With COP Gridlocked, Critics Blast ’27 Years of Obstructionism, Delay, and Greenwashing’

Yves here. Sadly, the COP producing very little is no surprise. What is maybe a surprise is more and more people agitating against climate inaction.

By Jessica Corbett. Originally published at Common Dreams

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt was extended until at least Saturday, campaigners, scientists, and others expressed alarm and frustration over the “gridlocked” negotiations dominated by rich countries and fossil fuel lobbyists.

“I remain concerned at the number of outstanding issues, including on finance mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and their inter linkages,” Sameh Shoukry, an Egyptian diplomat serving as COP27 president, tolddelegates at the International Convention Center.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church said in a statement that “as we race towards climate breakdown, once again we are seeing rich countries trying to evade their responsibility to step up and do their fair share of climate action.”

“As extreme weather events wreak havoc around the world, the U.K. and U.S. are parroting the mantra of keeping 1.5°C alive while doing exactly the opposite by continuing to expand damaging fossil fuel projects,” she noted, referring to the more ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris agreement. “They are failing to stump up the climate finance they owe and which Global South countries need to adapt to and recover from the impacts of global heating.”

Meanwhile, Church continued, “big polluters who brought the climate to the brink of breakdown are cynically bargaining away the future of people and planet in order to eke out a few extra years of profits from business-as-usual, by pushing dangerous fantasy techno-fixes and human rights trashing nature-fixes.”

“Nothing short of a complete transformation of our economic system and phaseout of fossil fuels is needed to avoid complete climate breakdown,” she stressed. “World leaders lack the political will to take the necessary action, but people everywhere are rising up and fighting dirty energy projects and putting in place the real, community-based solutions which can deliver climate justice.”

Joining weekly global youth climate strikes, young campaigners marched in Sharm El-Sheikh with a message for nations of the Global North: “Don’t just say it, pay it!”

“The division between the two sides has been clear; the highest polluters have continued to block and delay the bare minimum funding through poor climate finance mechanisms such as the global shield,” Fatemah Sultan of Fridays for Future Pakistan told The Guardian.

“Coming from a country like mine, Pakistan, which does not even emit 1% of global emissions, we are not here talking about the loss and damages of tomorrow, we are talking about the ones from my yesterday, my today, and my tomorrow,” the activist added.

Brian O’Callaghan, lead researcher and project manager for the Oxford Economic Recovery Project, suggested that “if COP were a football rivalry, it would be amongst the most lopsided; fossil fuel interests: 27, humankind: 0.”

As Common Dreams has reported, at least 636 fossil fuel lobbyists have been registered at this year’s conference, up 25% from COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland last year.

“There have been successes, but mostly, it’s been 27 years of obstructionism, delay, and greenwashing,” said O’Callaghan. “The world is already moving faster than the COP processes—we need to double down on that trend.”

“In many ways, ambition under climate treaties has moved backwards since the foundational” U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of 1992, the expert explained, recalling when “developed countries committed to pay for all forms of mitigation and adaptation.”

“Today, developed countries do all that they can to avoid that promise,” he added. “The multilateral system is based on trust—every year developed countries are eroding that trust.”

A key focus of COP27 has been loss and damage (L&D) financing. Nations of the Global South are pushing for the creation of a fund to help them deal with devastating climate disasters.

While admitting his “reluctance” to stray from “existing instruments,” European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans unveiled a proposal early Friday, saying that because the Group of 77 (G77) members “are so attached to a fund, we have agreed.”

Mary Robinson, chair of the Elders and former president of Ireland, was among those who welcomed the European Union’s proposal. It “puts us on the cusp of a historic breakthrough,” she said, adding that “we’ve gone from not even having loss and damage finance on the agenda at COP27 to having a fund, a mechanism, and a flow of finance all within our grasp.”

Seve Paeniu, Tuvalu’s minister of finance, said that “to me that is a major concession and a major breakthrough. It is our hope that will end up in the text of the cover decision.”

However, a G77 negotiator who asked not to be named was unimpressed, telling The Guardian that “it is a predictable attempt by the E.U. to break up the G77 in talks. Of course, it’s not a breakthrough. They are merely repeating its original negotiating position by making it sound like a compromise when they know very well that it is not. It is completely disingenuous.”

