COP27’s Loss and Damage Deal Isn’t a Win. It Committed Us To Devastation

Yves here. One hates to be the voice of sobriety, but it is clear that there isn’t anything dimly approaching the necessary collective will to take on climate change. Unless you are able to go to a very low carbon footprint, which typically takes money (land, investment in some key infrastructure) and a sturdy back, you must participate i the current habitat-destroying economic system to put food on your family, as George Bush once put it. So it is no surprise that COP27 essentially whistled past the graveyard.

By Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales from 2014 to 2022. Originally published at openDemocracy

As the final agreement of COP27 was published, the powerful words of Pacific Climate Warrior Joseph Sikulu echoed in my mind.

“Today we wear black not just as a representation of us fighting to get the phase-out of fossil fuels in the text, but because where we come from we only wear black when we are in mourning,” Sikulu had told a press conference earlier that week.

In a reference to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was signed 30 years ago, Sikulu continued: “So today we are mourning a process that is failing us, a process that continues to stall and fail our people, a process that continues to be cumbersome and doesn’t take into account our realities. We are here to mourn UNFCCC in this COP process because it is failing everything that we are.”

Reading through COP27’s final agreement, we should all be in mourning. COP27 may have committed to a loss and damage fund to compensate countries most harmed by a climate emergency they did not create, but it has also committed to a pathway of devastation. This pathway will mean loss of life, livelihoods, cultures and species. It is one that could wash away island nations and turn agricultural land into desert.

Loss and damage funding is a win but without a clear commitment to decarbonisation and emissions reduction, it is a failure because there is no way to stop the climate disasters that cause loss and damage. There is also a lot of ambiguity about the fund, which neither outlines a funding process nor specifies who will pay and who will be eligible to receive the money, let alone defining ‘loss and damage’. Clearly, there is work to be done.

And with the world’s biggest emitters already failing to pay into the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – which was set up within the UNFCCC framework to help poorer countries adapt and mitigate climate effects – we will believe in a loss and damage fund when we see it. In September, it emerged that the UK alone had missed the deadline to provide $288m to the GCF, and failed to pay the $20.6m it had separately pledged to the adaptation fund.

We have been given clear and consistent warnings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: emissions must peak within a window of just three years if global warming is to avoid breaching the 1.5°C level that would destroy habitats and lead to further extreme weather disasters. This gives us just 25 months to reduce emissions. COP27 committed to this, with world leaders, including President Biden pledging to keep 1.5°C alive. But words are meaningless without targeted action, which clearly isn’t happening.

Annual COPs began with Berlin in 1995 and ever since, we have seen regular annual increases in carbon emissions (except for a small drop during the pandemic), as well as a rise in climate-related disasters. In Glasgow last year, an 11th-hour change to the document to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal reportedly brought COP26 president Alok Sharma to the brink of tears. This important nuance wasn’t revisited in Egypt, and efforts led by India to create a further commitment to phase down all fossil fuels – not just coal, the most polluting one – extended the negotiations but ultimately failed.

This was meant to be the COP of implementation, but it has been just another of ‘blah blah blah’. These negotiations are currently the only available mechanism to tackle the biggest crisis in human history. We need to radically rethink how we deliver change, hold countries to account for failing to deliver on their promises and ensure that we are genuinely progressing towards a net zero future. In short, COP needs to transition from words to action.

Since Glasgow, the force of the climate emergency has been felt around the world, whether in the floods that devastated a third of Pakistan, the ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa, or the first time a temperature of 40°C was recorded in the UK. It’s clear that we are living in a state of emergency, but how much of the world needs to be underwater until decisive action is taken?

In fact, COP appeared to have been hijacked by fossil fuel lobbyists. A negotiator I met leaving the venue claimed Saudi Arabia seemed to like being the “bad guy” in these negotiations because it benefits its fossil fuel investors. It was a chilling reminder of how a country with a significant petroleum sector can actually compromise progress

The negotiator I spoke to was on her way home. As the talks went into overtime, she highlighted the reality of the divide between rich and poor nations. The poorer ones, she said, are excluded from a summit’s conclusions if it overruns because it’s not easy or cheap to rearrange flights home. This COP was extended by 40 hours, reducing the diversity of negotiators from around the world, as well as the delegates present and the scrutiny of the press.

