The Cop27 summit provided a breakthrough for those on the front lines of the climate emergency. COP28 must announce the end of oil and gas
The history of the annual UN climate talks, now in their 27th year, is marked by setbacks, delays and inaction by the world’s rich carbon emitters as the climate crisis continues to devastate countries and communities before our eyes.
It is therefore a joy to see this year’s meeting, which took place on African soil in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, finally answering the calls of those on the front lines of the climate emergency.
At COP27, countries agreed to create a special “loss and damage” fund that will effectively compensate people who have suffered the most severe climate impacts, so severe that they cannot adapt.
This is a remarkable achievement considering that vulnerable countries had to fight to even put the issue on the agenda in the early days of the meeting. Many of us were unconvinced that we would achieve this positive result halfway through the two-week summit in Sharm.
But in the negotiating rooms and boardrooms, developing countries, with the support of civil society, fought as if their lives depended on it because they do. The cause of climate justice prevailed. How is it fair that those who suffer loss and damage caused by others, not themselves, should pay the price?
Creating the fund is one thing, but it is currently an empty vessel. The next task is to get the money to the frontline communities that need it.
Although the meeting took an important step in dealing with the consequences of climate change, it made less progress in tackling the root causes of the problem.
We had hoped to build on the agreement reached in Glasgow last year at COP26, which saw countries agree on a global phase-out of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.
A number of countries have sought to secure a commitment to phase out all fossil fuels, including oil and gas, but these efforts have been thwarted by Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran, among others.
It’s infuriating to see the science become clearer, the climate impacts become more devastating and the cost of fossil fuels get worse, and yet countries refuse to do the one thing we all know we have to do to stop the world from destroying itself. . 90% of all coal reserves and 60% of oil and gas reserves must remain in the ground if we are to guarantee a prosperous and secure planet.
Analysis: What was decided at the Cop27 climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh?
However, the forces of progress and climate savvy fought hard in Sharm el-Sheikh to secure the phase of fossil fuel reduction, so much so that the momentum will now build ahead of the meeting of the next year in the United Arab Emirates. And we rejoice in the victory of vulnerable people over loss and damage.
Twelve months ago we left Glasgow disappointed that no loss and damage fund had been set up. But we knew the case was so strong and the voices so loud that rich nations could no longer ignore us. And it turned out last week.
The end of oil and gas
We now have to spend the next twelve months ensuring that the end of the oil and gas era is heralded in 2023. And what better place for that to happen than in an OPEC country?
Already, there are signs that the reign of the fossil fuel industry is beginning to crack. For the first time, a Cop decision document included language around the expansion of renewable energy.
World leaders who attended the summit, such as Kenyan President William Ruto, defended the benefits of clean energy and explained why they were leaving their fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
Witnessing African leadership on African soil was a proud moment for this African. There is no reason why our entire continent should not become the pioneer of such a forward-thinking energy policy. After all, Africa contains 39% of the world’s renewable energy potential.
Another sign that the fossil fuel industry is getting nervous is the number of lobbyists they now send to these annual climate talks to try to disrupt them in favor of flogging their pollution product.
This year has seen a record number of delegates from the fossil fuel industry, more than 600. A few years ago they wouldn’t have bothered, but they know that the growing demand for action on climate change by the public and that the transformative potential of clean energy is a threat to their age-old monopoly in the global energy market. So much so that they distorted the carefully balanced climate of the world during this time.
We still have a long way to go, and the indifference of fossil fuel companies to the climate suffering they cause knows no bounds. But the victory of the vulnerable in Sharm shows what can be achieved when enough people support a good idea and give us confidence that we can, and must, end the world’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Mohamed Adow is the director of Power Shift Africa.
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