A successful COP is one where everyone leaves unhappy—but what happens when the COP nears failure?
With misaligned priorities of developed and developing countries, many of these international climate conferences rarely produce the outcomes small island states like Trinidad and Tobago desperately need to fight the climate crisis. Instead, such activities usually produce watered-down, compromised climate policy and financing facilities developed with politically charged statements that do not always translate into action.
Of the 32-point agenda items set out at the start of COP27 two weeks ago, as of last evening, nine had been agreed to, eight were yet to have a decision on them, fourteen have had no outcome and the decision on bunker fuels has been postponed.
Amongst a host of other critical issues, at the centre of the dysfunction has been the struggle between wealthy and developing nations to find common ground in developing a Loss and Damage Fund.
Loss and Damage was added to the COP27 agenda, becoming a win for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), who have been pushing this effort for the last 30 years. However, getting Loss and Damage onto the agenda was only the first step.
Multiple developed countries continue to stonewall efforts to create the fund. The United States has repeatedly said it will not support creating a funding facility and has held strong opposition.
However, in a surprising reversal yesterday morning, Frans Timmermans, the vice president of the European Commission, said, “We were reluctant about a fund. It was not our idea. I know from experience it takes time before a fund can be established. But since they [developing countries] were so attached to it, we have agreed. This is our final offer.”
There are three options on the negotiating table for creating a Loss and Damage Fund – create a fund at COP27, wait a year to create the fund at COP28 or establish “funding arrangements” in 2023 to be operationalised at COP29 in 2024.
The G77 Plus China bloc, representing 134 nations, including Trinidad and Tobago, said the latter two options are not tenable.
At a press conference yesterday, Sherry Rehman, the Federal Climate Change Minister from Pakistan and chair of G77 plus China, said, “We are committed to keeping to option 1 with changes that we have submitted.”
At another press conference earlier this week, speaking as chair of AOSIS and the Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment of Antigua and Barbuda, Molwyn Joseph, said, “We have the opportunity at this COP to plant the first seed of restoration for these countries that are devastated. That is the establishment of the Loss and Damage fund.”
He continued, “When you open the bank account, you don’t have all the funds in it. You build it up. And that’s what I’m saying. Let us open a bank account here in Egypt. Then, we identify the financial flows into this fund so that when the children of our populations’ homes are blown apart, we have funds to restore their homes.”
At an informal stock take press conference yesterday, COP27 president HE Sameh Shoukry said, “I remain concerned at the number of outstanding issues, including on finance mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage and their inter-linkages. I call upon parties to urgently work together to resolve these outstanding issues as swiftly as possible.”
This gridlock has led to the conference, slated to end at 6 pm yesterday (Egypt time), being extended into today, with the new, tentative end by late tonight into Sunday morning. However, according to Special Representative of the COP27 president, Ambassador Wael Aboulmagd, this delay is not a testament for or against a COP Presidency.
A a press conference yesterday, Aboulmagd said, “It is a very broad and complex process with many sovereign states that don’t have a voting culture or mechanism on substantive issues. It’s subject to so many crosswinds that might affect how things transpire. What matters, really, is to have meaningful outcomes.”
He added that he’d even take the conference through Monday if it meant a meaningful outcome. Eight of the ten most recent COPs have been overrun by more than 24 hours, with only six finishing on the scheduled day.
It is important to note that the global action seen at COP21 in 2015, which produced the Paris Agreement, is an exception, not the norm. COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, has turned into Copenhagen 2.0—where talks collapsed in 2009 at COP15. Many diplomats and negotiators have expressed anger at the level of dysfunction of the conference over the past two weeks. One diplomat, who requested to remain anonymous due to the nature of the remarks, said to a press pool, “It’s a s---show, but it’s the only s---show in town.”
This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organised by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Centre for Peace and Security.