At COP27, there might not have been much action from the negotiating rooms but during the full two weeks, the venue was filled with climate action. It came from the delegates who had made their way from around the world to Sharm el-Sheikh to try and make their voices heard. From the woman in Senegal asking for renewable electricity to the Amazonian chief telling the world of the rising temperatures his community faces, action was everywhere.

The mantra of the Pacific Climate Warriors is, “We are not drowning, we are fighting”. It is a message of possibility in the face of potential tragedy. As we start down the road to COP28 in Dubai, it is important to remember those words and work together to fight for faster action on the climate emergency.

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25 comments

  1. Steve H.

    Peter Carter (2020): It’s set up to fail because, in the Convention it said that major decisions will be made by consensus… We still don’t have a definition of consensus under the Convention.

    Reply
  2. PlutoniumKun

    Unfortunately, while early conferences did make genuine progress in holding politicians to account, they’ve become ritualised in a way that allows politicians to parade their self importance without making any real commitments.

    I do however have a certain amount of sympathy for politicians here. There are no rewards for making major and expensive changes to their economy while when they get home they are facing waves of overlapping pressure groups who want the status quo unchanged, from major power hungry industries to the constituent who doesn’t want a cycle path outside his driveway.

    Reply
    1. Polar Socialist

      At least in the EU there has to be some reward for the politicians, the way it’s suddenly de-industrializing itself. Even the resource intensive industries seem to just shrug and migrate elsewhere without making much noise.

      Reply
  3. NorfolkSceptic

    Windmills generate power proportional to the cube of the windspeed. So a wind farm, rated at generating enough electric power for 1000 homes, which would be when there is a strong wind, say 50 mph, and a wind speed of half that, would only generate enough for 1000 / 8 = 125 homes.

    So, what would happen to those living in the other 875 homes: hypothermia? At a third of the rated wind speed, only 1000 / 27 = 37 homes could stay warm, so problem is not just when there is no wind.

    In the UK, coal fired power stations have been razed to the ground, before their replacements have even been planned, let alone built and operational, so the ‘Green Enthusiasts’ need to reflect on the position they have put the British people.

    Reply
    1. BillS

      Any engineer worth his/her salt knows that redundancy is the key to resilient systemns. I think any sane energy planner realizes that energy production requires a mix of sources. No electrical power system will ever rely on wind alone. I think you need to post info on the coal-fired capacity that was decommissioned in the UK and how it compares to required energy mix needed to keep the UK grid stable, rather than just vaguely complain how coal plants were taken offline. Old generating plants will be taken offline at some point and I think we can all agree that coal-fired electrical generation is a dirty, nasty business that needs to be phased out. In a working system that incorporates the proper capacity, no one will have to stay in the cold – even with so-called “green power”.

      Reply
      1. Ben

        The wind is always blowing some where so you spread out the area covered by windmills. You inter connect to other countries, You install solar, tidal power wave power to balance out generation. You could even put a cable to the other side of the world to balance solar. You could even put soar in space and beam the power down using microwaves although that would have a lot of embodied energy.

        Reply
    2. kam

      Wood pellets in British Columbia, Canada, are transported by truck to portside, loaded on ships through the Panama Canal all the way to Britain, then burned. Under the guise of renewable. The BTU’s from these wood pellets, barely cover the fossil fuel energy burned to deliver them to Britain, where they get burned using a $3million DAILY subsidy.
      “Climate Change”. A tool of the very wealthy to pick the pockets of the poor.

      Reply
      1. BillS

        Yes. Wood pellets are a classic scam. That does not mean that fossil fuel induced climate change does not exist or can be ignored. Ethanol from maize added to petrol/gasoline is another fossil fuel scam.

        Edit: IIRC wood pellets from Romania are shipped to north america from Europe- just to highlight the insanity of our economic system.

        Reply
        1. Kevin

          Not persuaded that CO2 is the cause of or the result of changing climate.
          However, we can both agree that some are getting very wealthy on the backs of the silenced voiceless.

          Reply
    3. thousand points of green

      In my home, I use anywhere between 2.1 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day in a good month to 3.8 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day in a bad month. Just this last most recent month, I was billed for 2.4 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day for the month.

