No doubt many significant achievements were made in the course of it, but more effort and political will are urgently needed to reach the goals that participants in that significant summit agreed were crucial to saving the whole world, both rich and poor.
The participation of key world leaders including the host President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, US President Joe Biden and dozens of European, African and Arab heads of state confirmed the increasing awareness of the dire need to save the planet.
This will not only be achieved by reducing emissions and meeting the targets set by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, but also by providing much needed finance to help the world’s majority of poor countries that suffer most from effects of climate change, while contributing very little to harmful emissions.
In this respect, hundreds of representatives of civil society organisations that part in COP27 along with political leaders played a key role in setting ambitious goals to global climate action.
Difficult negotiations were reportedly taking place up until the last hours of the Sharm El-Sheikh summit, particularly on two key points. First, “loss and damage” has been officially placed on the agenda of COP summits for the first time, reflecting a major success for Egypt’s diplomatic efforts. Secondly, participants agreed to meet the targets set for reducing gas emissions to limit the rise in temperature.
Scientists say the amount of greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere needs to be halved by 2030 to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord. The 2015 pact set an ideal target of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 Celsius by the end of the century, but left it up to countries to decide how they want to do so.
To meet this goal, participants in the summit had to agree on concrete steps to support mitigation efforts, in light of international scientific reports indicating the necessity of swiftly taking action in this regard to keep global temperatures at safe levels.
In remarks he made on Monday, Foreign Minister and COP27 President Sameh Shoukri rightly noted that it was crucial to enhance technical negotiations through political consensus. While it is easy to deliver well crafted speeches on commitment to combat climate change, what is clearly missing on both fronts, loss and damage as well as emission reduction, is the political will of all parties to commit to mitigation efforts, increase their reduction efforts and provide clear guarantees in this regard.
While paving the way to successful negotiations at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt has also contributed to reaching several key initiatives at the summit that would help the world, and particularly developing nations, to combat climate change. On top of these initiatives came the “Global Shield Against Climate Risks.”
The initiative, backed by the G7 and launched with initial funding of more than $200 million, aims to provide “pre-arranged financial support designed to be quickly deployed in times of climate disasters.”
According to Ken Ofori-Atta, Ghana’s finance minister and chair of the V20 group of nations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, The Global Shield project “is long overdue.” He rightly noted that, “it has never been a question of who pays for loss and damage, because we are paying for it. Our economies pay for it in lost growth prospects, our enterprises pay for it in business disruption, and our communities pay for it in lives and livelihoods lost.”
The project would help the most vulnerable communities but also aid wider understanding of the challenges faced by emerging economies suffering climate-induced floods, heat waves or droughts. A first group of nations that will benefit from the scheme includes Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Fiji, Ghana, Pakistan, the Philippines and Senegal.
This welcome initiative will not be an alternative to the much larger amounts of finance needed to help developing nations cope with their losses and damages as the economies of the world’s largest polluters, the United States, China and Europe, continue to grow. Yet it is certainly a step in the right direction.
The Global Shield is designed to provide a range of financial, social and credit protection and insurance for loss of crops, livestock, property and other goods. It also promises to support the swift delivery of funds for humanitarian agencies responding to disasters.
A formal loss and damage funding stream would probably go further, estimated in hundreds of billions of US dollars, also covering longer-onset climate impacts such as sea level rise and threats to cultural heritage.
The V20 bloc, made up of 58 developing nations, released a research this year that estimated countries had lost some $525 billion to climate impacts since 2000. Ninety-eight per cent of the nearly 1.5 billion people in V20 countries do not have financial protection, it said.
“There is still a lot of work ahead of us if we are to achieve meaningful and tangible outcomes of which we can be proud; we must now shift gears,” Shoukri said. “Time is not on our side and the world is watching – let us come together and deliver now.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.