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COP 27: Half a Step Forward


Representatives gathered over two weeks to address climate policy. (Photo: Washington Post)

The month of November saw the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Egypt, seeking to discuss and provide amicable resolutions to our world's climate crisis.

Hundreds of Heads of State and over 35,000 individuals gathered in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh, and United States President Joe Biden was no exception.

“It’s going to shift the paradigm for the United States and the entire world. We’re proving a good climate policy is a good economic policy,” stated President Biden in regard to the recently passed climate and tax bill to the thousands in attendance.

The U.S. delegation was prepared with four initiatives: Bolstering global climate resilience, accelerating global climate action, catalyzing investment at the scale required to tackle the climate crisis, and engaging all of society in tackling the climate crisis.

President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil was welcomed with songs and praises of “ole, ole, ole, ole, Lula, Lula,” by supporters at the conference. Brazil is host to the world's largest tropical rainforest, which suffered a loss of 8.4 million acres in the first three years of Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency.

With President Bolsanaro’s term coming to a close, President-elect Lula promised to do “whatever it takes to have zero deforestation and the degradation of our biomes”, while emphasizing that “there is no climate security for the world without a protected Amazon.”

Parties at the conference agreed that they “should collectively aim to slow, halt and reverse forest cover and carbon loss”, which adds to the international pressure President-elect Lula is facing to uphold his promises.

The most notable commitment from the 27th Conference of Parties was the establishment of a Loss and Damage fund. According to the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan, the conference “Welcomes the consideration, for the first time, of matters relating to funding arrangements responding to loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change”.

This fund will help aid lesser developed nations that suffer climate related losses and damages through droughts, rising seas, floods, and other disasters. No agreement was made on how the Loss and Damage fund would be financed.

Finance was a hot topic of conversation and it was noted in the implementation plan that,, “US $4 to $6 trillion a year needs to be invested in renewable energy until 2030 — including investments in technology and infrastructure — to allow us to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”

The subject matter was also touched upon by UN Secretary-General António Guterres during the conclusion of the conference on Nov. 19, who said “Justice should also mean several other things: Finally making good on the long-delayed promise of $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries; clarity and a credible roadmap to double adaptation finance; changing the business models of multilateral development banks and international financial institutions. They must accept more risk and systematically leverage private finance for developing countries at reasonable costs.”

The introduction of the Loss and Damage fund is a step forward in providing support to countries in need, and reminds us that cooperative efforts come with compromise.

In terms of emissions, the resolution “emphasizes the urgent need for immediate, deep, rapid and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions by Parties across all applicable sectors, including through increase in low-emission and renewable energy.”

Many have their concerns with the term “low-emissions”, as they wish to see countries commit to a zero-emissions plan in order to reach the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The 2022 United Nations Environment Programme report found that the international community is falling far short of the goals under the Paris Agreement, with no structured plan to reach 1.5°C.

The resolution continued to reaffirm its previous commitments, while taking half a step forward in what seems to be a long road ahead.

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