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COP27 'lacked real progress'

By ANGUS McNEICE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-11-23 09:25

Experts say fossil fuel, climate change should have been major focus at event

A logo of the COP 27 summit. [Photo/Agencies]

Climate scientists have warned that the Paris Agreement remains in serious jeopardy after negotiations at the COP27 climate conference went too easy on fossil fuels.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP27, wrapped up in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on the weekend, and delegates from around the world claimed success on several agenda items, including establishing a "loss and damage "fund for climate impact in developing countries.

But the ultimate aim of this COP and all those before it is to ensure a reduction in global emissions and limit warming to under 2 and closer to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century, as laid out at the Paris conference in 2015.

"The deal to provide funding for developing countries is fair and just, but the lack of progress in tackling the causes of climate change — greenhouse gas emissions — means that we're no closer to solving the problem, and in some areas, the commitments seem watered down," said Michael Meredith, who is science leader at the British Antarctic Survey. "The future for all countries is grim unless that changes urgently".

Last year at COP26 in Glasgow, fossil fuels were introduced into the wording of a COP agreement for the first time, when countries agreed to reduce the use of coal. Many had hoped this wording would be updated to include all fossil fuels in this year's agreement, but this never materialized.

Some of the language even appeared to let fossil fuels in through the back door. The final text of the agreement contained a provision to support "low-emissions energy". Depending on who is speaking, this could mean wind, solar, and other renewables, but it could also be interpreted as natural gas, which is the cleanest burning fossil fuel.

"The real loss and damage at COP27 has been to our chances of meeting the Paris climate goals," said Dave Reay, who is executive director of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Edinburgh. "That the provision of 'low emissions' energy has slithered its way into the final agreement in Egypt means that even the limited progress on mitigation made at COP26 in Glasgow now risks being lost in a gassy miasma of new fossil fuel extraction and use."

Many observers were dispirited by the unusually large presence of fossil fuel players at this year's conference. An analysis from the campaign group Global Witness revealed that there were 636 fossil fuel lobbyists registered at COP27, an increase of 25 percent from last year's conference, prompting some to speculate that the conference is increasingly exposing itself to corporate interests.

"Taken together, (fossil fuel lobbyists) were the second largest delegation and you can see their fingerprints," said Ed Atkins, a senior lecturer from the University of Bristol's Cabot Institute for the Environment. "Despite some successes, like the loss and damage fund, COP27 will be remembered as where oil and gas interests have been protected in the face of climate breakdown. The longer this goes on, the less chance we have of meeting any meaningful global targets."

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