FFF protest at COP27

Youth climate campaigners march at the U.N. climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egpyt on November 18, 2022. (Photo: Christophe Gateau/dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images)

With COP Gridlocked, Critics Blast '27 Years of Obstructionism, Delay, and Greenwashing'

"As we race towards climate breakdown, once again we are seeing rich countries trying to evade their responsibility to step up and do their fair share of climate action," one activist said as talks spilled into overtime.

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt was extended until at least Saturday, campaigners, scientists, and others expressed alarm and frustration over the "gridlocked" negotiations dominated by rich countries and fossil fuel lobbyists.

"Nothing short of a complete transformation of our economic system and phaseout of fossil fuels is needed to avoid complete climate breakdown."

"I remain concerned at the number of outstanding issues, including on finance mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and their inter linkages," Sameh Shoukry, an Egyptian diplomat serving as COP27 president, told delegates at the International Convention Center.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church said in a statement that "as we race towards climate breakdown, once again we are seeing rich countries trying to evade their responsibility to step up and do their fair share of climate action."

"As extreme weather events wreak havoc around the world, the U.K. and U.S. are parroting the mantra of keeping 1.5degC alive while doing exactly the opposite by continuing to expand damaging fossil fuel projects," she noted, referring to the more ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris agreement. "They are failing to stump up the climate finance they owe and which Global South countries need to adapt to and recover from the impacts of global heating."

Meanwhile, Church continued, "big polluters who brought the climate to the brink of breakdown are cynically bargaining away the future of people and planet in order to eke out a few extra years of profits from business-as-usual, by pushing dangerous fantasy techno-fixes and human rights trashing nature-fixes."

"Nothing short of a complete transformation of our economic system and phaseout of fossil fuels is needed to avoid complete climate breakdown," she stressed. "World leaders lack the political will to take the necessary action, but people everywhere are rising up and fighting dirty energy projects and putting in place the real, community-based solutions which can deliver climate justice."

Joining weekly global youth climate strikes, young campaigners marched in Sharm El-Sheikh with a message for nations of the Global North: "Don't just say it, pay it!"

"The division between the two sides has been clear; the highest polluters have continued to block and delay the bare minimum funding through poor climate finance mechanisms such as the global shield," Fatemah Sultan of Fridays for Future Pakistan toldThe Guardian.

"Coming from a country like mine, Pakistan, which does not even emit 1% of global emissions, we are not here talking about the loss and damages of tomorrow, we are talking about the ones from my yesterday, my today, and my tomorrow," the activist added.

Brian O'Callaghan, lead researcher and project manager for the Oxford Economic Recovery Project, suggested that "if COP were a football rivalry, it would be amongst the most lopsided; fossil fuel interests: 27, humankind: 0."

As Common Dreams has reported, at least 636 fossil fuel lobbyists have been registered at this year's conference, up 25% from COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland last year.

"There have been successes, but mostly, it's been 27 years of obstructionism, delay, and greenwashing," said O'Callaghan. "The world is already moving faster than the COP processes--we need to double down on that trend."

"In many ways, ambition under climate treaties has moved backwards since the foundational" U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of 1992, the expert explained, recalling when "developed countries committed to pay for all forms of mitigation and adaptation."

"Today, developed countries do all that they can to avoid that promise," he added. "The multilateral system is based on trust--every year developed countries are eroding that trust."

A key focus of COP27 has been loss and damage (L&D) financing. Nations of the Global South are pushing for the creation of a fund to help them deal with devastating climate disasters.

While admitting his "reluctance" to stray from "existing instruments," European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans unveiled a proposal early Friday, saying that because the Group of 77 (G77) members "are so attached to a fund, we have agreed."

Mary Robinson, chair of the Elders and former president of Ireland, was among those who welcomed the European Union's proposal. It "puts us on the cusp of a historic breakthrough," she said, adding that "we've gone from not even having loss and damage finance on the agenda at COP27 to having a fund, a mechanism, and a flow of finance all within our grasp."

Seve Paeniu, Tuvalu's minister of finance, said that "to me that is a major concession and a major breakthrough. It is our hope that will end up in the text of the cover decision."

However, a G77 negotiator who asked not to be named was unimpressed, telling The Guardian that "it is a predictable attempt by the E.U. to break up the G77 in talks. Of course, it's not a breakthrough. They are merely repeating its original negotiating position by making it sound like a compromise when they know very well that it is not. It is completely disingenuous."

Brandon Wu, head of policy and campaigns at ActionAid USA, was similarly critical at Friday's Demand Climate Justice press conference, saying that "the loss and damage fund proposal put forward by the E.U. is a compromise that includes a number of poison pills."

"Not only does it narrow who can receive funds, it also widens the number of countries required to pay into the pot--which is an abdication of responsibility. Developed countries have failed to meet their climate finance obligations, most obviously the $100 billion goal," Wu said, emphasizing the Global North's "moral and legal obligations" on the L&D front.

While developed countries agreed at COP15 in 2009 to put $100 billion annually toward climate action in the Global South by 2020--a pledge they have yet to fulfill--a climate clock erected at this year's summit shows that, based on research by the Center for Global Development, the Global North owes more like $31.8 trillion in loss and damage funding.

"The other poison pill is that the E.U.'s offer of an L&D fund is conditional on all parties aligning with the 1.5degC target," Wu pointed out. "This sounds great on paper, but without any mention of equity, it erases the historical responsibility of developed countries and could shift the burden further onto poorer countries. The 1.5 degree limit--originally championed by civil society and developing countries, who have the most to lose if the limit is breached--is being hijacked and weaponized against them."

According to the Independent, "There are big differences among negotiators over whether all big emitters should pay; heavy polluters China and India are arguing they should not have to contribute because they are still officially considered developing nations."

Sara Shaw of FOE International posited Friday that "the story developed countries will spin in the coming days is that larger developing countries, like China and India, are to blame for any lack of progress in Sharm El-Sheikh."

"This is not the story of what has happened here," she asserted. "Developed countries, especially the U.S., are cynically shifting the blame away from their own lack of action on emissions reductions to countries that are less historically responsible for climate change. They are trying to erase equity and historic responsibility."

Another key issue at COP27 is the inclusion of language about fossil fuels in the conference's overarching decision. Fearful of another "hollowed-out" deal, campaigners are demanding text that explicitly advocates phasing out oil and gas, along with coal.

The latest released draft only reaffirms a call for countries to accelerate the shift to low-emission energy systems, "including by rapidly scaling up the deployment of clean power generation and energy efficiency measures, including accelerating efforts towards the phaseout of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, recognizing the need for support towards a just transition."

As 350.org's Zeina Khalil Hajj put it: "This conference cannot be considered an implementation conference because there is no implementation without phasing out all fossil fuels. The Egyptian presidency is failing Africa, it's failing frontline communities, it's failing civil society, it's failing its own promise to implement, and it is failing the recommendations of the science community."

Rita Uwaka of FOE Nigeria also declared Friday that "Africa does not need more fossil fuels, especially not gas."

"Oil has devastated my country, Nigeria," Uwaka said. "Gas exploitation in Mozambique is displacing communities and stoking conflict. Africa needs a COP27 outcome that calls for rapid, equitable phaseout of all fossil fuels, not just coal."

Pushing for "stronger language... on a ban for new fossil fuel extraction and production," Tuvalu's Paeniu agreed that "the phaseout of all fossil fuels must be included in the cover decision for this COP."

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