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COP 27 HOPES AND EXPECTATIONS

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COP 27

HOPES AND EXPECTATIONS

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP27 (Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC), will be held from 6 to 18 November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Government and industry representatives from across the world will attend this 27th edition of the annual UN climate change conference to reassert their commitment to a global energy transition. However, expectations from COP27 are weighed down by a global energy crisis that risks sparking economic recession as well as social unrest. A year ago, Glasgow was abuzz with excitement; countries were required to ratchet up their energy transition plans in nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Countries agreed to submit enhanced NDCs before the end of 2022, but few have done so. 
The focus at COP27 will need to be on progress and on delivery to give the necessary tailwinds ahead of a new ambitious cycle. Countries will finish a “global stocktake” of progress started at COP26, which will inform NDCs for 2035 due for submission in 2025.
Context
COP27 is taking place in a highly climate-vulnerable country on a highly climate-vulnerable continent. Adaptation to current and future climate change impacts has long received less attention and less finance than mitigation. At COP26, efforts to change this included the Glasgow Climate Pact, urging developed countries to at least double adaptation financing as well as the launch of a two-year work program on the global goal of adaptation (GGA) which seeks to help countries to adapt, increase resilience to climate change and reduce their vulnerability through, and complementary with, sustainable development. Vulnerable countries have long been calling for support to adapt to climate impacts. Following another summer of extreme weather, including in the Global North, the urgency of adaptation to climate change is increasingly obvious to those who have the most finances and technological capacity to implement change. First-hand experiences of failed harvests and heat stress due to climate change may have pushed the climate crisis up the public and political agenda in developed countries and we can expect to see a keener understanding of the need for adaptation from a wider array of countries at COP27.
Agenda
The agenda for COP27 includes four main items to be discussed: climate finance, adaptation, loss and damage, and increased ambition. 
1. Finance
On climate finance, there is a need to ensure that developed countries will fulfil their commitment to developing countries regarding the $100 billion per year financing pledge, as promised in COP 15 in Copenhagen. Since the establishment of the Pars Climate Accords in 2015, there hasn’t been a single year where the $100 billion per year financing target has been met. The closest registered record towards this target was in 2021 when $80 billion were raised through public and private sources. There is a serious need to reach this goal as climate impacts are causing global suffering on a rampant scale. In addition to the $100 billion goal, there is also a need to agree on a post-2025 climate finance arrangement that is significantly larger in number, in addition to setting up adequate rules to enforce this commitment.
2. Adaptation 
On adaptation, COP27 is considered an ‘African COP’ as it is taking place in a continent most affected by climate change. Therefore, stakeholders are expecting to witness a higher political desire to increase global funding for adaptation policies. Currently, 80 percent of the overall climate finance portfolio is dedicated to mitigation, while only 20 percent goes to adaptation. This is often because mitigation projects are bankable projects with a decent return on investment potential, such as solar and wind energy projects. However, adaptation projects are less investible by nature, as they are geared towards assisting local communities to adapt to the consequences of the changing climate. These projects are often not bankable and less appealing to financiers. In addition, adaptation projects are often needed by the most vulnerable communities, which cannot often develop sophisticated proposals for climate finance that can garner support from financial institutions, agencies, or governments. So, this year, there is a direct need to obtain assistance for one of the most vulnerable continents and help them adapt to climate change in a fair and just manner.
3. Loss and damage
Loss and damage has become a contentious subject that has been discussed for several years, with no consensus on any enforceable work plan. Some countries will have complete losses and irreversible damage due to climate change, whether it relates to a small island state that will be completely inundated from sea level rise; the complete bleaching of coral reefs in some seas; or the extinction of particular flora and fauna from ecosystems based on global warming. The topic can be divided into economic losses that include damages to resources and goods and services, such as agriculture, infrastructure, tourism, etc. and non-economic losses that include loss of family members, the disappearance of culture and ways of living, or migration from one’s home. Loss and damage differs from mitigation and adaptation in that it tackles how to help people after they have experienced climate-related impacts, while mitigation works on preventing it and adaptation on minimizing it. The Paris Agreement made only the intention to address loss and damage with technical assistance, but explicitly it did not include any liability or compensation for it by developed countries. There have been several attempts to establish a finance mechanism for loss and damage, but they have repeatedly failed. 
4. Increasing ambition 
The fourth agenda point is increasing ambition. This entails consolidating the concurrent political commitments by different stakeholders and the wider global community towards the climate cause. The February report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that we must stay below a 1.5°C temperature increase mark to avoid a climate disaster and that we only have a decade remaining until the carbon budget is used up entirely. The report also mentioned that, by 2030, emission levels should be halved to meet this target. In other words, the international community has less than ten years to act.
What Pakistan should do? 
Climate change is a poster child for knowing no borders or timelines. Burning fossil fuels in one country impact a whole chain of small emitters nearer the equator in ways that multiply disaster outcomes for the vulnerable. There have been so many tragic monsoon casualties recently alone in Pakistan, and the weather cannot be in anyone’s control; only our responses can be optimized better. So, Pakistan’s recent floods and the devastation they caused will likely be quoted as one of the major examples of climate change.
Pakistan will have to ensure that climate financial justice and losses were at the core of all multilateral negotiations at this year’s COP-27 because urgent need for equitable and just climate financing to address the current climate crisis.
Although the “loss and damage” is likely be a key issue at the next climate summit, it will not be advisable for Pakistan to go through this route at this stage for two reasons. First, so far the developed countries completely reject the notion of reparations. Except for Denmark, which has promised $13.5 million to be spent through NGOs in countries that suffered the most from climate-related damages, no other country has agreed to do so.
Second, it may be many years (if ever) before such a mechanism is agreed and worked out. Our needs are immediate. It is often seen that the world community has a short memory. A few months after any disaster, they forget their pledges. Last year, at the 26th Climate Summit in Glasgow, South Africa secured an $8.5 billion deal with developed nations to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Pakistan needs a similar deal with the climate adaptation challenges. In his meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, French President Emmanuel Macron has offered to host an international conference before the end of the year, aimed at the revival of Pakistan’s economy and its reconstruction in the wake of devastating floods. It is essential that Pakistan designates a full-time ministerial-level person to coordinate this work.
The writer is a PhD scholar (English Literature). He can be reached at hbz77@yahoo.com

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