Why the Upcoming Climate Talks Are Different from Past Ones

Why the Upcoming Climate Talks Are Different from Past Ones

The global climate summit that will begin next week in Egypt is not dependent on backroom negotiations among negotiators.

The spotlight will instead be focused on the recent avalanche in climate disasters around the world and whether wealthy countries will offer financial aid to those countries.

That makes this 27th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. The Framework Convention on Climate Change is different from previous COPs. There is unlikely to be a major outcome, like when the Paris Agreement was accepted in 2015. While the issues on the formal agenda are important, they aren’t designed to be headline-grabbing.

” There’s nothing sexy about waving around,” said Kaveh Gulanpour, a former climate negotiator and now vice president for international strategies at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

Instead, COP 27 will largely be deemed a success or failure based on the quality of its “Action Agenda”–commitments of climate action and aid that flow from the summit of world leaders at the start of the two-week conference.

The leaders of civil society in the developing countries are determined to make progress in helping them fight the worst effects climate change has on their lives, and to restore their dignity after they lose those battles.

” We are facing a very grim reality,” stated Harjeet Singh (head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International).

While both rich and poor countries have suffered from historic climate disasters over the past year, including flooding in Pakistan and famines in Somalia, Hurricane Ian in the United States has left many countries without the resources necessary to cope with it, he stated that “developing countries don’t have the resources to deal.” “So we need a system to help people recover .”

‘Implementation’

This conference completes the transition from negotiating the Paris Agreement, to putting it into practice. It’s a a sharp departure from the nearly 30-year-old process of haggling over subparagraphs and the placement of commas in negotiating documents.

“If you look at where the energy was in the lead up to Paris, 90 percent of the energy was sitting in the negotiating room trying to finalize the text. Jake Schmidt, director for the International Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that this was where it had been for many decades.

Watchers of the U.N. climate process have been promising that it would enter an “implementation phase” ever since 194 countries came together in Paris seven years ago and launched the first truly global climate agreement. The years that followed were dominated by negotiations over the Paris agreement’s so-called rules. This process went into overtime and was only completed last year.

Now that the rulebook has been completed, the focus shifts from formal negotiations to mitigation and adaptation.

Country negotiators at Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt) still have some tasks. To help reduce emissions, they must complete the Mitigation Work Programme that was launched last year in Glasgow (Scotland). Scientists warn that this is essential to maintain the Paris goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

They must also operationalize the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage. This network was established three years ago to provide technical assistance and resources for poor countries to deal with climate change impacts. The talks must also make progress on defining the financial support rich countries will collectively provide to the developing world after 2025, and on a process for increasing ambition known as the global stocktake. Both of these items will be discussed at the COP.

This year’s talks will focus on the real-world progress that countries have made seven years after the Paris Agreement was signed. There are only eight years left before 2030, by which time scientists warn the world must halve emissions to have a good chance of keeping the 1.5 C target within reach.

So far that’s not good news.

Only 24 countries responded to a request in Glasgow to update their climate commitments. The goal was to bring them into line with the 1.5 C target. A U.N. report last month found that 2022 updates barely moved the needle. pledges now conform to a potentially dangerous 2.5 C of global warming.

” We can’t afford to continue having years like these where we’re making incremental gains when we need transformational change,” stated Alden Meyer, a senior associate at E3G, a think-tank based in the United Kingdom.

“That will be a major subtext” in Sharm el-Sheikh he said. “And a lot people will be saying, ‘Is 1.5 dead?’ You know, basically, last week at Glasgow, [U.K.COP President] Alok Sharma stated, ‘It’s in critical care. It’s not doing well but it’s not dead. And this year, people will be asking, “Has it been moved to hospice care ?

Scientists say the window of opportunity to keep warming at or below 1.5 C will close around 2030. Although some countries, such as Australia and the United States, have recently implemented policies that should make a significant dent in their emissions, most major developing countries did not heed the Glasgow call for them to align their Paris pledges to 1.5 C .

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, respectively, are not expected to attend this year’s talks.

Impacts, equity

Meanwhile, the effects of filling the Earth’s atmosphere in carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases continue being made public. Since the Industrial Revolution, the world has warmed by an estimated 1.2 degrees Celsius. Scientists warn that the increasing severity of droughts, floods and heat waves that have hit virtually every corner of the globe may be a sign of future events.

