COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh is over. Numerous reports have all pointed out that if we don’t cut the emissions of greenhouse gases radically and immediately, we will not keep the global average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees. Therefore, the emissions must drastically decrease in the coming decades if we want to avoid severe consequences for our home, planet Earth.
With this background picture, it is hard to say that COP27 was successful. There is a massive gap between what science tells us we must do and the political will to do what we must. COP27 was not a place where leaders declared higher ambitions to mitigate their emissions. The Sharm El Sheikh Implementation Plan underlines the importance of fast mitigation of greenhouse gases, but the language is weak on subsidizing and phasing out fossil fuels. This is a non-coherent position and doesn’t reflect our hazardous scenario as a global community today.
Climate negotiations aren’t only about cutting CO2 emissions, though. They are also very much about sharing the burden of climate change’s effects. Climate-related disasters are increasing every year, and more and more people are being affected by them. To deal with the impact of droughts, flooding, lost livelihoods, and other climate-related catastrophes, the need for finance for adaptation, loss, and damages has never been more significant.
The 100 billion USD per year adaptation fund decided in Copenhagen 2009 should be in place in 2020, but it is still not providing the money promised. That is noted in the Sharm El Sheikh Implementation Plan, but many rich countries are not giving this much attention. So, this still needs to be done, and as a global community of churches, we must remind governments, especially the rich countries, what they promised to do.
If most of these subjects mentioned were examples of no step forward and no steps backwards, there was at least one tiny step forward at COP27: the fund for loss and damage. For many years the ecumenical movement on climate change has been very vocal on the need for a loss and damage mechanism.
Since climate change-related disasters often hit the most vulnerable, who also most often are not responsible for the emissions that create the tragedies, there is a need for finance that addresses the losses and damages that are needed to rebuild a land with no means to do it by themselves. This is what loss and damage is about. Unfortunately, for many COPs, this subject has been hanging on a fragile thread.
At COP27, it became a separate chapter, and the decision was made to create a loss and damage funding mechanism. It is still very loose, but it must be considered a step forward. From the faith communities, we are also pleased to see that the text on loss and damage mentions the impact of climate change is “resulting in devastating economic and non-economic losses.” The financial and non-economic loss and damage must be acknowledged at the same time. It is essential to have a more holistic view of climate change and avoid monetizing everything, even if finance is an excellent part of international agreements. Where the loss and damage mechanism will go and how to fund it is very much up to coming negotiations, but it is a step forward to have it in the text from Sharm El Sheikh.
It is hard to judge days after a COP is ended, but the first impression is that some small steps forward were made, although it is by no means what we need today.
There is still a significant lack of understanding of the very short time we still have to act. We see too many fossils fuel interests and substantial financial resources watering down negotiations and influencing decision-makers. As a result, the urgency to act is missing, especially among wealthy nations.
The great transition to an economy that considers the ecological and social effects of economic decisions is not near. There are many nice words about youth, women, Indigenous peoples, small-scale farmers, and others but in the end, they go unnoticed when big interests are protecting what they have and want to expand to have even more.
But I still believe that the voices of faith communities must be at COP and other international multilateral scenes. We have to bring the voices of those most impacted by climate change: the poor people of the world, children, coming generations, and Creation itself. These are all voices in the interests of life and justice.
Image Credit: Lutheran World Federation/Albin Hillert, World Council of Churches/ Valter Hugo Muniz