Cop27: Historic deal reached to create climate damages fund but fails in ambitious emissions cuts

Cop27 was drawing to close early on Sunday morning after a marathon negotiating session went through the night in Sharm el-Sheikh (UNFCCC)
Cop27 was drawing to close early on Sunday morning after a marathon negotiating session went through the night in Sharm el-Sheikh (UNFCCC)

Cop27 has reached a historic agreement on a fund to compensate vulnerable countries for irrevocable climate damages - but did not go far enough to slash the greenhouse gas emissions spurring runaway climate change.

The gruelling two-week conference continued into Sunday morning in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt after a marathon negotiating session went through the night.

Out of the exhaustion, conflict and compromise, ultimately came jubilation on the contentious issue of loss and damage. All 197 countries agreed to establish a financial fund for assisting developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to impacts of the climate crisis.

The Alliance of Small Island States, a group representing some developing and vulnerable nations, celebrated soon after the announcement.

“AOSIS promised the world we would not leave Sharm El Sheikh without achieving the establishment of a loss and damage response fund. A mission thirty years in the making has been accomplished,” read a statement from AOSIS Chair, Honourable Minister Molwyn Joseph of Antigua and Barbuda.

“Today, the international community has restored global faith in this critical process that is dedicated to ensuring no one is left behind. The agreements made at COP27 are a win for our entire world.”

Delegates and journalists grab some sleep during the marathon final overnight session at Cop27 in Sharm el-Sheikh (AP)
Delegates and journalists grab some sleep during the marathon final overnight session at Cop27 in Sharm el-Sheikh (AP)

Developing and poor countries, suffering the worst climate impacts despite small carbon footprints, have called for loss and damage to be addressed for decades. The issue finally made it into Cop27 negotiations after the Egyptian presidency shepherded it onto the official Sharm agenda.

“The work that we’ve managed to do here and the results we have together achieved are a testament to our collective will as a community of nations to voice a clear message that rings loudly today, that multilateral diplomacy still works,” said Cop27 president, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

He spoke to the “anguish and despair” in Pakistan after catastrophic flooding this summer which killed more than 1,700 people and left tens of thousands displaced. Mr Shoukry described it as a “resounding alarm” of what awaits us beyond the 1.5C temperature limit.

Sherry Rehman, climate change minister for Pakistan, spoke on behalf of the G77 and China group which contains many vulnerable countries.

She thanked the Cop president for delivering on a loss and damage fund. “The establishment of a fund is not about charity, it is a down payment and investment in our joint futures... a down payment on climate justice,” she said.

There was a breakthrough on establishing a fund on Saturday after the United States reversed its opposition to a fund. The US had been long opposed to a loss and damage fund over fears of legal liability as it is historically the world’s largest polluter.

Talks were dragging on 36 hours after the conference officially ended with countries struggling to overcome rifts on major issues like temperature targets and fossil fuels.

However Cop27 did little to cut the carbon emissions which are heating the planet, and continue to rise.

Despite a decision at Cop26 in Glasgow last year to make more drastic emissions cuts, called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), very little has been done. NDCs submitted in the past year take less than 1 per cent off projected global emissions in 2030.

Scientists say we must have cut emissions by 43 per cent to hold temperature increase to the 1.5C limit set out by the Paris Agreement.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Frans Timmermans, European Commissioner for Climate Action, applauded the creation of the loss and damage but said that vulnerable countries also deserved more ambition from big polluters on cutting emissions.

He said that at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference there were “too many attempts to roll back on Glasgow” and major emitters were not doing enough.

Cop27 did not address the “yawning gap between climate science and climate policy” he said, and did not establish a clear path to remaining at 1.5C.

“We have to find the courage to do more,” he said.