COP27 agrees climate fund for poor countries

Photo: Mohamed Abdel Hamid/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Countries closed this year's U.N. climate summit on Sunday with a hard-fought deal to create a fund to help poor countries affected by climate disasters, even as many lamented its lack of ambition in tackling the emissions causing them.

The deal was widely lauded as a triumph for responding to the impact that global warming is having on vulnerable countries. But many countries said they felt pressured to give up on tougher commitments for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in order for the landmark deal on the loss and damage fund to go through.

Delegates - worn out after intense, overnight negotiations - made no objections as Egypt’s COP27 President Sameh Shoukry rattled through the final agenda items and gavelled the deal through.

Despite having no agreement for a stronger commitment to the 1.5 C goal set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, “we went with what the agreement was here because we want to stand with the most vulnerable,” Germany's climate secretary Jennifer Morgan said.

When asked by Reuters whether the goal of stronger climate-fighting ambition had been compromised for the deal, Mexico's chief climate negotiator Camila Zepeda summed up the mood among negotiators.

“Probably. You take a win when you can.”

Loss and damage

The deal for a loss and damage fund marked a diplomatic coup for small islands and other vulnerable nations in winning over the 27-nation European Union and the United States, which had long resisted the idea for fear that such a fund could open them to legal liability for historic emissions.

Those concerns were assuaged with language in the agreement calling for the funds to come from a variety of existing sources, including financial institutions, rather than the people of wealthier nations to pay in.

It will probably be several years before the fund exists, with the agreement setting out only a roadmap for resolving lingering questions including who would oversee the fund, how the money would be dispersed – and to whom.

Fossil fuel fizzle

The price paid for a deal on the loss and damage fund was most evident in the language around emission reductions and reducing the use of polluting fossil fuels – known in the parlance of U.N. climate negotiations as ‘mitigation’.

Last year's COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, had focused on a theme of keeping the 1.5 C goal alive – as some scientists claim that warming beyond that threshold would see climate change spiral to extremes, whilst other scientists maintain that fluctuations in temperature occur regardless of human influence.

Countries were asked then to update their national climate targets before this year’s Egypt summit. Only a fraction of the nearly 200 parties did so.

Approximately 400 private jets flew climate delegates into Sharm el Sheikh for COP27, emitting vast quantities of carbon, the very issue they are so steadfastly opposed to. None of the delegates commented on why they deemed it necessary to meet in person instead of Zoom calls, as they did during the pandemic.