The climate crisis is not a new issue, and neither is the fact that developing nations are subject to more significant consequences due to climate change. COP27, the 30th event of the Conference of the Parties (the COP), took place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt at the start of November 2022. A key focus of this conference was on the Loss and Damage fund, which was introduced into dialogue in Glasgow, last year. However, with the Conference’s key sponsor being Coca-Cola, who is ranked the world’s worst plastic polluter for the fifth year in a row, and unsatisfactory results which brought much disappointment – the event can be seen as an attempt to greenwash the public with the narrative that it was a successful conference.
COP27 was viewed to be the tipping point of the crisis where leaders could gather and decide on crucial legislation that would be crucial for future generations. The Conference was supposed to follow in the footsteps of COP21 (which saw the creation of the Paris Climate Accord) and COP26 (which made the Paris Climate Accord fully operational). However, with few promises made, it is as if COP27 had missed the point. So, what specifically made this Conference to be viewed as a failure?
COP27 was overshadowed by Geopolitics. With energy prices and the cost-of-living skyrocketing, nations found themselves both preoccupied and reluctant to stand strong against fossil fuels. This was replicated in Section 3 Paragraph 10 of the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan. Here the COP stresses the importance of “enhancing a clean energy mix, including low-emission and renewable energy”. The term low-emission hints at the use and allowance of natural gas – a fossil fuel that is seen to be cleaner than coal and oil, but still a carbon dioxide emitter.
Timing further minimised the Conference. COP27 took place from November 6 to November 18, 2022 – a period that also saw the Midterm Elections from the United States take place (week 1) and the G20 Summit in Bali (week 2). This meant many world leaders – specifically those that were a part of G20 – did not attend the conference. Therefore, there was an apparent lack of leadership at the event as well as a lack of undivided media attention. During COP26, the Conference was the sole focus of media attention, however, during COP27 media attention was divided among the three key events (COP27, Midterms, and G20 Summit). Finally, the Conference also lost coverage as attention shifted to the Football World Cup in Qatar, which overlapped with the closing weekend of the Conference, and its respective controversies.
Lastly, the dialogue of the Loss and Damage fund on the agenda brought high hopes as well as high disappointment for the developing countries. The main goal of the Loss and Damage fund is to help the developing nations alleviate the growing financial burden enhanced by the climate crisis as well as help these nations to achieve their Sustainable Development Goals. The Loss and Damage Fund is expected to financially support developing countries for losses arising from increasing natural disasters. It is these developing nations that bear the brunt of the consequences of these disasters.
Despite this, as the UN Secretary-General has said, The Parties have taken “an important step towards justice” by agreeing to the fund, however, the Conference failed to set out the terms on who should pay into this fund, where this money will come from, and who this fund will support. Such topics have been pushed to COP28, which is expected to take place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) next year. In addition to these unanswered questions, the problems that have resulted in this fund being required, have yet to be resolved – making the fund outright hypocritical.
The Fund is set to pay reparations for the consequences of the climate crisis while financially aiding the implementation of the solution. It is, therefore, natural to assume that countries would push policies that go in line with the very purpose of the fund. However, countries failed to unwaveringly move away from fossil fuels, as mentioned above, despite repeating COP26’s decision to “phase-down-of-coal”. Parties also made no further commitment, outside of promises made in the Paris Climate Accord, to limiting a global temperature rise of 1.5°C.
Greenwashing occurs when an organisation spends more time trying to convince the general public, through advertising and marketing, that they are environmentally friendly rather than actually trying to minimise environmental impacts.
As Greta Thunberg said, “the climate crisis is both the easiest and the hardest issue we have ever faced”. The easiest because we have the solution – move away from fossil fuels and prevent the 1.5°C temperature increase. The hardest because our economies and policymakers are still dependent on the status quo. This mindset was confirmed during COP27 because negotiations to implement policy that achieved this solution were continuously undermined by Big Oil Corporations and Gas-Producing Nations. Their global influence and ability to encourage the delaying of policy were brought on by the war in Ukraine and the global sanctions on Russia.
Therefore, despite COP promoting itself as the decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and COP27 being a pivotal point in the fight against the crisis, it failed to achieve its aims by often repeating similar aims from previous conferences as well as delaying essential topics to COP28.
Road to the UAE:
As we move on from COP27, our focus must shift to what is to come. It is essential to note the letdowns of last year’s conference and learn from them.
COP27 has taught us that increased efforts will have to be made by all world leaders and big corporations to avert, minimise and address the climate crisis whilst finalising the fund associated with the loss and damage the crisis has created. Countries as well as businesses cannot continue their approach as usual – things need to change just as fast, as we are approaching the tipping point. Future generations are at stake and the brunt of the world’s failure will be at their cost.
The Conference showed us that despite having positive aims for discussion, global adversities, such as geopolitics, timing, and greenwashing, have a way of interfering with these discussions. However, global distractions cannot be controlled nor can greenwashing be prevented – especially as we head to the UAE whose goals may not necessarily align with that of global expectations such as the complete removal of fossil fuels.
So rather than seeing COP27 as a failure, rather we should view it as a rehearsal for COP28 – where the same mistakes should not be repeated, and the scale can be tipped in favour of our planet rather than against it
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