COP27: Some wins, but can the world keep temperatures below 1.5°C?
Establishing a loss and damage fund was positive, but climate financing for SA could prove problematic.
The carcass of a Grevy Zebra, the world’s rarest species that only exists in the northern part of Kenya and Ethiopia, amid an ongoing drought in Samburu National Reserve, Samburu county. (Photo: Fredrik LERNERYD / AFP)
South Africa needs R1.5 trillion dollars over the next five years to pull off its Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET-IP).
This was revealed by President Cyril Ramaphosa during the 27th annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s Conference of Parties (COP27), this year held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
Loss and damage fund a win
Among the plethora of issues crammed into the 14-day conference was the emphasis to keep rising global temperatures below 1.5°C, a feat Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy admitted in a post-COP27 media briefing may not be achieved.
Temperatures above 1.5°C have already led to rising sea levels, glaciers melting, torrential downpours, and heatwaves, the World Meterological Organization presented in a report at COP27.
There were some wins, however, notably the establishment of a loss and damage fund, a battle Creecy said was fought for some 30 years.
The “modalities” of the fund will be worked on over the next year, with the view to take decisions to COP28.
Crossing this hurdle, she said, was a step forward, but South Africa was “disappointed” when it came to the global goal of climate change adaptation.
“South Africa had called for a target to increase the resilience of global population by 50% in 2023.
“Making progress on this is important; the more progress on this, the less loss and damage there is in the long term,” Creecy said.
Developed nations already failed to meet their $100 billion (R1728.1 billion) goal by 2020, with Creecy also reporting “resistance” from said nations when it came to addressing adaptation.
These countries have been historically responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, with Africa contributing just 4% of global emissions. South Africa is responsible for 2% of this figure.
Another potential hurdle when it comes to South Africa receiving funds for its JET-IP is its categorisation as a middle-income country, which cuts it off to bilateral aid.
This despite more than 50% of the population living in poverty, and high rates of unemployment.
When it comes to climate financing, this is a particularly unhelpful place to be, Creecy explained, in addition to multilateral development banks being “very risk-averse”.
The loss and damage fund, although promising, has been branded “feeble” as a “political commitment” by Just Share climate risk analyst Lorena Pasquini.
“It does not include any detail as to how the fund will work, nor does it ensure financial resources flow to developing countries to assist them in responding to their climate-related losses and damages.”
Costs from extreme weather events are reaching over $200 billion (about R3456.2 billion) annually, leaving developing nations even more vulnerable in their attmepts to shoulder the effects of climate change.
As for the rest of the conference, Pasquini analysed the debates over keeping temperatures below 1.5°C, phasing down fossil fuels, and who should pay and receive financial compensation were “neither surprising nor new”.
“For COP to be a truly effective forum, a number of challenges must be addressed. One key challenge concerns the legitimacy and integrity of the process.
“The presence of hundreds of oil and gas lobbyists at COP27 – and a stream of gas deals struck on the sidelines – is hugely problematic and a clear indication of how corporate climate lobbying continues to hold back global climate action, as it has done for decades.
“The presence and outsized influence of fossil fuel lobbyists must urgently be reined in for international climate policy to advance in a way that truly supports the global transition to net-zero by 2050.
“The decisions made at COP are not currently occurring fast enough to meet the 1.5°C temperature rise limit,” Pasquini summarised this year’s conference.
Additional reporting by AFP