Author: Arslan Sheikh.
The outcomes of Conference of the Parties (COP) 27 held in Egypt this year has been a subject of heated debate. Even though marketed as the ‘implementation of COP’ with a focus on Africa and the most vulnerable countries to climate change, several analyses have already been issued on the definitive results of COP27. This article tries to reflect on five important areas where advancement has been made on climate action in world’s most important climate-related event.
Increasing Political Will for Forests
According to the 2022 Forest Declaration Assessment, to be on a track to completely stop deforestation by 2030, a ten percent annual reduction in deforestation is needed. Even though the rates of deforestation globally reduced only moderately in 2021 by 6.3% compared to the 2018-2020 baseline, forests became more degraded in 2021. However, overall losses of forests exceeded gains in the same period, resulting in a net loss of 100 million hectares globally.
In this regard, the creation of Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership (FCLP) has been introduced with the realisation that there is no time left to spare for halting and reversing forest loss by 2030, thus, reflecting a strong political will for forests. The leaders of the FCLP member countries are the key stakeholders in the partnership and are its essential ‘priority setters’. The FCLP will hold routine meetings at the start of climate COPs to inspire responsibility. It will also publish an annual Global Progress Report which would include independent assessments of global progress towards the 2030 goal and recapitulating progress made by the FCLP in its missions. The declarations by Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Indonesia ahead of the G20 signified their intents to work out jointly to safeguard their massive swathes of tropical forests gaining the nickname ‘’OPEC of rainforests’’. Also, the presence of Brazil’s president elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva brought Amazon forests in limelight where Brazil vowed to prioritize halting deforestation and offering to host COP30.
The Arrival of Food in Text
Unprecedently, food was made it onto the main agenda after being acknowledged in the final text and also with at least five event spaces devoted to food and agriculture. Important progress included the launch of Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST) Initiative – a multi-stakeholder partnership to step up access to finance, develop capability, and promote policy development to guarantee food security in countries most vulnerable to climate change. As associated with food, 14 top global agricultural and processing companies shared their roadmap to 1.5 degrees Celsius – gaining hybrid reactions – with thorough strategies on summarizing how they will get rid of deforestation from their agricultural commodity supply chains by 2025.
Nature-based solutions were incorporated in the CO27 text for the first time with forests, oceans, and agriculture each having their own section. Even though the inclusion of Koronivia Dialogue – the track where food and agriculture is discussed at UNFCCC could be seen as a positive sign at COP27, it still would need time to wait till COP28 for the emphasis needed to genuinely transform the global food system. There are strong analyses that COP27 has been a ‘notable disappointment’ for sustainable food systems – largely representing a defence of food systems status-quo.
Progressively Bluer COP
Many analysts have expressed COP27 for being ‘’an increasingly blue COP’’, with the ocean ending up in the final declaration and the first ever ocean pavilion in the blue zone. Many other declarations bolstered the acknowledgement of the essential character of the oceans in the climate system. The Egyptian presidency, Germany, and IUCN launched the Enhancing Nature-Based Solutions for an Accelerated Climate Transformation (ENACT). The Mangrove Breakthrough was also launched to protect 15 million hectares of mangroves worldwide 2030.
Beside these, High Quality Blue Carbon Principles and Guidance were also announced which aims to safeguard nature; empower people; employ the best information, interventions, and carbon accounting practices; operate locally and contextually; and mobilise high integrity capital. The implementation of these guidance and principles are expected to release the full potential of blue carbon, reducing emissions while safeguarding some of the earth’s most exclusive and beneficial ecosystems.
There were various announcements coming out of COP27 which highlighted Africa’s potential as a ‘natural capital powerhouse’. These involved the launch of the African Carbon Markets Initiative, Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative , $2 billion African restoration fund, a funding support for Africa’s Great Green Wall initiatives, among various others.
Structural Reforms of Finance for Climate
The biggest breakthrough coming out of COP27 was the agreement on creation of Loss and Damage Fund with the subject being put on the agenda and adopted for the first time at COP27. It seeks to set up new funding arrangements, as well as a committed fund, to support developing countries in acting in response to loss and damage. Governments at COP27 agreed to set up a ‘transitional committee’ to make recommendations on how to operationalise both new funding arrangements and the fund at COP28 next year. The evolving Bridgetown agenda remained a central theme within the discussions on bringing structural reforms in the financial system and creating innovative mechanisms that would support nature and climate outcomes at national and ecosystem levels.
Major financial institutions which are signatories to the Financial Sector Commitment on Eliminating Commodity-driven Deforestation have been pushing forward with implementation through the Finance Sector Deforestation Action (FSDA) Initiative. FSDA members have published shared investor expectations that are anticipated to be supplemented as appropriate on a sector-specific basis. Largely, the 10 point plan for financing biodiversity was pushed forward at COP27 with a ministerial meeting among 16 countries to set a conduit for minimising the global biodiversity finance gap.
Despite reflecting some breakthroughs and progressive developments on climate, COP27 does little to avoid future climate change disasters. It is being heralded as progressive and breakthrough in tackling the threats already devastating the planet, but is considered to be having made very little progress on emission cutting measures that could avoid even worse future climate change disasters. Even though being admired for creation of Loss and Damage Fund, many showed reservations on countries’ hesitancy in adopting more ambitious climate plans, which could leave the planet on a dangerous warming path.