COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh has officially ended, what can be deduced from the last two weeks of discussion and in which direction does global climate action go from here?
Optimists had earmarked COP27 to be the ‘Implementation COP’ and hoped that the momentum generated by the Glasgow Climate Pact would materialise in tangible, collective climate action commitments. Unfortunately, Sharm el Sheikh will not have played host to a particularly memorable Conference of the Parties and will not have begun the process of actualizing various aspects of the Paris Accords – including Article 6 and the public-private problem that remains a part of our global carbon markets. Individualized solutions proposed, such as the Energy Transition Accelerator suggested by the US, may prove to only further fragment an already siloed global carbon mechanism. Given international demand for a strong, consolidated market-based solution to underpin climate finance mobilisation and a green economy transition; the lack of collaborative action is disappointing and will certainly feel like a setback.
Furthermore, COP27’s cover decision, tagged as the “Sharm el Sheikh Implementation Plan”, fails to define the decisive action its title suggests will be taken. While many are already lauding the ‘Loss and Damage’ funding arrangement agreed upon; little material progress has been made in establishing criteria, mobilizing finance or interpreting definition. The language used by delegates at this year’s Conference certainly adopted the rhetoric of collective responsibility, but there is a very little indication that notions of ‘reparation’, ‘liability’ and ‘compensation’ will come to be included in the reading of ‘Loss & Damage’ going forward. Charitable actors may tip their caps to the fact that at least it has finally been tabled for thorough discussion, but most will also agree that no marked change has been made to many of the most important questions surrounding the issue - especially the onus of financial culpability. Therefore, the Global South may see this as a half measure that fails to draw binding commitment and facilitate proactive action in the face of increasingly turbulent climate impacts that are already inflicting irreversible damage on their economies, livelihoods and resources.
The global dialogue surrounding climate action has seemingly entered a period of stagnation and for good reason. The groundwork for decisive action was laid in Glasgow last year and with a framework having been set 5 years prior in Paris, global leaders find themselves at a fork in the road- one that finally calls for action. The hesitancy shown at this year's COP may not necessarily be borne of lethargy, but perhaps instead of apprehension. Monumental shifts in our approach will have to be taken to ‘keep 1.5 alive’ and this will require levels of collaboration, accountability and transparency we have not yet been able to demonstrate as an international community.
As we move into the second half of the Global Stocktake process, our present circumstances will be harder to hide. The GST promises to provide us with an honest assessment of our collective actions up until this point as well as the feasibility of our longer-term climate health goals from a Mitigation, Adaptation and Implementation & Support standpoint. COP28 in the UAE next year may very well be an intervention of sorts and play host to a harsh reset that the global climate movement desperately needs. Ambiguous terms of phrase and open-ended commitments, prevalent across countries’ respective NDCs, will need to be replaced with concrete action plans that set out to achieve explicit, climate-conscious outcomes.
Scrutiny of this year’s edition of COP is only set to grow and as biodiversity wanes, lives are lost and climate catastrophes continue to show face; a period of reckoning is set to come. Perhaps in the years that follow, with the change that occurs, we will come to remember Sharm el Sheikh as the ‘Precursor COP’. A final regret before the timely, tidal shift in our collective response to the global climate crisis.