Reflections & Outcomes from Egypt’s COP27

Dr. Samson Ogallah, Eswatini’s Climate Finance Advisor (under the Commonwealth Secretariat)

The High and Low moments of #cCOP27 (that drew more than 35,000 participants from across the globe) after two weeks of intense negotiations, compromises, protests, side events, and bilateral meetings in what one would refer to as a ‘COP market-place’.  The gavel finally came down on Sunday, 20 November 2022 and the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan (SHIP) was hammered.

With some weeks and days to the start of #COP27, the alarm and wake-up bells started ringing with breaking headlines news that littered major global media channels: From the devastating flood in Pakistan killing over 1000 people; to the unprecedented loss and damages resulting from the deadly flood in Nigeria that left over 800 people dead with over 1.3 million people displaced and thousands of hectares of land inundated to the most severe drought in the horn of Africa to mention but a few.  

It was assumed that negotiation on loss and damage, finance, global goal on adaptation, and mitigation work programme will proceed with speed given these catastrophic climate impacts that heralded the commencement of COP27 in #sharmelsheikh, Egypt. Unfortunately, the expected negotiation speed was clogged by procedural processes and mistrust with only a little progress made.

Prior to COP27, there were lots of high and low hopes and expectations depending on which side of the divides any COP analyst chooses to pitch his/her tent. However, the outcome from COP27 came with a mixed basket for analysts to debate upon and with an assessment that will keep us busy in the coming weeks and months before #cop28 in the United Arab Emirates and possibly beyond.

Here are my initial reflections on various agenda items and they are by no means exhaustive. 

The Loss and Damage: After nearly three decades of waiting for a decision on Loss and Damage (L&D) at COP negotiations, it is understandable why COP27 was hailed as a big win for countries on the frontlines of climate change impacts.  The agreed COP27 decision for the establishment of the ‘Loss and Damage Fund’ was equally a face-saving measure and to rescue the COP27 outcome from being described as a complete failure. This was and will remain a high moment of COP27 although how this Fund will be operationalised is a different story altogether and COP28 will be an acid-test for this very important outcome of COP27. The Transition Committee will have a lot on their plate as stakes are now high awaiting their recommendation on the operationalisation and funding modalities for the Fund at COP28. Time is already ticking.

Mitigation Work Programme: Though just transition was elevated in the response measures decision, not much progress was made as the final deal does not entail agreement on ‘phasing down’ or reduction in the use of fossil fuel. The implication of this is that meeting and keeping to the target of reaching 1.5OC by 2030 without concerted efforts and raising NDC ambitions will be missed and that spell more climate catastrophes for the planet and vulnerable countries. Although the COP cover decision referenced 1.5OC, low-emission energy and renewables, the COP27 decision lost the steam and opportunity on GHG emissions peaking by 2025 and building stronger momentum on the Glasgow Climate Pact’s target of keeping the global average temperature limit to 1.5OC by 2030.

Finance: The decision on finance was merely procedural with Ad Hoc Work Programme on the New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) on climate finance only scheduled to be finalised in 2024. This is hope dashed and seems like running away from one’s shadow. The decision on finance has become like a moving target It was far from expectations as developed countries were only urged to deliver on their USD100 billion by 2020 pledges which have not been met and to double up the adaptation finance. However, some few pledges were made to the Adaptation Fund (totalling 211.58 million), the Least Developed Countries Fund (totalling 70.6 million), the Special Climate Change Fund (totalling 35.0 million), and the eighth replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (totalling USD 5.33 billion and with a climate-related finance target of no less than 80 per cent of all funding commitments in the eighth replenishment period), and urges developed country Parties to fulfil their pledges on time. These amounts are piecemeal when compared with the amount needed for climate action. Africa alone will require over USD3 trillion to implement all its member countries’ NDC by 2030.

Article 6: Some progress was made on the review guidelines and the initial report outlines which were agreed upon at COP27. Also, a bare minimum for the operationalization of Article 6.2 was agreed upon. However, the mitigation contribution on Article 6.4 emission reductions as a new term was restricted only to national/domestic NDCs. Further work is still needed for the operationalization and/or harmonization of the different approaches under Article 6.8 as this was moved to the next COP.

The Global Goal for Adaptation (GGA): We will have to wait a bit longer on the GGA as the Framework only to be developed until COP28 which will give more insights on the delivery of the goal and how to track progress using science-based indicators, targets and metrics.  However, the decision on agreed steps to enact the Paris Agreement’s Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) gives a glimmer of hope and for sure, stakes will be high at COP28 on this agenda item. Fingers crossed until the ink dries on the paper with such an outcome that would be responsive to the need of developing countries especially those that contributed the least to the problem of climate change but suffering the most from its devastating impacts which the African continent is the chief of them.

Children and Youth: The first Children and Youth Pavilion at a COP was a welcome outcome: This was a great achievement for COP27 as voices from these vulnerable groups got elevated to the global stage and this would mark the beginning of more energy and hopes for inter-generational equity, climate justice and related discussions at COPs. It gives hope for today and the future of climate actions for tomorrow.