able to accelerate progress together, not just for our benefit, but for future generations. And we all hope that China will live up to its global responsibility. »
Paul Bledsoe, Clinton’s former White House climate adviser, now at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington DC, said: “It’s time for the United States to work with developing countries to put pressure on China, if not protect of the climate will become impossible. China should be a climate pariah, along with Russia.
Several key commitments championed by the UK, which hosted the Cop26 climate summit last year in Glasgow, were dropped from the final deal, mainly at the behest of Saudi Arabia and other oil states , although the Guardian understands that China, Russia and Brazil also played a role in weakening some aspects.
These included a target for global emissions to peak by 2025, in line with the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the safety threshold that was at the center of the Glasgow Climate Pact signed last year at COP26.
Although the final text includes a commitment to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, the language was seen as weak and marking no progress on the outcomes of COP26 a year ago.
Alok Sharma, the British president of Cop26, sacked as a minister by Rishi Sunak, was visibly angry at the end of the conference. “Those of us who came to Egypt to keep 1.5C alive and to live up to what each of us agreed to in Glasgow, had to fight tirelessly to hold the line. We had to fight to build on one of Glasgow’s main achievements, the call for the parties to review and strengthen their [national plans on emissions].”
In Glasgow, in the dying moments, a commitment to phase out coal was watered down by China and India to a coal phase-out, a last-minute trial that reduced Sharma to the brink of tears. At COP27 he joined efforts to include a phase-down of all fossil fuels in the text, but this was reduced in the final stages to a mere repetition of Glasgow’s commitment to phase-down the coal.
Sharma listed the weakened or lost commitments, emphasizing the table: “We joined many parties in proposing a number of measures that would have contributed to this. Emissions peaking before 2025, as science tells us, is necessary. Not in this text. Clear tracking of coal phase-out. Not in this text. A commitment to phase out all fossil fuels. Not in this text. And the energetic text, weakened in the last minutes [to endorse “low-emissions energy”, which can be interpreted as a reference to gas].”
Ultimately, the responsibility will rest with everyone, as Meena Raman of the Third World Network, adviser for developing countries, points out. “Given that the EU and Alok Sharma are disappointed that phasing out fossil fuels is not in the text, we would like them to take the lead and revise their NDCs. [nationally determined contributions] and putting into plans their urgent phase-out of fossil fuels and halting the expansion of fossil fuels, including oil and gas. [It’s] not enough to play gallery but act if they really want to save the planet and not hide behind 2050 net zero targets which will blow the remaining carbon budget for 1.5C.
Sharma concluded: “I told Glasgow the 1.5C pulse was weak. Unfortunately, he remains on life support.
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