“We’re gonna look back at this year as the great old days,” Meyer said. “Because it’s going get worse for a while .”

” I think this COP will shine a spotlight upon climate impacts in ways that we haven’t seen with any otherCOP,” said David Waskow (director of the World Resources Institute’s International Climate Initiative). “We are already experiencing the effects.” So it’s not like how it was 10 or 15 years ago.”

While all countries are suffering from climate change, the poorest nations are the ones that are most affected by the problem. That fact, combined with a resurgent global awareness of racial and social injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in 2020, has catapulted the needs of the Global South higher on the political agenda of this COP than ever before.

Vulnerable countries insist that this COP deal with issues that were not originally scheduled for Sharm el-Sheikh decisions, such as finance for adaptation and the establishment a funding stream to cover loss and damage.

Loss & damage are a group of issues in the U.N. Climate negotiations that deal with making victims whole for climate-driven catastrophes that cannot be avoided. It is distinct from adaptation which seeks to prevent climate damage by hardening infrastructure, climate-resilient agriculture, or building methods.

Sometimes, climate reparations is used to refer to loss and damage. Advocates claim that rich countries have used this framing to halt progress by expressing concern about liability and requesting compensation–even though the United States added language to the Paris Agreement that excludes both.

“This has been a fig tree for a long while that some countries, including the United States have kept behind. “That is not the question here,” said Rachel Cleetus (Policy Director for Climate and Energy at the Union of Concerned Scientists). “It’s very easy to get caught up in legalese for decades. Real people are suffering, literally dying .”

While the Santiago Network on loss and damage is on the agenda for COP 27, actual finance for climate damages wasn’t supposed to be.

Last year’s summit set up a two-year “dialogue” to discuss what to do next on finance for loss and damage that wasn’t slated to conclude until June 2024. But developing countries note that the issue has been front of mind for them for decades and a formal pillar of the U.N. climate talks since 2013, when the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage was established.

They believe it’s past due for the developed world, to offer concrete pledges of financing to victims of climate-fueled catastrophes that are now inevitable.

Denmark became the first nation to pledge money for loss and damage in September, with a commitment of $13 million. Small pledges were also made by Wallonia and Scotland.

But the United States and European Union remain cautious about settling on a structure that will allow for loss and damage financing too quickly. In September, John Kerry, the U.S. climate ambassador, upset advocates by suggesting that calls from the Global South for a new Sharm el Sheikh finance facility were not “serious” as too little time had been given to design it.

The backlash from Kerry’s comments was intense and included many of the Biden administration’s allies. Last week, 100 advocacy groups signed a petition asking Kerry to support the creation of a new facility for loss and damage. And in remarks in Washington last week ,he seemed to soften his tone, saying the United States was “very supportive” of aid for climate victims (Climatewire, Oct. 27).

Developing countries want loss-and-damage finance to be included on the formal agenda of negotiations at Sharm el Sheikh. Experts believe that the United States and the European Union will not stand in their way.

The question is how far Sharm el-Sheikh negotiations go in terms creating a loss-and-damage finance facility or a timeline to pledge support.

Guilanpour, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said that a realistic “landing area” for this year’s meeting could be an agreement to strengthen Glasgow Dialogue to “link it to the political process and to produce clear recommendations on loss and damages finance that would then have to be acted upon .”

Few advocates predict that this year’s conference will end in a newly created fund dedicated to helping climate victims.

Kerry repeatedly stated that there are still design issues that need to be resolved that will help determine how loss and damage are addressed. A Republican takeover of Congress, at the very least, is imminent and could have serious implications for U.S. climate finance in general, but particularly finance that could be used as reparations.

But Singh, of Climate Action Network International, said that any agreement on loss or damage would be a failure in Sharm el-Sheikh.

He asks the leaders of rich countries one question: “What should they tell people who just lost their homes, who don’t know if they will be able have the next crop ?”

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” “We know that these negotiations are so far off reality that we think everything is a bargaining card. We need to make incremental progress so we can make lofty statements about climate leadership and claim to be it,” he stated. “This is not going to work anymore

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from

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