      If each of the 1000 homes in your example use considerably more electricity than that per month, perhaps they could reduce their electricity use closer down to my level. If they could do that, then when the wind is blowing at 50 mph, they could use all the electricity they get which they are not using for other things . . . to overheat the homes. That way, when the wind goes down to half or a third of 50 mph, those homes could coast back down on the heat they stored up when the wind was blowing at 50 mph.
      Each home could be in effect its own “sand battery” in terms of storing heat for when the wind doesn’t blow as much.

      Also, the better insulated each home is, the less electricity it would need to keep itself warm with. Also, if each home had its south and south-west facing sides heavily glazed with triple-glass-layer windows to let in the maximum amount of daylight to degrade into heat inside the house, and not lose any of that heat back out through the glazing; then each home would need that much further less electric power to keep itself warm when the wind is blowing at less than 50 mph.

      Reply
  4. Amfortas the hippie

    it’ll change when it must.
    by then it will be too late for anything resembling mitigation…let alone forethought.
    geology and other portions of the Natural Sciences will be the final arbiters in our conflict with Mother Nature.
    from 07-10?:
    https://www.resilience.org/stories/2007-12-19/agriculture-closing-circle/
    https://underwoodgardens.com/russian-dacha-gardening-homescale-agriculture-feeding-everyone/

    the latter is one of the seed companies i do bidness with.
    dude mentions Cuban Ag since the Special period, post-USSR(Cuba caused a worldwide shortage of Mules)
    both the Cuban Model, as well as the main thing in the article, Russian dachas, rub our corps(es) wrong…self sufficiency goes against Hydraulic Despotism, which is the monopolist/monopsonists’ preferred business model.
    during the panic phase of covid…most of 2020…the grocery manager understood that there was a State of Exception…and got really creative in obtaining resources for the town.
    i was proud of him…and while he’s gone back to “normal”, he says he’ll never forget the lessons learned.
    local production of needs is what the world needs, in spite of the oligarchs.
    it wont happen soon enough to end or reverse the underlying problem, but it may mitigate matters for whomever is able to have systems inplace, or in reserve/parallel.

    so get yer black market chickens and gardens and rabbit hutches….and welding/blacksmith shops…and whatever else…up and running.
    eat all you can, and sell…or give away…the rest.

    Reply
    1. thousand points of green

      Or maybe barter with the rest of the food also, or maybe decay totally surplus food back down into compost to feed back to the soil to give the next generations of plants another chance to harvest the nutrients.

      Soil gets hungry too, and needs to be fed.

      By the way, here are some images of dacha gardens. Each one came from an url and some of those urls might be worth following up on.
      https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images?p=dacha+garden+image&fr=sfp&imgurl=https%3A%2F%2F2.bp.blogspot.com%2F-_-UHwi50EmY%2FUilouuKSmkI%2FAAAAAAAADNM%2F9_hrY8poStU%2Fs1600%2F2013-09-04%2B08.30.56.jpg#id=1&iurl=https%3A%2F%2F2.bp.blogspot.com%2F-_-UHwi50EmY%2FUilouuKSmkI%2FAAAAAAAADNM%2F9_hrY8poStU%2Fs1600%2F2013-09-04%2B08.30.56.jpg&action=click

      Also a Russian agronomist/gardener and writer named Nikolay Kurdyumov has written books about gardening and tiny scale farming. I know of two such books called Growing Vegetables With A Smile and Growing Fruit With A Smile.
      Here are some images of and about Nikolay Kuryumov.
      https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrErofEjn5j7CAkKJ5XNyoA;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZAMEc2VjA3Nj?p=nikolay+kurdyumov+image&fr=sfp

      Reply
  5. The Rev Kev

    Never had any faith in any good changes coming out of COP 27 so remain not disappointed at all. I see that COP28 is going to be held in Dubai. Perhaps it would be better to hold it on one of the Pacific islands that is gradually being swallowed by the ocean so that the delegates can see first hand what it all means in practice.

    Reply
  6. digi_owl

    Too much money at stake for Wall Street et al for anything to change sans a popular uprising.

    And these days, such a uprising is unlikely as first of all homeowners do not riot and second of all very few are farmers.

