1. Temperature rises and the 1.5 degree goal
The Implementation Plan reaffirmed the resolution to pursue a limit of 1.5 °C rise in temperature above pre-industrial levels, as found in the Glasgow Climate Pact. This resolution was viewed as one of the biggest achievements of COP26; given the scientific evidence on the effects of warming above 1.5 °C and the IPCC's warnings that the path to 1.5 °C was already becoming unclear, it was hoped that this commitment could even be strengthened at COP27.
Decision -/CMA.4 on a "New collection quantified goal on climate finance", reiterates the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global temperature rises to well below 2 °C, and the Implementation Plan commits the parties to "pursue further efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C."
While positive in not allowing countries to backslide on their COP26 commitments, many at COP27 were disappointed that there was equally no strengthening of those commitments by making 1.5 °C a binding target. Similarly, references to emissions peaking in 2025 did not make it into the final text. Alok Sharma, President of COP26, said that the 1.5 °C target had a weak pulse at the conclusion of COP26, and "remained on life support" following COP27.
2. Loss and Damage Funding
The provision of loss and damage funding has been one of the central issues of the COP27, with the inclusion of this as an agenda item being widely welcomed as a strong move towards addressing climate justice between developed, high emitting countries and developing, poorer nations often bearing the most severe consequences of climate change.
The eventual agreement to establish a dedicated fund to support poorer nations most affected by climate disaster is probably the biggest achievement to come out of COP27. Potential recipient countries emphasised that they have called for such a fund for 30 years.
Many developed nations have traditionally, and continued to do so at COP27, pushed back against the establishment of a specific fund for loss and damage; including former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who said Britain did not have the financial resources to make payments to low-income countries as "some kind of reparations".
While current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said that the UK would triple funding for climate adaptation in developing countries, according to some commentators, this pledge did not involve extra money, but rather described the plan for slicing up existing financial commitments of £11.6 billion.
The European Union eventually came out in support of loss and damage, proposing to set up a fund for loss and damage in the most vulnerable countries but from a 'broad donor base.' This would aim to extend the responsibility for loss and damage funding past those countries who are historically viewed as responsible for global warming and increase funding from newer economies, primarily China.
The EU, despite its traditional role as leader in climate-related matters, initially expressed reluctance about the fund due to the time it can take for it to be established and subsequently filled. EU negotiator, Franz Timmermans, instead pointed to existing instruments which could have been used to provide this funding faster. The EU's U-turn was widely criticised as ploy to divide the G7 countries which led to many developing nations siding with China. It is not yet known how the fund will be financed and private capital may have a role to play. The decision on loss and damage envisages that the mechanics of the fund will be worked out in advance of COP28.
The loss and damage fund will work in conjunction with other finance mechanisms, in particular the Global Shield Financing Facility, which aims to supply capital for rapid deployment in the event of climate-related damage. In relation to the USD 100 billion of funding promised by developed countries, the outcome does little more than to reemphasise that these countries need to continue working to meet this existing commitment and that a wide variety of sources should be drawn on to reach the total, including "public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources".
UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, was keen to stress the need for 'clarity' on the delivery of this funding, whilst also highlighting that adaptation needs were likely to rise to USD300 billion per year by 2030.
3. Phasing Down v Phasing Out
The use of fossil fuels has been another controversial topic during COP27, against the backdrop of rising energy prices and supply crises following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The Implementation Plan does no more than to repeat the goal of last year's Glasgow Climate Pact, "accelerating measures towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies." References to "the importance of a clean energy mix… as part of diversifying energy mixes and systems" are perhaps deliberately ambiguous. This is despite calls from India and numerous countries within the European Union for references to 'coal-power' to be broadened to include all fossil fuels.
The International Energy Agency recently warned that global coal use must be reduced by 90% by 2050 if the world is to limit global heating to 1.5C. Recent energy challenges have already threatened to slow, if not halt, existing progress towards coal phase-down, with countries like Germany claiming to have little choice but to return to coal to keep the lights on, in view of gas shortages.
Unfortunately, it is not therefore considered surprising that the Implementation Plan does not move forward the reduction in fossil fuel use. This point was underlined by Yeb Sano, Greenpeace International's COP27 head of delegation, who described the draft text as "an abdication of responsibility to capture the urgency expressed by many countries to see all oil and gas added to coal for at least a phase down."