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COP 27: A Global COP-Out
by Robert Sandford, Lidy Nacpil, Thuli Makama
UNU, Thompson Reuters Foundation
COP 27: A Global COP-Out, by Robert Sandford.
Last year’s climate COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland, was billed as the most important conference in the history of humanity. But it failed to deliver. If anything, that failure added urgency for global climate action at COP 27 in Egypt last month.
Now that it this year’s COP is over, it is useful to reflect on a few excerpts from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s opening day remarks:
• “These climate conferences remind us that the answer is in our hands and the clock is ticking.”
• “We are in the fight of our lives, and we are losing.”
• “Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing, global temperatures keep rising…and our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible.”
• “We are getting dangerously close to the point of no return. And to avoid that dire fate all countries must accelerate their transition now, in this decade.”
• “Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish.”
• “It is either a climate solidarity pact, or it is a collective suicide pact.”
Sadly, COP27’s outcomes make very clear that the world signed on to the one the global fossil fuel sector wanted: the suicide pact.
COP 27 did not deliver. In fact, it has been labelled by many as the worst COP ever.
What happened in Egypt puts a whole new spin on the term COP-out. But how could it have been otherwise?
COP 27 was held in a country aligned with surrounding petrostates ruled by a ruthless dictatorship and was sponsored by one of the world’s largest plastic polluters: Coca-Cola.
It did not seem to register with organizers that the company’s relentless bottled water production is widely held in the global water science and policy community as a triumph of marketing over common sense.
Did the organizers not see that Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of COP 27 was an open invitation to blatant global greenwashing?
The obvious should not be missed here: Capitalism is not out of control, capitalism is in control – and COP 27 offers clear proof of that truth.
As society’s reliance on petroleum grew and our energy demands expanded, the global fossil fuel cartel quietly evolved into a superpower unto itself. There were more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists at COP 27. What, one might reasonably ask, could possibly go wrong? Lots, evidently.
The oil and gas lobby completely corrupted the COP process. The proceedings and outcomes of COP 27 make it clear that the fossil fuel sector now owns the COP agenda. The sole aim of their presence there was to prevent, not promote, progress on dealing with the global climate threat. And they succeeded.
None of the agreements negotiated in Egypt are binding. Like the national emissions reductions target put forward by UN Member States under the Paris Climate Accord, the commitments made at COP 27 are all merely aspirational.
There is no penalty for failing to achieve them. There have been 27 COPs since 1995 and still no formal binding agreement on cutting fossil fuel burning.
Except for a small blip during the pandemic, fossil fuel burning globally continues to rise, not fall.
As one participant pointed out, the aspirational scheme agreed upon in Sharm el Sheikh is a down payment on disaster. No one expects anyone to actually compensate developing countries that contribute little to the climate threat for the catastrophic impacts climate breakdown is now having on them.
With COP 28 scheduled to be held next year in the United Arab Emirates – one of the most notorious petrostates of them all – the only thing COP 27 accomplished was to expose what the COP summit process has become – a pointless travelling circus set up once a year out of which little but platitudes emerge.
The entire COP process is no longer fit for purpose. It is a bloated, corrupted process too moribund to come up with any measures effective enough, and binding enough, to bring about the changes we need to make to avoid climate catastrophe.
Voices calling for change get louder and louder. The COP process must be replaced with something more efficient that does its work largely hidden from the glare of the media.
It can no longer be allowed to be contaminated by corporate sponsorship. The process can no longer be allowed to be owned and corrupted by the global fossil fuel cartel and oil and gas sector lobbyists.
One suggested way of doing this is to establish an IPCC-like structure of smaller bodies, each addressing key issues, notably energy transition, restorative agriculture, transportation and issues related to damage and loss.
Each such body would be made up of representatives of majority-world countries empowered to negotiate legally binding agreements that are workable and achievable, whether it be halting and reversing deforestation, cutting carbon dioxide and methane emissions, drawing down coal use and addressing other threats to our future such as ocean acidification and deoxygenation.
These agreements can then be signed off by world leaders without the need for the hype, grandstanding and false hope now associated with COP process pronouncements.
We are witnessing a great bonfire of our heritage. Things are being lost that have not yet been found. We need to find them before they, and we, are gone.
* Robert Sandford holds the Global Water Futures Chair in Water and Climate Security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, based at McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
Dec. 2022
Rich nations can afford to pay their fair share to fix global crises, by Lidy Nacpil, Thuli Makama. (Thompson Reuters Foundation)
Will rich countries pay international climate reparations? Vanuatu first asked this question in 1991, and by 2013 the U.S. response was still a firm no. As State Department Climate Envoy Todd Stern put it, “The fiscal reality of the United States and other developed countries is not going to allow it.”
Throughout most of 2022, Stern’s successor John Kerry had a nearly identical response, saying, “there is not enough money in any country in the world to actually solve climate change. It takes trillions and no government that I know of is ready to put trillions into this." His counterparts in other wealthy governments held similar positions.
But the COP27 climate summit in November forced a change of script. Channelling frustration with the uneven impacts of the last few years of the pandemic, climate chaos and the energy crisis, Global South social movements made this the summit’s headline issue.
