Loss and damage deal agreed at COP27 in glass half empty conclusion

It was always expected that a deal on tackling climate change and compensating for its consequences would go to the wire. And indeed, beyond the wire with the Conference of the Parties overrunning from Friday until an agreement early this morning.

There is still unpacking to do on what was achieved. But the glass is perhaps half full as the developed world has agreed to the principle of reparation for loss and damage for extreme climate events, such as the extraordinary flooding we have seen in Pakistan recently and the extreme drought in Africa and elsewhere. But the glass is at least half empty because there is no money on offer. That will have to decided at a future COP or decided on an ad hoc basis (which is what is done with overseas and emergency aid anyway).

The glass is very much half empty because there seems to have been no commitment to an ending of fossil fuel use, even among rich nations such as ours and the USA. The agreement today is for phasing down fossil fuel use, not phasing out. It is not clear that limiting global warming to 1.5° is now achievable. That of course will lead to more reparation payments, providing those countries responsible for most historical emissions pay up.

Countries with economies that have developed more recently are serious polluters. India. China. Many others. All are however getting more serious about climate change (and the air pollution that goes with fossil fuels) but lagging behind western efforts. The agreement today commits the world to a just transition, and that is itself a just move.

The west can’t be that proud of its record. If Liz Truss was still the prime minister, the stuff of nightmares, anything would be allowed in her and Kwasi Kwarteng’s bid for growth at any cost. Donald Trump was King Coal and could even be so again – an even worse nightmare. Rishi Sunak has not cancelled North Sea drilling licences (though he has killed off fracking). There are however fears that today’s settlement will not slow the dash to gas and could reduce the urgent imperative to invest in renewables.

But the west is still committed in principle to tackling climate change and now there is an agreement that builds on COP26 and the Paris Agreement to share the burden with island, low lying and other climate-stressed countries. That will hopefully encourage some of those countries that have developed later than us to act on their own emissions. However today’s agreement allows countries to move to net zero emissions by or around mid-century, “taking into account different national circumstances”. That potentially takes the foot off the accelerator of getting to net zero.

National circumstances are referenced eight times in today’s agreement. That is correct in principle, but will it allow countries like ours that are slipping into to recession to delay their commitments because we have failed to make our economy work?

And there is no further commitment to reducing emissions. A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels did not make the final text of the declaration.

So much more could have been achieved. So much more needed to be achieved.

There is, however, a commitment to reparation for loss and damage. Though no clear mechanism for paying for those reparations. And no mechanism for funding for countries to adapt to climate change.

My glass is sadly half empty after the end of COP27.

In all honesty, I had not expected anything better. But we need something better.

The pressure now is on COP28 which will take place in the United Arab Emirates, which is aiming for net zero by 2050, this time next year. Delegates could then be flying to the last chance for the world to tackle the growing climate crisis.

And human rights, including the rights to a climate you can cope, must feature larger in the Emirates.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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9 Comments

  • Martin Gray 20th Nov '22 - 1:12pm

    A pattern is emerging here …They seem to spend the entire time coming up with a satisfactory wording of an agreement – that leaves it as ambiguous as possible..
    All this could of been done on a zoom call ..

  • nigel hunter 20th Nov '22 - 1:34pm

    When there are 6oo fossil fuel lobbyists ‘invited’ to the conferance I am not surprised there is no real agreement. Their vested interests will hold up any serious decisions as long as they are invited.

  • Jenny Barnes 20th Nov '22 - 4:04pm

    “All this could of been done on a zoom call .” Agreeing to do nothing, effectively, while fossil fuel usage goes up 2% pa.. – very nearly double what it was before the first COP – hardly needs a zoom call.
    I understand the fossil fuel lobby has got agreement that methane is a “low emission” fuel, and they plan to set up gas fired electricity in Africa. Not looking good for humans.

  • Paraphrasing lines from the western film “The Outlaw Josey Wales”:

    Are you a fossil fuel lobbyist?
    Yes, a guy has to earn a living somehow.
    Dying is no way to earn a living.

  • Thanks for the summary Andy, and appreciate very much that you have made the effort to follow what was happening and report back to us. So much of the news coverage was tangential to the real issue at hand. It was all about who was going, and for how long. Fairness in the transition is important, so I am pleased there is progress there, but agree overall progress is too slow.

    I have become increasingly worried by the apparent apathy within our own party too. The issue was hardly mentioned during the recent internal elections. There are some brilliant members who do amazing work, but the climate and biodiversity emergencies are the defining issues of this era, that are impacting the health and wellbeing of every single person on this planet who hopes to be around for a few more years, with more food shortages and the associated increase in wars and refugees, while wiping out entire species and nation states.

    There are some notable exceptions, but I don’t think we treat it with the seriousness or urgency it deserves.

  • Mick Taylor 21st Nov '22 - 2:19pm

    Fiona is absolutely right. Our leaders keep talking about economic growth without seeing the contradiction between growth and saving the planet from climate change. If we are serious about climate change, then we have to stop advocating growth and redistributing the existing wealth so everyone gets a fair share of it. It WILL mean lower incomes and wealth for quite a few and an end to the expectation that incomes and pensions will continue to rise. Once you end wasteful consumption and build thing to last there will be fundamental changes in manufacturing systems and (eventually) an end to wage slavery as working hours are reduced. Of course the people who expect working people to accept ever lower wages and working conditions will fight all the way to maintain their privileges and lavish way of life. Liberal Democrats must stop being mealy mouthed about what needs to be done and face down those illiberal people and seek to persuade the majority of the UK population that the present system is unsustainable and requires radical surgery.

  • Very true Mick. We need to be more up front about what’s required, but we can still be politically savvy. I accept that if we go out and say ‘economic growth is the wrong goal’ we’ll be painted as a bunch of loonies before we get to the end of the sentence. What we can do, however, is lead with the need for a thriving economy, and a healthy population with clean air, rivers and soils where people have access to the services they need. The sort of measures that become important when you prioritise a wellbeing economy, as explained brilliantly by Kate Raworth in her excellent book Doughnut Economics.

    The only people who can object to that are the ones who don’t actually care if normal people are healthier and happier, but instead rely on dodgy business practices to hog as much money as possible.

  • George Thomas 21st Nov '22 - 5:43pm

    In the relatively near future highly paid lobbyists for fossil fuel companies will live in large, advance houses both with the technology and physical position to protect the occupants from worst effects of climate crisis whereas the rest of us struggle with flood each winter and baking heat each summer.

    And yet we need the fossil fuel companies to find a way to make money in protecting the climate because if not there is very little chance of persuading America, China, India, Australia etc. of need to change behaviour.

    The outcomes of these events are the outcomes we should have been seeing 20+ years ago. No wonder people are gluing themselves to roads to try and stop Chelsea tractors driving around!

  • George, I don’t know if you saw this article in the Guardian earlier this year about the tech billionaires and the super-rich prepping for the climate or AN Other apocalypse. Having a well secured home in the hills might insulate them from some impacts, but underground bunkers only help for so long if there’s a full collapse of society and everyone else, including your security team, is hungry.

    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2022/sep/04/super-rich-prepper-bunkers-apocalypse-survival-richest-rushkoff

    It’s terrifying how much money some people are spending in the hope of keeping them safe from the thing that could be prevented if they spent their money less selfishly.

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