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COP27: What was agreed at the Sharm el Sheikh Climate Conference?

By Esme Stallard
BBC News Climate and Science

A new global climate pact – the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan – was agreed at the COP27 summit.

It included a historic commitment by richer nations to give money to developing nations to help them recover from the damage and economic losses wreaked from ongoing climate change impacts.

This comes after a year of devastating climate change-related disasters, from severe floods in Pakistan to ongoing drought in East Africa.

But there was also disappointment expressed by some world leaders that there was no agreement to reduce fossil fuel usage.

What was in the COP27 Plan?
The plan – although not legally binding – has provided new ambitions for the world’s nations on climate change.

This will be a pot of money to help poorer nations recover from the impacts of climate change, such as destroyed homes, flooded land or lost income from dried-out crops.

Previously, these countries have only received money for mitigation – efforts to move away from fossil fuels, and adaptation. This is money to prepare for the future impacts of climate change.

The issue of loss and damage has been highly controversial. Richer nations have previously not wanted to agree to a new fund as they thought it would make them liable to cover all economic losses from climate change.

How much countries will get from the fund – and by when – is still to be decided.

Why haven’t previous funding pledges to poor countries been met?
Fossil fuels

Banner fossil fuels
At last year’s summit, COP26, in Glasgow, countries agreed to “phase down” coal. At one point during this year’s negotiations countries were discussing expanding that to include oil and gas.

But no final agreement was reached.

Instead countries committed to “enhancing a clean energy mix, including low-emission and renewable energy”.

But the phrase “low-emission energy” has raised concerns.

It has not been formally defined, and there is worry that it could open the door to more gas development – as burning gas produces less emissions than other fossil fuels like coal.

The UK’s independent climate change body, the UKCCC, concluded there had been “limited progress on ambition to reduce emissions”.

And the UK’s Alok Sharma, who was COP President in Glasgow, said he was “pretty disappointed we haven’t moved much further than what we got in Glasgow”.

What else was agreed in Sharm el-Sheikh?
A flurry of other announcements was made.

For the first time the main agreement had specific sections on forests and “nature-based solutions”.

These are actions that protect or enhance the environment that also have climate benefits, for example restoring mangroves.

By including these new sections, leaders agreed that climate change, and efforts to protect plants and animals, should be complementary and not contradictory.

Just weeks after COP27 governments met again in Montreal to agree a “global goal for nature”.

Call for “peace pact with nature”

The text also mentioned food for the first time, and recognised how food shortages could continue to be driven by climate change.

New research from the universities of Bournemouth, Exeter and Sheffield, published in October, estimated that 42% of recent food price inflation has been due to climate change.

In Egypt countries committed to a four-year programme to discuss solutions to ongoing food issues.

Currently countries calculate their total emissions and set targets, based on what they produce within their borders such as from producing electricity, or burning fuels.

This means they don’t count the emissions from the goods and services produced by another country for them. This is despite the fact that developed nations import large amounts of manufactured products.

If these “consumption-based” emissions were counted then the UK’s carbon footprint would more than double.

For the first time in a global climate agreement countries recognised “the importance of transition[ing] to sustainable patterns of consumption”.

It is not yet clear how governments will translate this into local plans or actions.

In 2021 in Glasgow countries agreed to establish a global market for trading carbon.

Simply put, this means that countries or companies that produce fewer emissions than their targets could “sell” the carbon as a credit to another country or company that has produced too many emissions.

Although the basic rules for this market had been agreed before Egypt there were still a lot of unresolved issues.

The main one was what could be counted as a carbon credit. For example if a country planted lots of trees which absorb carbon dioxide could they sell this?

A smaller group of countries has been working on the issue for the past year and presented their recommendations in Sharm el-Sheikh.

But many observers and government’s weren’t happy.

Teresa Anderson, Climate Justice Lead at Action Aid International, told the BBC there was concern that indigenous groups’ rights wouldn’t be protected: “You can make a really tenuous claim about your product – that it will remove carbon in some way from the atmosphere, but that could be in the form of tree plantations taking land from communities.”

She added that “one of the looniest proposals on the table is that you can actually cut down forests to turn into furniture” – with companies claiming they store carbon.

A decision on this issue has now been delayed till COP28 at the end of 2023.

How will countries be made to meet their pledges?
Whilst last year’s COP in Glasgow was all about target setting, COP27 in Egypt was all about implementation.

Six years ago, countries were asked to make changes to keep global warming “well below” 2C – and to try to aim for 1.5C.

Ahead of the conference 200 countries were asked to submit new plans to cut emissions by 2030, to prevent temperatures rising by more than 1.5C.

With these new plans, global temperatures are still expected to rise to 2.4C. So the Egyptian COP President Sameh Shoukry wanted to focus on turning some of the more ambitious targets and pledges into tangible action.

Some countries will put the commitments they make at COP into domestic law, but most will have to be self-policed.

This means it is difficult to hold countries to account for their promises.

Back in 2009 richer nations promised developing countries they would give them $100bn (£88bn) a year by 2020 to help with climate change, that goal was missed and there has been no action.

Culled from BBCNews

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