Brandon Wu, head of policy and campaigns at ActionAid USA, was similarly critical at Friday’s Demand Climate Justice press conference, saying that “the loss and damage fund proposal put forward by the E.U. is a compromise that includes a number of poison pills.”

“Not only does it narrow who can receive funds, it also widens the number of countries required to pay into the pot—which is an abdication of responsibility. Developed countries have failed to meet their climate finance obligations, most obviously the $100 billion goal,” Wu said, emphasizing the Global North’s “moral and legal obligations” on the L&D front.

While developed countries agreed at COP15 in 2009 to put $100 billion annually toward climate action in the Global South by 2020—a pledge they have yet to fulfill—a climate clock erected at this year’s summit shows that, based on research by the Center for Global Development, the Global North owes more like $31.8 trillion in loss and damage funding.

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  1. John

    Nothing of substance will happen until the effects are catastrophic and not then until the pitchforks are out. The oligarchs do not care. They think they can evade the fate of the rest of us.

  2. Karl

    We’ll get to it soon. First we have to deal with Ukraine. Oh, then inflation. And then…. Forget the pitchforks, though. It’s not the oligarchs. It’s us. 8 billion of us.

    1. jsn

      We didn’t choose to be organized this way.

      This organization was chosen for us and it’s the to 20% who chose it doing 80% of the damage.



    This is nuts. Countries are not collaborating on developing a strategy to address climate change, which will require a massive change to the present world economic system. This system of wealth creation and accumulation from the exploitation of natural resources is as old as history itself. This extractive system is no longer viable, yet it’s all we know.

    Instead, COP27 focuses on loss and damage financing, the same transactional capitalist approach that created the climate crisis to begin with. It’s sad but understandable that humans thinking and imagination is limited to a paradigm of predation to achieve prosperity. Whether it’s extracting wealth via natural resources by preying on nature or extracting wealth via preying on human nature, it’s what we’ve always done to accumulate personal wealth. This is what has to stop in order to successfully address climate change.

    It seems obvious to me that humans are not capable of making such an abrupt and dramatic change to ways of thinking that go back millennia.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I like to believe that Humankind is remarkably capable of making abrupt and dramatic changes to ways of thinking that go back millennia. Only certain members of Humankind are incapable of making abrupt and dramatic changes — the Power Elite.

  4. LY

    The best short description of what is going in is “predatory delay”. The tactics and ideology is from the same people who fought tobacco regulation.

    It’s more intractable, since jobs, lifestyle, land use policies, mass transit, etc. must change.

  5. ChrisPacific

    I heard our Minister for Climate Change on the radio this morning. He said that there was a push from a number of countries to roll back and weaken the existing targets (to “before Paris”) and that it had been “trench warfare” trying to prevent that from happening. Needless to say it’s not looking good.

  6. YankeeFrank

    I’ve noticed a serious problem with NC’s viewpoint on issues like covid and global warming. I fear its a fundamental issue dealing with levels of faith in the ability of our scientific infrastructure to predict and quantify threats. Scientific endeavor is notoriously bad at predicting the future (and current) state of complex phenomena such as climate and pandemics. As we have seen with covid, scientists are not seers. Scientific research, a supposedly empirical endeavor, is victim to the same biases and herd mentality as any other human project. The exaggeration of what can be predicted is endemic. The scientific method is a limited tool and it’s understandable that we would wish to push its boundaries to obtain certainty on important questions. It behooves us, however, to use caution when making such attempts. In many of these efforts we find techno-utopian fantasy replacing rigor and NC is a victim of this process.

    To an extent its also the problem we see when experts in one domain attempt to venture answers in other domains. When it comes to economics and finance NC has established a solid reputation for sober and thoughtful analysis. I don’t see the same rigor when attempts are made here to do the same with scientific research. This is understandable. Problems arise when we stretch beyond our areas of expertise. Trust is placed in dubious sources that claim certainty. And many scientists are (and always have been) guilty of making claims that go well beyond what they can empirically show. People turn to them for answers and they provide. Its frustrating to not know. I get it. But we suffer from a dearth of scepticism about these very important matters as a result. Emotion takes precedence.

