Outcomes of the UN climate negotiations

May 23, 2022

The 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change held in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, closed on 20th November, two days past its scheduled closure. A COP that was spoken of for many reasons, including the logistical arrangements and the second most attended COP of all time, did deliver on its most anticipated result – the Loss and Damage Fund. However, is this the only outcome worthy of noting? Or was COP27 the overall success the world awaited?

An implementation COP

This year’s climate negotiations were termed as a COP for implementation, and as it was being hosted in Africa, one that would focus on the needs of the most vulnerable. The COP Presidency held by Egypt highlighted ahead of the COP the importance of the negotiations being focused on the extreme importance of implementing climate action, which was highlighted by many other Parties as well. 

Additionally, harnessing political will to scale up climate action being a priority, this COP also held six high level round table discussions which focused on thematic areas such as food and water security; finance; energy security; just transition; and vulnerable communities. 

The continued engagement of the political ambition was present throughout in many issues related to different negotiation agenda items, with multiple ministerial level negotiations being held aimed at driving home the key outcomes of this COP. 

Sharm el-Sheikh implementation plan

The “cover decision” of the COP27, also known as the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan consists of agreed conclusions related to different areas which include the need for science and urgency in climate action; enhancing ambition and implementation; energy; mitigation; adaptation; loss and damage; early warning systems and observation; pathways to just transition; finance; technology transfer and deployment; capacity building; agriculture; forest and oceans; as well as actions by non-Party stakeholders. 

The Plan requests Parties (that have not yet done so) to strengthen their 2030 climate targets by the end of 2023 in alignment with the Paris Agreement, and also makes the first reference to food as a key area of focus in climate negotiations and action. Further, the Plan also makes clear references to tipping points, the need for reforms in the financial sector, the inadequacy of available financial sources, and the need for just transition in climate action. 

Under financial flows, the cover decision notes the need for transformational financial systems and structures, and calls for reform of practices of multilateral development banks and international financial institutions. It is further highlighted that there is need for reforming such practices in the urgency to address global climate impacts.  

However, there remains disappointment on the progress related to phasing out fossil fuel. Despite the call for text related to fossil fuel phasing down or phasing out, the final cover decision remains without reference to this, which points to the concern of many Parties on the 1.5 degrees temperature target not becoming a reality. 

The Sharm el-Sheikh implementation plan also makes clear references to the climate science and evidence, especially that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It also launched a work programme on just transition of which the first high level ministerial roundtables will be held in 2023, at the 28th COP.

Loss and Damage Fund

While COP27 was titled an adaptation COP, the highest attention at the COP could be considered as allocated for the negotiations related to setting up a facility or fund which would mobilise finance for actions related to climate-induced loss and damage. 

With many severe disasters faced by countries, the need for urgent actions on climate-induced loss and damage was felt across the world. These impacts and the call for such action, which has been made for over 30 years by the developing world and other actors, resulted in having an agenda item on funding for loss and damage in this year’s UN climate negotiations. And after many long hours of negotiations that went overnight, the conclusion of COP27 saw a Loss and Damage Fund which was established. Developed countries are urged to support the fund, as well as development banks, businesses and other entities. 

Apart from the LDF, climate finance for loss and damage was announced as pledges during COP27. Some examples of such pleasures include the Global Shield, which is joint initiative of Germany and the G7 and the V20, with key contributions from Germany and other developed countries for financial support. The total pledges over the COP27 amounted to 300 million dollars, an amount that is significant yet insufficient in addressing the full support needs of countries facing climate-induced losses and damages. 

Climate Adaptation

A new analysis of UNEP published ahead of COP27 refers to the climate adaptation needs to be as amounting to approximately to 160-340bn by 2030 and $315-565bn by 2050. Additionally, the financial flows for adaptation to developing counties is calculated as being 10 times lesser than the amounts needed. 

In this backdrop, adaptation and the negotiations related to the global goal on adaptation played a key role. Another negotiation agenda item where convergences took many hours and days to reach consensus, the negotiations saw at its conclusions agreement on developing a framework for delivering the goal and tracking progress towards it. 

In the coming weeks, the columns will focus on a deeper analysis of how the outcomes of COP27 and its thematic areas of focus would be applicable to Sri Lanka’s climate action, and scaling up climate action at local and national levels. This includes identifying opportunities for building on the outcomes as well as entry points for building on to create long term climate resilience through collaborative and scaled-up process which are innovative and effective in reaching timely outputs for climate resilient communities and ecosystems, as well as climate-friendly sustainable economic choices. 

Note: This article has been published on The Morning as part of the author’s weekly column.

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About the Author
Vositha Wijenayake

Vositha is an attorney-at-law specialising in public international law, with a focus on international environmental law, UN human rights law, refugee law and EU law. She has over a decade of experience in working on climate change, at national and international level. Vositha is a member of the national expert committee on climate change adaptation of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, national expert on vulnerability and adaptation measures for the Third National Communication of Sri Lanka to the UNFCCC for the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, and is a delegate focusing on compliance, adaptation, loss and damage, and gender for the Sri Lankan delegation to the UNFCCC since 2016. She is also a consultant to the UNFCCC national adaptation plans and policy unit, and worked as a country support consultant to the UNDP NAP Global Support Programme. Vositha has an LLM in public international law from University College London, and an LLB from University of London. ‍