Around 35,000 delegates representing nearly 200 countries descended on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula for a fortnight of climate change negotiations at the UN Climate Change Conference. But as the dust settles in Sharm el-Sheikh, we ask what was achieved at COP27.
Keeping the process on track
This year’s Conference of the Parties (COP) took place against a complex geopolitical backdrop. In the weeks leading up to the conference, the “global north” and “south” were being pitted against one other and global solidarity and multilateralism were increasingly being called into question.
While teams of negotiators from all corners of the world were tired and frustrated with the often complicated and protracted negotiations, their professionalism prevailed, and a result was achieved.
Even though the outcome leaves much room for improvement, the fact that the UNFCCC process remains on track underscores the commitment of all Parties to advancing the work on international climate action. The EU will redouble its efforts to reach out to its like-minded partners to ensure climate realities are better reflected in the outcome of the next COP in the United Arab Emirates.
Fighting to keep 1.5 alive
The EU was clear about its headline objective from the outset of the conference. We must not backtrack on the goal set out in the Paris Agreement and reaffirmed in Glasgow last year: to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century in order to rein in the worst effects of the climate crisis.
To this end, the Egyptian COP presidency had branded Sharm el-Sheikh the “Implementation COP” and, in that spirit, the EU sought commitments from all major emitters to reduce their emissions even further to keep the heating of the planet to 1.5°C.
The Earth is already 1.2°C hotter than before the industrial revolution. If we do not seriously step up efforts, the science shows we’re on track to hit anywhere between 3.3 to 5.7ºC by the end of this century. Disappointingly, the agreement struck at the end of the two weeks in Egypt fell short of addressing the gap between what climate science says we need to do and the world’s current climate policies.
Moreover, despite support from many countries, including the EU and its 27 Member States, the final Sharm el-Sheikh text does not include an agreement to peak global emissions by 2025, nor a commitment to phase down all fossil fuels rather than just coal.
The lack of progress on mitigating the climate crisis at COP27 is not the end of the story. The EU team was able to stave off attempts to renege on Glasgow’s commitments to reduce emissions, and we will seek to raise ambition again at next year’s COP.
The EU will also not relent on its domestic climate action, and is even considering updating its target (nationally determined contribution) from 55 to around 57% net emission reductions by 2030. Equally, we will continue to work with our international partners to support them to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions more quickly in this critical decade.
Addressing loss and damage
The most controversial and yet pertinent result was achieved in the area of loss and damage — the issue that grabbed most of the press headlines during the COP.
Loss and damage refers to consequences of climate change that cannot be avoided by mitigation or adaptation measures. We have seen countless examples of these devastating impacts in 2022. Only months ago, one third of Pakistan stood under water as historic monsoon floods struck the country, destroying homes, killing over 1,700 and impacting 33 million people. Meanwhile, the Yangtze River dried up as China experienced extreme drought, and wildfires ravaged great swathes of southern Europe as the continent experienced its hottest summer on record.
Some countries — such as small island states and the least developed countries — suffer most from the consequences of climate change, while they often bear the least responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions. At this COP, the European Union heeded their calls. To break the deadlock in negotiations, the EU made a proposal to establish a dedicated fund with a focus on addressing loss and damage for the most vulnerable communities.
The EU’s condition was expanding the pool of countries who would provide funding beyond the traditional donors. The donor base will need to be agreed depending on the evolving economic realities, countries’ emissions, and their capacity to contribute.
While the new fund alone will not solve the problem of loss and damage, it had become a symbol of something greater. By resisting even the idea of creating the fund, the industrialised countries appeared deaf to the vulnerable countries’ pleas for help.
This is important because in 1992, a group of developed countries committed to help developing countries grow in a greener way and adapt to the impacts of extreme weather. Thirty years on, countries then defined as developing — such as China or Saudi Arabia — have seen their economies develop and their emissions outstrip many developed countries. They too should now contribute to addressing loss and damage for the most vulnerable.
At COP27, the EU helped launch several important initiatives to help tackle the climate crisis and signed important partnerships that will unlock new opportunities to embrace green energy sources.
- New partnerships with Kazakhstan and with Namibia secure cooperation on using raw materials sustainably and expanding the production of renewable hydrogen.
- The EU’s new Strategic Partnership with Egypt will establish deeper cooperation on renewable hydrogen and prepare the ground for a just energy transition in Egypt.
- Progress has been made in reducing methane emissions with the Global Methane Pledge now backed by over 150 countries.
- The EU announced a new Team Europe Initiative to provide over €1 billion of financing to help African countries to adapt to climate change.
- The EU launched Forestry and Climate Partnerships with the Republic of Congo, Guyana, Mongolia, Zambia and Uganda to reverse deforestation and improve protection of the climate and biodiversity.
- The role nature can play in solving the interconnected climate and biodiversity crises will also be a key focus of the upcoming COP15 on Biodiversity, which takes place in Montreal, Canada in December.
What is the EU doing?
With the European Climate Law, the EU has a legally binding commitment to reach climate neutrality (net-zero emissions) by 2050 and delivering at least -55% net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In the past month, we have reached political agreement with the European Parliament and Council on three ambitious Green Deal proposals:
- to phase out internal combustion engine cars by 2035
- to cut our emissions from transport, waste, and buildings more quickly
- to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by using our land in the best way possible and improving the health of our forests
Once agreement is reached on the full package of proposals, and depending on the details, the EU will be in a position to update its Nationally Determined Contribution (the climate action plan we submit to the United Nations) to reflect a higher target of around 57% reductions in net emissions of greenhouse gases.
But with the EU responsible for only 8% of global emissions, and falling, it’s time for others to act too. The EU is calling on all major emitters to follow through on their promises, go further, and deliver the highest possible level of ambition by the end of next year to lock in the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C.
The EU will continue its efforts to bring more of its international partners on board to secure a safer, greener and prosperous future for us all.