    The Great Barrington Declaration has been described as an insane proposal on NC. It is not. It is a cautious approach to a complex situation we can’t fully grasp. Lockdowns have caused severe societal breakdown on many vectors that should have been considered when weighing them against other proposals. The mrna covid vaccines are experimental gene therapies with a dubious (to say the least) pre-pandemic record. Moderna was going out of business prior to the pandemic for the very reason that mrna gene therapy was a failing project. It has now been vigorously resuscitated. Not to mention their highly dubious efficacy and clear harm caused to many. See Peter Campbell’s recent video of the British Parliament committee on covid vaccine harm for a sober assessment. The GBD proposed only giving the vax to those most at risk like the elderly and obese. This was a cautious, thoughtful approach. I’m not saying everything in their proposal is perfect but is that the bar we’re setting for the opposition to the CDC? Why the vitriol against thoughtful consideration?

    Climate scientists who don’t subscribe precisely to the looming apocalypse theory of global warming don’t get the same funding as the sky-is-falling crowd.

    Both of these complex scientific projects suffer from the same problem: money influence and its corruption of scientific knowledge and limits. NC is great at exploring the influence and corrupting nature of the allocation of money when it comes to politics, finance and banking, even healthcare. I won’t say it is totally blind to money’s influence on these scientific putsches (which is what they are) but it seems to me NC severely discounts its effect in the drive toward answers.

    Scientists are no different from other people. An old friend of mine, a theoretical physicist and engineer who worked on the Manhattan Project and many other cold war projects, scoffed at the notion that scientists were a noble breed. They are guilty of the same sins as everyone else and even greater due to the power and influence they obtain by promising results they cannot deliver. I’ve gone on too long already but I hope I’ve provided something to think about.

    1. Lambert Strether

      I will put your advocacy of Great Barrington and whatever your comment about climate might mean to one side in order to critique your view of NC, a field in which I am more expert. Leaving aside the straw manning (“scoffed at the notion that scientists were a noble breed”), vague, link-free innuendo (“trust is placed in dubious sources that claim certainty”), and outright personal insults to the writers on the site (“emotion takes precedence”)*, I take this to be the heart of the your concerns, such as they are:

      To an extent its also the problem we see when experts in one domain attempt to venture answers in other domains. When it comes to economics and finance NC has established a solid reputation for sober and thoughtful analysis. I don’t see the same rigor when attempts are made here to do the same with scientific research. This is understandable. Problems arise when we stretch beyond our areas of expertise.

      I would suggest you give consideration to the idea of actually reading NC, because your “understanding” of the site is less than zero. The overwhelming science story of the day is SARS-CoV-2, so I will focus on it. You must surely be aware that NC has cultivated a volunteer Brain Trust including a clinical practitioner, an epidemiologist, and a molecular biologist, to vet our Covid material and keep us aware of current trends. (We sought them out for their “expertise,” not their views; they often disagree). How does that lack “rigor”? As for Links coverage, I freely admit that, like our readers, I’m a self-educated layperson (as indeed anyone must be who does not put their entire trust in the CDC, WHO, and the administration of the day). That said, I couldn’t be prouder of NC’s coverage of Covid science. For example, we systematically seek out and vet the latest Covid studies, both published and preprint, and readers are given every opportunity to critique them, with quotations from Abstracts, etc. How does this lack “rigor”? Further, NC was both early and right on both #CovidIsAirborne and the institutional incapacities of CDC. How does being early and right demonstrate a lack of “rigor”? Finally, we have testimonials from readers (professionals and laypeople alike) that information presented at NC saved them from suffering and possible death from SARS-CoV-2. Did NC accomplish that by being sloppy?**

      Your comment is a bad faith assault on the integrity of the site, its authors, and those who volunteer to help us. Don’t do anything like this ever again.

      NOTE * One might claim, as a defense, that all this verbiage is not directed at NC proper, that these are merely generalized observations, addressed to the air, as it were, mere cultural criticism than anything else. I’m not a fan of passive aggression, and I don’t believe it for a minute. In any case, the comment begins “I’ve noticed a serious problem with NC’s viewpoint on issues,” which is a topic sentence.

