‘A mixed bag’: What Ireland’s climate experts think of COP27

22 Nov 2022

Image: UN Climate Change/Kiara Worth (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

There has been mixed reaction to COP27, with uncertainty over how the loss and damage fund will be implemented and disappointment that emissions are not being properly tackled.

The UN’s COP27 climate summit came to a close over the weekend, with a landmark new deal to support developing nations but no new commitments towards fossil fuel reduction.

With COP25 being viewed as a failure in 2019 and last year’s COP26 deemed disappointing by many experts, the new loss and damage fund agreed at the 2022 global conference is being viewed as a major result.

This fund will support developing nations that are hit by climate disasters and slow onset issues such as rising sea levels, ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity, desertification and rising temperatures.

Plant scientist Dr Eoin Lettice was part of the University College Cork delegation to COP26 last year. He previously said that the refusal of rich countries to support developing nations that had a smaller contribution to the climate crisis was a missed opportunity.

Speaking following COP27, Lettice described the overall deal as a “bit of a mixed bag” but welcomed the new loss and damage fund.

“It’s a victory for developing nations who, in general, have not caused climate change but stand to suffer most from it,” he told SiliconRepublic.com. “It also seems to be a victory for EU diplomacy and the EU negotiating team that delivered the fund.”

Minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications Eamon Ryan, TD, was appointed as the EU’s lead negotiator for the loss and damage fund talks at COP27 in Egypt. Ryan called the creation of the fund “historic and progressive”, but noted that the final text is a compromise from what was originally proposed by the EU.

Dr David Robbins, director of Dublin City University’s Centre for Climate and Society, noted that the Irish delegation and Minister Ryan played a “really important role” in this year’s climate conference.

Robbins also said that locating the conference in an African country “allowed climate justice to come front and centre”.

More funding details needed

Hydrogen Ireland board member Paul McCormack praised the idea of the loss and damage fund, as the financing can help create a “level playing field” for all countries.

“They bring everyone to the same starting point and then make that just transition for all. It can’t be a just transition at the expense of somebody else, or a just transition for one country and not for the other.”

But details still need to be finalised for the fund to come to fruition. Decisions such as who will oversee the fund and which countries will pay means it could take years for the fund to be created.

Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe said he is pleased that the fund has been agreed on but told SiliconRepublic.com that “we desperately need a funding stream for it”.

“If I burn my neighbour’s house down and the insurance won’t pay out, it’s not my neighbour that should pay the bill,” Cuffe said. “And this loss and damage is already happening – we saw the widespread destruction that floods in Pakistan caused this year – so we need to start seeing this money coming in as soon as possible.”

Not enough fossil fuel focus 

Earlier this week, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said COP27 marked “a small step towards climate justice”. However, she said the summit had not delivered on a commitment by “major emitters” to phase down fossil fuels, or new commitments on climate mitigation.

This view is shared by many, with Lettice saying it is “very disappointing” that no real action was taken on fossil fuel dependency.

“Yes, there is talk about supporting renewables but COP seems hamstrung by nations which stand to lose out considerably from a move away from oil and other fossil fuels,” he said.

“I’m not confident that will change any time soon, particularly with COP28 due to take place next year in the United Arab Emirates.”

McCormack, who is the programme manager of the international GenComm renewable hydrogen project, said more was promised at COP26 and more should have been done this year.

However, he noted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “turned everything on its head” and that a transition phase is needed to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

“It caused everybody to start looking instead of long-term opportunities, looking to the short-term decisions,” McCormack said. “And that has created a juxtaposition that we need to navigate our way through.

“We can’t suddenly turn off our need for fossil fuels now and switch to something else. We need to wean ourselves off this addiction we have to fossil fuels but we need to do it gradually.”

A corporate COP

Robbins said there were far too many fossil fuel lobbyists present at COP27 and thinks this is something the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change should look at in future.

“The presence of so many fossil fuel interests undermines the credibility of the whole process,” Robbins said.

He also said this year’s event was more of a “corporate COP” due to the absence of fringe events and lack of a green zone, where youth groups, artists, academics and others usually go to host workshops and exhibitions.

“Bring back the young people, the indigenous people, the protesters, the noise and the mayhem,” Robbins said. “Those inside the tent need to be reminded what’s at stake.”

The results of COP27 were not well received by climate activist Greta Thunberg, who was highly critical of the watered down “blah, blah, blah” that took place at last year’s conference.

After COP27, Thunberg tweeted that the world stands “no chance” at limiting the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which was agreed at COP21 in 2015, “without any binding commitments to rapidly and immediately reduce greenhouse gases”.

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Image: UN Climate Change/Kiara Worth via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic