COP 27 refers to the 27th meet of the Conference of Parties held recently at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt w.e.f Nov. 06-18, 2022. COP 27 brought together more than 45,000 participants who shared ideas, solutions and built partnerships and coalitions. Indigenous peoples, local communities, cities and civil society, including youth and children, showcased how they are addressing climate change and shared how it impacts their lives.
It is now almost three decades that the governments all across the globe have been meeting at different places to deliberate upon the threats emerging out of climate change and to come out with tangible and appropriate remedial strategies and actions that are binding upon the member states. An overwhelming consensus prevails among the worldwide scientific community that our planet is undergoing significant and highly problematic shifts. Experts point to rising sea levels, record-breaking temperatures across the globe, declining air quality, erratic weather patterns with a more heavily polluted environment as different manifestations of climate change. All this is due to the global warming as a result of increased emission of green house gases; a lot of which are as a result of various anthropogenic activities. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that greenhouse gas emissions must decline 45% by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
The Conference of Parties (COP) is the apex decision-making body of the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC was formed in March 1994 to stabilize the greenhouse gas emissions and to protect the earth from the threat of climate change. COP members have been meeting every year since the year 1995. All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP at which they review the implementation of the Convention and any other legal instruments that the COP adopts and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the Convention, including institutional and administrative arrangements. The COP Presidency rotates among the five recognized UN regions viz that is Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe and Western Europe and Others. There is a tendency for the venue of the COP to also shift among these groups. The number of member countries in the UNFCCC has reached 198, a near universal membership. The first conference (COP 1) was held in 1995 in Berlin. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the 3rd conference of parties (COP 3) held in Kyoto and so the said protocol got its name.
Under the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, every country on earth is treaty-bound to ‘avoid dangerous climate change’, and find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally in an equitable way. The COPs is the only forum on the climate emergency in which the opinions and concerns of the poorest third world countries carry equal weight to that of the developed world like the US and China. Under the landmark 2015 agreement, nations committed to holding global heating to no more than 20C above pre-industrial levels.
LOSS AND DAMAGE
In the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, loss and damage is the harm caused by anthropogenic (human-generated) climate change. As the UNFCCC was being drafted in 1991, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) proposed the creation of an international insurance pool to compensate the most vulnerable small island and low-lying coastal developing countries for ‘Loss and Damage’ arising from sea level rise. In the proposal, the amount to be contributed by each country to this pool would be determined by their relative contribution to global emissions and their relative share of global gross national product, a formula modeled on the 1963 Brussels Supplementary Convention on Third Party Liability in the field of Nuclear Energy. This proposal was rejected, and when the UNFCCC was adopted in 1992 it contained no mention of Loss or Damage.
Loss and damage was first referred to in a formally-negotiated UN text in the 2007 Bali Action Plan, which called for ‘Disaster reduction strategies and means to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change’. The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, created in 2013 acknowledges that ‘Loss and Damage’ associated with the adverse effects of climate change includes, and in some cases involves more than, that which can be reduced by adaptation’. However, it makes no provisions for liability or compensation for loss and damage. The Paris Agreement provides for the continuation of the Warsaw International Mechanism but explicitly states that its inclusion ‘does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation’.
After three decades of pushing for compensation for 'Loss and Damage' caused by climate change, the 27th Conference of Parties adopted the proposal. The parties agree to utilize the Santiago Network, established at COP 25 and to establish and operationalize a Loss and Damage fund particularly for nations most vulnerable to the climate crisis after nearly 40 hours of negotiation beyond the prescribed Friday deadline. A ‘transitional committee’ has been formed to work out the modalities regarding who will manage the fund, whether contributions are expected from large developing countries and what the fair share of contributors will be. The committee will make recommendations to enable the actual adoption of the fund at the next Conference of the Parties (COP) of the U.N.’s Framework Convention for Climate Change, to be held in the United Arab Emirates next year. India reacted to this by saying that World has waited for this too long. The agreement and pledges made on loss and damage aim to unlock greater ambitions for mitigation and adaptation. During COP27, financial pledges for loss and damage funding came from multiple countries, including Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, and New Zealand, joining Denmark and Scotland, which had made pledges previously. The expected monetary compensation from the L&D fund is estimated to be nearly $500 billion and rising by $200 billion annually, a statement from the office of the President.
Besides Loss and Damage, COP 27 also saw the launch of a new five-year work program to promote climate technology solutions in developing countries. Regarding mitigation, a mitigation work programme was launched in Sharm el-Sheikh, aimed at urgently scaling up mitigation ambition and implementation. The work programme will start immediately following COP27 and continue until 2026 when there will be a review to consider its extension. Governments were also requested to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their national climate plans by the end of 2023, as well as accelerate efforts to phase down unabated coal power and phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. The countries launched a package of 25 new collaborative actions in five key areas: power, road transport, steel, hydrogen and agriculture.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced a USD 3.1 billion plan to ensure everyone on the planet is protected by early warning systems within the next five years. The UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Expert Group on Net-Zero Commitments published a report at COP27, serving as a how-to guide to ensure credible, accountable net-zero pledges by industry, financial institutions, cities and regions. The G7 and the V20 (‘the Vulnerable Twenty’) launched the Global Shield against Climate Risks, with new commitments of over USD 200 million as initial funding. Implementation is to start immediately. Announcing a total of USD 105.6 million in new funding, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Walloon Region of Belgium, stressed the need for even more support for the Global Environment Facility funds targeting the immediate climate adaptation needs of low-lying and low-income states.
The new Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership, announced at the G20 Summit held in parallel with COP 27 will mobilize USD 20 billion over the next three to five years to accelerate a just energy transition. Important progress was also made on forest protection with the launch of the Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership, which aims to unite action by governments, businesses and community leaders to halt forest loss and land degradation by 2030. These pledges will help many more vulnerable communities adapt to climate change through concrete adaptation solutions. Young people in particular were given greater prominence at COP27, with UN Climate Change’s Executive Secretary promising to urge governments to not just listen to the solutions put forward by young people, but to incorporate those solutions in decision and policy making. Young people made their voices heard through the first of its kind pavilion for children and youth, as well as the first-ever youth-led Climate Forum. Indian concern regarding climate finance wherein the goal of developed countries to mobilize jointly $100 billion per year by 2020 was not yet met was also raised with serious concern.
The Loss and Damage Fund as envisioned in the COP 27 is still far from the reality. It is yet to get a concrete shape and form. Another issue of concern is that whether other issues would be taken before the global stock take, a five-year appraisal by countries of the impact of their actions to curb climate change. For India Pallavi Das, from the Council for Energy, Environment and Water seems right to state that, ‘At COP 27, India negotiated from a position of strength and ensured that the debate moved from coal phase out to fossil phase down. She further said that India should continue to corner gas and oil-producing countries to ensure that the world is on track to achieve the 1.5°C target. India needs not to be bowed down by the hegemony of the developed world. Replying to a calling attention notice on ‘situation arising out of climate change in the country and steps taken by the government in regard thereto’ in Rajya Sabha, the than minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Mr. Prakash Javadekar had said that over 70 per cent of the green house gases emission was due to the developed countries while India's contribution is just three per cent. India is already taking pro active steps towards the issue. About 33 states and union territories have prepared their climate action plan. India is also working towards creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
(Dr. Kumar is a faculty at SKUAST-Kashmir; can be reached at email@example.com)