      ** One could argue, of course, that these are mere anecdotes. The counterargument would be that — most — NC readers have honed their critical thinking skills, making their testimonials trustworthy far above the norm.

      1. kriptid

        I would like to first say that I have become a devoted reader of this site over the last year or so and that I consider myself deeply indebted to everyone here for the high-level writing and commentary.

        YankeeFrank might be rightfully accused of a poor choice with that initial sentence, but I sympathize with a lot of what is being said here. I say this a person with PhD training in the biological sciences who has worked in academic research in the life sciences for a decade.

        I have both seen and experienced first hand pressure being exerted by those in leadership to sensationalize and cherry pick data to obtain significant and interesting results. Everything is about positioning oneself appropriately in the funding game. It has nearly become a prerequisite for securing employment that will enable you to live at a median income level within academic science. The significance of this problem is difficult to overstate. It is nothing short of a total credibility crisis, in my opinion, the origins of which are too complicated to traverse into here.

        The average person greatly underestimates the percentage of grifters in the scientific community; and yes, I mean the so-called hard sciences, especially in medicine and biology. Worse yet, this doesn’t even account for the well-intentioned but poorly-equipped (whether materially or mentally) groups who just ape into CurrentThing(TM) at a given moment (like Covid in the last couple of years). And many of these same ill-intentioned or perhaps merely ill-informed people are also acting as peer reviewers for others who are participating in the same game.

        These people need to be put under a critical lens. They do not deserve blind trust just because they are properly credentialed and passed peer review which, to share my personal view, serves as much of a method for homogenization of thought as it does an objective evaluation of plausibility. This group in the sciences deserves the same level scrutiny as we give the other PMC types of a more traditional rentier persuasion. Which, unless I’m mistaken, seems like what YankeeFrank was trying to convey. And I think they are correct to point out, if I may say as a card-carrying member of the so-called scientific community, that sometimes folks here would be served by exercising a bit more caution on the two particular topics in question, if for no other reasons than those above.

        Thank you again for what you’re doing here. I sincerely share this comment in an effort to be helpful and constructive, not combative.

    2. Basil Pesto

      Lockdowns have caused severe societal breakdown on many vectors that should have been considered when weighing them against other proposals.

      such as?

      all erstwhile zero cov countries of 2020/21recorded superior economic, health and “freedom” outcomes to those who used GBD/herd immunity policy papered over with “mockdowns” like the USA and UK.

      The mrna covid vaccines are experimental gene therapies

      no, they aren’t

      to say nothing of evoking the malign influence of money in science while then uncritically promoting the Great Barrington Declaration, for Christ’s sake.

      Their policy is not insane; it is barbaric. It (and their policy has become dominant; it is why we are now “living with Covid”) has seen millions killed, and is going to kill millions more. Almost all preventable, as all the SARS1 deaths that never happened were. It has immiserated many more with permanent illness, and is not going to stop doing so. Maybe this doesn’t rate as “societal breakdown on many vectors”. But to call it “a cautious approach to a complex situation we can’t fully grasp”? By infecting as many people as quickly as possible and rationalising it under the just completely inapplicable doctrine of herd immunity? while pretending to be able to “protect the vulnerable”, when in reality, the vulnerable have died in very large numbers? now that’s some insane bullshit right there.

      No, not all new scientific studies and papers are perfect, or even good, but there is a basic level of objective and observable reality that we are collectively going to have to come to terms with over a period of decades, and none of it is reflected in the tendentious claptrap put out by the GBD. The GBDists, broadly speaking, are simply wrong. always have been, and will continue to be. but I’m sure you will stay hitched to their wagon for as long as you possibly can.

      with this and the other lame citations (“scientists are capable of mediocrity”? no shit. The Brownstone Institute’s roster proudly lists a litany of worthless mediocrities. and lazy and half-heartedly tossed out “but, but funding pressures!!”? give me a break) you make appeals to epistemological rigor? are you taking the piss? I would hope most NC readers aren’t as easily played for fools by political charlatans as you apparently have been.

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