Key takeaways on cover decision “Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan”
What is the cover decision?
The cover decision is a document released at the end of COP which summarises the main political goals, targets, and priorities as agreed on by all participating countries. The host country, in this case Egypt, is responsible for drafting and revising the document as negotiations unfold. It’s important to examine not only what is included in the cover decision, but also nuances around language and wording, and what did not make it in. What are the important things to know about the COP27 cover decision, the Sharm El-Sheikh Implementation Plan?
New Loss and Damages Fund
The establishment of a long-awaited loss and damages fund is one of the most celebrated outcomes of this year’s COP, and something which Canada supported in negotiations. The loss and damages fund, distinct from mitigation and adaptation climate financing, will help developing countries respond to destructive climate impacts. While adaptation financing might help countries pay for flood-prevention infrastructure, the loss and damages fund will help countries rebuild when flooding or other climate-related disasters inevitably occur.
The establishment of the fund is the result of years of advocacy and a step forward for climate justice, with support flowing from developed countries who have contributed the most to climate change to less developed countries who are least responsible but most impacted.
Within the framework of the COP, Canada had prepared in advance so that loss and damage would be the subject of in-depth discussions, but also that the subject be placed on the agenda - which had never before been the case since the beginning of the existence of the COPs. It will be important to see how details about the source of the funding and its operation get filled in over the next several years.
Adaptation and Mitigation
The Global Goal on Adaptation guides international adaptation efforts. This year, countries agreed to take the next step of fleshing out a framework that will define how the goal will be reached. Separately from COP, Canada also recently launched its first National Adaptation Strategy, which will provide funding and tools for communities across the country to protect themselves from climate impacts.
Internationally, adaptation will require financing to flow to developing countries, and there are significant gaps between current levels of adaptation finance and what the most at-risk countries actually need to respond to climate impacts. The cover text only reiterated the same commitment made in Glasgow by developed countries to double adaptation finance by 2025.
Countries also continued to develop the Mitigation Work Programme which was agreed to at Glasgow. But the final agreement for that programme (separate from the cover decision) was weak, saying the programme should be “non-prescriptive, non-punitive, facilitative, respectful of national sovereignty and national circumstances” and “not result in new targets or goals.”
Climate financing usually refers to areas related to emissions mitigation efforts such as renewable energy development, though it can also be a more general term covering both mitigation and adaptation financing. In 2009, richer countries promised $100 billion a year (USD) in climate financing for developing countries, but they have never reached this goal. The International Energy Agency estimates that developing countries need an estimated $5.6 trillion to meet their 2030 goals. Canada has stepped up its commitments, and is also leading a process alongside Germany to ensure developed countries live up to their climate financing promises. But we are not leading by example— in 2020, Canada only contributed $1,505 million, only a third of its fair share of that $100 billion.
Countries also agreed to a Just Transition Work Programme to support workers in the fossil fuel industry, particularly coal workers, that will include retraining programmes and other forms of social protection. Climate Action Network notes it will be important to make sure that just transition is not co-opted to mean false solutions but remains focused on workers’ needs and rights as well as the importance of social dialogue.
Continued silence around phasing out fossil fuels
A long-standing and shameworthy tradition of COP cover texts has been focusing only on commitments to reduce emissions while avoiding any language around getting rid of the fossil fuels that produce those emissions. But there is a growing consensus that that is unacceptable.
Last year, the Glasgow Pact made a slight improvement when it committed countries to phase down coal and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. However, what we really need is to address the root cause of climate change by ensuring that countries commit to phasing out fossil fuels, pure and simple. This year’s cover decision includes no such promises. It does not build on Glasgow, and in some ways backslides, as one line mentions support for “low emission energy.” This creates a loophole for natural gas expansion, as the natural gas industry has been investing in a greenwashing campaign to brand itself under that term. The fossil fuel industry had a significant presence with 636 lobbyists in Sharm El-Sheikh, a 25% increase since COP26, which undoubtedly influenced negotiations.
While the US, EU, India, and many other countries pushed to include “phase-out of oil, gas, and goal” in the cover decision, Canadian negotiators held out until the very last day to voice their support. Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault stated concerns that such a commitment would lead to court challenges from some provinces. Again, it’s worth noting the close relationship between Canada and oil lobbyists at COP: representatives from the Pathways Alliance, made up of oil companies Canadian Natural, Cenovus, ConocoPhillips, Imperial, Meg Energy and Suncor, were invited by the government to host an event at the Canadian pavilion on decarbonization.
In this context - and following the panel moderated by Alberta's Minister of the Environment, Sonya Savage, alongside Rhona DelFrari, representative of the oil company Cenovus Energy - a group of Canadians denounced the presence of these major polluters and demanded an end to the conflict of interest of oil companies at COP 27.
1.5 goal reaffirmed, but with few specifics
Similarly to the fossil fuel issue, the Sharm El Sheikh agreement re-affirms the goal of keeping warming below 1.5 degrees committed to at Glasgow, but misses the opportunity to build on it, offering few substantial commitments for how countries will actually achieve that goal. It simply states the target, “requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions reducing global net greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030 relative to the 2019 level.” The decision could have included a commitment to have emissions peak before 2025, which would be in line with the science needed to keep warming below 1.5. Governments were at least requested to strengthen their 2030 targets by the end of next year–but this was also requested at Glasgow and few followed through. Some negotiators framed the lack of stronger commitments around mitigation a trade-off for winning the loss and damages fund.
COP27 saw a big win for climate justice with the loss and damages fund, something which many developing countries and their allies fought for for many years. The creation of the loss and damage fund demonstrates how the COP process can empower the smallest and most vulnerable countries in the world to claim negotiating space.
While it’s important to celebrate this victory, we must also recognize all the ways in which COP27 failed to make significant advances. COP28 is scheduled to take place in Dubai, Arab Emirates, in a nation heavily reliant on oil production which will make the negotiations even more challenging.
For Canadians at home, these international climate negotiations can seem distant from our daily concerns. But we must continue to pay attention and understand what’s happening so we can hold our government accountable to strengthening commitments, backing them up with meaningful action, and provide financial support for developing countries. As a richer and developed country that has contributed more than our fair share to global heating, we must contribute our fair share to the solution. Climate change is a global challenge which no country can tackle alone, which makes engaging in these international negotiations crucial.
- General: https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/countries-agree-loss-damage-fund-final-cop27-deal-elusive-2022-11-20/
- https://www.climatechangenews.com/2022/11/20/what-was-decided-at-cop27-climate-talks-in-sharm-el-sheikh/ https://unfccc.int/news/cop27-reaches-breakthrough-agreement-on-new-loss-and-damage-fund-for-vulnerable-countries
- https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-63693738 https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/11/14/what-watch-cop27-draft-text/
- The cover decision: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/cop27_auv_2_cover%20decision.pdf
- Natural gas greenwashing: https://www.theenergymix.com/2022/11/21/cop-27-backs-gas-as-low-emission-energy-in-final-declaration/?utm_source=The+Energy+Mix&utm_campaign=bf7eaec1d4-TEM_RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dc146fb5ca-bf7eaec1d4-509985469
- On Canada’s lack of support of fossil fuel phase-out: https://www.nationalobserver.com/2022/11/23/opinion/after-cop27-where-does-canada-stand-phasing-out-fossil-fuels
- Canada’s climate finance commitments: https://climateactionnetwork.ca/resource/transforming-canadas-climate-finance/