This helped cement unprecedented unity among the developing-country negotiating bloc and forced wealthy countries to agree to establish a ‘loss and damage’ fund to address escalating climate impacts. It was an important breakthrough in an otherwise disappointing summit, in which language on a just fossil-fuel phase out - notably the most critical measure to limit the amount of loss and damage - was excluded from the final text.
There is still a struggle ahead to ensure that rich nations fill this new fund with anything near their fair share of what is needed to respond to climate disasters. What is not in question is whether they can afford to.
Fossil fuel wealth
Wealthy governments control international financial systems and their domestic economies. We saw them make trillions of dollars in fiscal space available for bank bailouts in 2008 and for COVID-19 responses since 2020. And each year, they find trillions for militaries and fossil fuel subsidies. It is in this context that proposals to redistribute significant public funding to address overlapping global crises are gaining momentum.
The first is making fossil fuel companies pay. While many households were pushed into poverty this year, oil and gas companies made record profits and governments continued to subsidise them. Ending fossil fuel subsidies would raise at least $600 billion a year, and a 10% tax hike on oil and gas production about $400 billion in 2022. Along these lines, the EU and UK among others have introduced windfall taxes on oil and gas profits, and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and small island governments are calling for part of these to be levied toward the loss and damage fund.
There is also momentum to shift a particularly influential form of fossil subsidy - international public finance - towards renewable energy instead. At COP26, 39 countries and institutions promised to end their $28 billion a year in international finance for fossil fuels by the end of 2022. While Germany, Canada, the U.S. and Italy have yet to meet this pending deadline, a growing group of countries has.
Second, a small tax on extreme wealth would raise $2.5 trillion a year, and related proposals to crack down on tax dodging would significantly bolster this. Because the world’s richest 1% have caused 23% of greenhouse gas emissions growth since 1990, these measures are also needed to reach climate targets.
In a push that mirrored the loss and damage win, last week African countries secured a key step towards these reforms by passing a resolution for the U.N. to hold its own intergovernmental talks on tax rules rather than them remaining the sole domain of the OECD.
Calls to cancel Global South countries’ sovereign debts - incurred through our neo-colonial global financial system - predate the climate crisis but are intensifying with it. Campaigners brought these asks to COP27, pointing out that low-income countries are forced to pay wealthier countries the initial $100 billion a year they have been promised in climate finance many times over in debt service payments.
The economic volatility of the last few years has compounded debts in many countries, preventing public spending on basic needs, let alone climate action. In response, some governments and agencies are finally making serious debt proposals like cancelling $100 billion a year for the next decade.
Finally, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s popular Bridgetown Agenda to tackle debt and climate has components of many these proposals, as well as an ask for the International Monetary Fund to inject at least $650-billion worth of reserve assets into struggling economies annually through Special Drawing Rights.
Together, these modest proposals add up to well over $3.7 trillion a year. More ambitious versions, closer to the scale of the Global North’s ongoing and historical debts to the rest of the world, could free up even more. We have always had the money for a liveable future where no one must choose between heating and eating, or transport and shelter - what may finally be arriving is the political impetus for the governments most responsible for today’s global crises to pay up.
* Lidy Nacpil is coordinator of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) and Thuli Makama is Oil Change International’s Africa Director.

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Past eight years confirmed to be the eight warmest on record
by IFRC, World Meteorological Organization
12 Jan. 2023
Last year ‘eighth in a row’ of temperatures above pre-industrial level, threatening Paris target of 1.5°C. (IFRC, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre)
The past eight years were the warmest on record globally, fuelled by “ever-rising emissions and accumulated heat”, according to six international datasets consolidated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and explained yesterday.
The WMO says the global temperature last year was 1.15°C above an 1850–1900 baseline, and 2022 was the eighth year in a row that it reached at least 1°C above pre-industrial levels, a press release from Geneva said.
“The likelihood of – temporarily – breaching the 1.5°C limit of the Paris Agreement is increasing with time,” it added.
The persistence of a cooling La Niña, now in its third year, means that 2022 was not the warmest on record, but at least the sixth warmest nevertheless.
The WMO work shows a ten-year global average to 2022 of 1.14°C above the 19th century baseline, compared to the IPCC’s most recent figure 1.09°C for the decade to 2020, indicating that long-term warming continues.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said yesterday: “In 2022, we faced several dramatic weather disasters which claimed far too many lives and livelihoods and undermined health, food, energy and water security and infrastructure.
“Large areas of Pakistan were flooded, with major economic losses and human casualties. Record-breaking heatwaves have been observed in China, Europe, North and South America and drought in the Horn of Africa threatens a humanitarian catastrophe.
“There is a need to enhance preparedness for such extreme events and to ensure that we meet the UN target of early warnings for all in the next five years.”
The WMO said its provisional State of the Global Climate in 2022 report speaks of “record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere”, continuing to cause extreme heatwaves, drought and devastating floods, and affecting millions of people.
Responding to the latest figures on global temperature, IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said: “People around the globe are feeling the effects of our warming climate, and scientific data continues to reinforce this terrifying reality. Inclusive climate action, led by those most at risk, is key to combating the climate crisis".
Global warming and other long-term climate change trends are expected to continue because of record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Extreme heatwaves, drought and devastating flooding have affected millions and cost billions this year, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s provisional State of the Global Climate in 2022 report.


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