Loss and Damage Agreement and Brazil's return to climate diplomacy are the highlights at COP27

21 novembro 2022

Inclusion of Food and Forests Systems in the final text is another advance from the Egypt climate conference
By WWF-Brazil

In one of the longest climate conferences, diplomats and representatives of the 198 national states that ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change finally managed to take a relevant and, at the same time, symbolic step in the fight to prevent global warming from exceeding the 1.5 C threshold, as provided for by the Paris Agreement. The document with the conclusions of COP27, approved in plenary on the morning of November 20, 2022, creates a specific financial mechanism to compensate poor countries, which are suffering from extreme weather events resulting from climate change, but which have contributed nothing to their causes.

The creation of this fund is a great victory for the poorest nations, notably the group of small island countries, which for decades have been demanding the existence of a specific financing mechanism for the dramatic situation they are experiencing. Although the operational details are left for future conferences and the history of other climate finance mechanisms already created is not very auspicious, this victory unquestionably places the social issue on the negotiating table. With the creation of the Loss of Damage mechanism, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities acquires more sophisticated contours, as it meets the specific needs of less developed nations.

Another positive point of the final document, called the Sharm El-Sheikh Implementation Plan, was the inclusion of forests and the mention, for the first time in a final document of a climate conference, of nature-based solutions.

This is an advance, especially for countries that still have large areas of forests, such as Brazil. Although the largest share of global greenhouse gas emissions comes from the burning of fossil fuels, the destruction and degradation of forests is a concern not only for the emissions, but also because it puts large carbon sinks at risk. The Amazon rainforest is even a global climate trigger, whose destruction not only alters the planet's climate, but also puts the very goal of the Paris Agreement at risk.

Mentioning forests also helps to bridge the gap between climate and biodiversity COPs. The latter is about to sign its first major global agreement at the meeting that will take place in December in Canada. In this context, the first mention in a COP final document of food systems and the interconnection between food production, biodiversity, water and climate is also a positive signal left by COP27.

Despite these advances, the rest of the text leaves a lot to be desired. Attention is drawn to the lack of emphasis on the need to fight for the 1.5C target of the Paris Agreement. The language in the final Sharm El-Sheikh document is less forceful than that used in the G20 statement released last week. The text also did not include the phase out of coal and cited other fossil fuels only in the context of eliminating inefficient subsidies. Without a clear commitment to eliminating fossils, climate efforts will always fall short.

On the issue of financing, the promise of US$ 100 billion a year remains undefined. In addition to falling short of the promised amount, all accounting presented so far shows huge inconsistencies and exposes how climate finance is weighing on the debt of the poorest countries.

“The creation of a specific fund to compensate the poorest nations for losses caused by extreme weather events was a fair step forward. But at the same time, it is evidence that in some cases the effects of climate change are already irreversible. Thus, in general, the overall result of COP27 can be considered disappointing. The final text does not demonstrate the necessary ambition to reach the 1.5C target established by the Paris Agreement and the so-called implementation plan is weak and incipient. The greenwashing by countries and companies and the misalignment between science and politics has never been so clear as in this COP", analyses Maurício Voivodic, director general of WWF-Brazil. "COP27 was also disappointing in its treatment of civil society, and the absence of a Climate March on the city's streets is the greatest evidence of how much citizens' freedom has been curtailed by the Egyptian government", he adds.

Brazil: one of the high points of the Egypt climate conference

The presence of the president-elect of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was a breath of hope in the halls of COP27 and one of the highlights of the conference. The interest in dialogue with the new Brazilian government was evident in the number of bilateral meetings that Lula and the transition team had with representatives from other countries and also in the spontaneous approaches that Brazilians received in the corridors, from people interested in dialogue with our country. There is no doubt that Lula's victory in the elections has put Brazil back in a leadership position on the climate agenda.

We can say that, for Brazilians, this was the COP of relief and hope: relief from getting out of the scenario we have been through in the last four years and a huge hope for what we will do in the next four. Brazilian civil society, which had been articulating independently to take part in the Conferences in recent years, was received by members of the government transition team, who were willing to dialogue and listened to representatives of young people, indigenous peoples, blacks and quilombolas, as well as governors and representatives of the productive sector.

For Brazil, the greater attention that the world is giving to the preservation of forests opens up countless diplomatic and economic opportunities. The forest pact between Brazil, Congo and Indonesia reinforces that this is a relevant topic for several continents. The announcement of the summit of Amazon countries in 2023, in turn, signals a concrete path towards a regional approach to the challenges for the preservation of the largest tropical forest on the planet. Brazil's offer to host COP30 in 2025 signals the possibility of a climate conference with a presence strongly committed to advancing the negotiations.

Yes, Brazil is back.

Misalignment between science and politics marked COP27

On the first day of the conference, the World Meteorological Organisation reported that “the eight years from 2015 to 2022 are likely to be the warmest on record”. Just in the first week, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, published a report condemning the practice of greenwashing and calling for zero tolerance with organisations that still invest in fossil fuels, that are linked to deforestation or that pressure governments not to make climate commitments, while disclosing in marketing campaigns that they are carbon neutral or net-zero.

The denunciation was made at a conference packed with fossil fuel lobbyists and where even the booths of countries participating in the negotiations were turned into green makeup. This is the case of the official stand of the Brazilian government, which ignored the fact that almost two thirds of our emissions come from land use and agriculture and decided to talk about energy. Or even the booth of the governors of the states of the Amazon, a biome that has suffered record levels of deforestation and fires in the last four years.

Guterres' denunciation was not enough to prevent the private sector from presenting roadmaps that add little to climate action. This is the case of agricultural commodity companies, whose proposal was dubbed the “route to hell” for their lack of ambition and real commitment, and for disregarding the protection of the Brazilian Cerrado, one of Brazil's great carbon sinks.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world has until 2030 to invert the curve of greenhouse gas emissions so that global warming does not exceed the 1.5°C limit established in the Paris Agreement. For that, global emissions must peak before 2025 so that, in the subsequent five years, they fall by at least 43%. In practice, this is not what we are seeing: CO2 emissions, the main greenhouse gas, will hit a new record in 2022, according to the Global Carbon Project report released during COP27.
The document with the conclusions of COP27 creates a specific financial mechanism to compensate poor countries
Brazilian civil society was received by members of the government transition team
The presence of the president-elect of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was a breath of hope in the halls of COP27 and one of the highlights of the conference.
© Reprodução/COP27