    Reply
    1. Henry Moon Pie

      In the U. S., if there’s any uprising, it will be by those who demand their Maypo regardless of planetary realities, just as the “uprisings” during Covid have all been about protecting the small businessman’s right to infect his customers.

      We’ve been well-programmed to be our own worst enemies, and I don’t think the fools who implemented all this built a back-door switch to turn the “I Must Consume” feature off.

      Reply
  7. KD

    There is no way that you are ever going to get a bunch of nation-states to agree to do anything substantive on climate change, given the free rider problem and the economic consequences of CO2 reductions. This has always been a pipe dream.

    If something were going to happen, you would need to come up with a scalable non-carbon fuel source that is cheaper per Kw than coal, oil, or natural gas, or affordable mitigation technologies.

    Reply
  8. JW

    Fundamental physics. You cannot run a modern economy that provides for its population with high entropy energy sources. You need low entropy. And if that is not going to be coal, oil and gas, then it has to be nuclear ( fission or fusion) unless there is a ‘magic’ new low entropy energy source.
    Anything else is literally tilting at windmills.

    Reply
  9. Anthony G Stegman

    Why do so many people continue to think that limiting global heating to an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius is still achievable (if only we do this and do that)? Regardless of what happens going forward the world is already well on its way to blowing past 1.5 degrees, and is rapidly heading toward 3 degrees increase. A whole lot more noise needs to be made. The scientific community is doing the world a disservice by not sounding the alarm loud and clear, as well as unceasingly.

    Reply
  10. Cetra Ess

    The mentioned small drop in carbon emissions during the start of the pandemic is a major clue as to what must happen to draw down emissions. I remember thinking, as I admired all my neighbour’s cars parked in their driveways, every single one of them, that I hope scientists were paying attention, gathering data, because this right here is an experiment.

    I haven’t heard much of anything about it, though.

    Reply
    1. R.A.

      The “small drop in carbon emissions” that occurred during the lockdowns at the beginning of the pandemic did not show up in the measurement of CO2 conducted at the Mauna Loa observatory. The reason is because human emissions of CO2 are too small a percentage of total CO2 emissions to show up in the measurements. The vast majority of CO2 is emitted from the oceans. Earth is a water world, with land only being 1/5th of the total surface. So, while human industry is capable of local effects that can be problematic–think Los Angeles smog, or major Asian cities that have air quality problems–we have less effect on Earth’s total climactic conditions than you might think.

      We can and do cause environmental problems–air and water pollution, habitat loss for wild animals, etc. But we are not in the midst of a “climate crisis”. Crippling industrial society by trying to eliminate fossil fuels (not a practical possibility if you want human civilization to continue) will not cause any useful change in Earth’s climate. The latter is basically controlled by things like the sun, eccentricities in Earth’s orbit and similar factors beyond our control. We can have some effect on pollution, which we already have some experience with–for example, regulations controlling car exhausts have led to some improvement in air quality in many urban areas.

      We can do similar kinds of things to deal with specific problems, but trying to impose “carbon taxes” or regulate “carbon emissions”–that is a big scam that only benefits certain financial interests, while impoverishing the rest of us. And the whole “green renewable energy” push is part of the scam. Solar panels, windmills and electric vehicles have their uses, but trying to use them to replace current power sources and transport would actually have severe environmental consequences for no benefit to society.

      Reply
      1. thousand points of green

        If we are not in the midst of a “climate crisis”, then what is it we are in the midst of? If the fast-forward meltoff of all the glaciers and ice fields that areas downstream from the Andes and the Himmalayas depend on for steady release of water is not a “crisis”, then what is it?

        If the vast majority of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from the ocean, why did it only start coming up out of the ocean faster enough to raise the atmospheric ppm of CO2 from 280 or so ppm at the dawn of the industrial revolution to 412 ( or whatever) ppm it is at now?

        Reply
  11. New reader

    Wasn’t the department of energy created in 1977 with the goal to get the USA using other sources of energy other than oil? They have a budget of $30 Billion a year and we haven’t made many changes so far. I think in the end human nature will save the earth. Afterall we are most likely all going to kill eachother long before we kill the planet.

    Reply
  12. +

    Very informative podcast debate regarding climate change hosted by Lex Fridman. Episode 339 with guests Bjorn Lomberg and Andrew Revkin.

    Reply

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