Zoë has a BSc in Zoology from Bristol University, an MSc in Environmental Policy, Planning and Regulation from the London School of Economics, and an MBA from the University of Cambridge. She is passionate about strategies to sustain long-term conservation impact, which foster local incentives for conservation and financial sustainability, and reduce long-term dependence on grant funding.
For two weeks, parties from across the world came together at COP27 in Egypt to negotiate how we can all work to both negate and navigate the impacts of climate change. Resulting from the discussions is the COP27 final decision text – otherwise known as the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan – which outlines commitments and priorities for nations to take forward.
From a positive recognition of the twin climate and nature crises, to lacklustre decarbonisation and finance commitments, we analysed the key areas covered:
If we hope to be successful in tackling climate change, recognition by nations of the unquestionable connection between nature and climate is essential. Before COP27 got under way, we urged parties to remember the critical role that nature has to play in limiting global warming to no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Nature has a potentially immense influence on both climate change mitigation and adaptation; it is therefore crucial that the climate change crisis is approached in tandem with the other critical crisis the planet is facing: biodiversity loss. These two crises are deeply intertwined; without biodiversity, we cannot have a safe and liveable climate, but the more the climate warms, the more nature is put at risk.
Credit: Ruben Banuelos Bons/FFI
In the COP27 decision text, we were pleased to see strong references to the dual nature and climate crises, including the importance of protection and restoration of terrestrial and marine ecosystems while ensuring social and environmental safeguards – an area at the forefront of FFI’s priorities for the conference. It is also the first time that the term ‘nature-based solutions’ has been included in the decision text.
The wins for nature are, however, bittersweet given the challenges of driving more ambitious action on reducing emissions. In this context, COP27 hasn’t delivered much. In fact, it’s barely been able to hold the baseline agreed last year in Glasgow and the world is still heading for 2.4°C of warming by the end of century under current 2030 climate targets.
The enhancement of adaptation – the process of helping people and nature to cope with the unavoidable impacts of climate change –, in particular locally led adaptation, was another key FFI priority at COP27.
During the conference, the two-year-long Glasgow–Sharm el-Sheikh Work Programme on designing a framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation reached its midterm. Results were discussed and welcomed, and the final decision will be made at COP28.
We are pleased that community- and ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation – that take into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and the knowledge of Indigenous Peoples – are mentioned as cross-cutting considerations for the development of the framework. However, adaptation finance commitments still don’t go far enough.
Credit: Edy Susanto/FFI
During 2022, the Adaptation Fund received over US$230 million for action on adaptation from developed countries, but this is still just a fraction of what is needed. According to the latest UNEP Adaptation Gap Report, annual adaptation needs will reach US$160-340 billion by 2030 and US$315-565 billion by 2050. The COP27 decision urges developed countries to “urgently and significantly scale up their provision of climate finance” for adaptation, but, disappointingly, there is no call to prepare a concrete roadmap on how they are actually going to deliver last year’s promise of “doubling adaptation finance from 2019 levels by 2025”.
In general, there was little new climate finance on the table and the US$100 billion per year (promised in 2009) still hasn’t been delivered in full by developed countries.
While finance commitments are lacking, momentum was gained for the need to reform the international financial system to make it fairer and fitter for purpose to finance the transition and resilience needs of developing countries. A more detailed proposal will be developed by next spring.
The decision to establish a dedicated fund to help vulnerable countries to address loss and damage caused by climate change is a huge step forward, and clarifying the further details is urgent. With the Loss and Damage fund, COP27 has given a strong push to treat the symptoms of the climate crisis, but finance needs will continue to escalate, and the prospects of keeping the 1.5°C target within reach diminish with every year of weak action to address the causes of climate change.
In terms of mobilising market mechanisms to foster greater international cooperation on meeting climate targets, and flows of public and private finance, there are still significant loopholes in the rules on carbon markets, which could potentially undermine the integrity and efficiency of markets, as well as the quality of carbon credits. At a time when the focus on integrity and transparency is ramping up significantly within the voluntary carbon markets, it is particularly important that this is also mirrored within the UNFCCC process.
On a brighter note, corporates’ behaviour will be under higher scrutiny to ensure credibility and effectiveness of their net zero commitments: at COP27 a UN expert group published its recommendations (including red lines) for industry, regions and cities, and a new task force was set up to develop rules – together with regulators – to improve integrity and transparency of net zero plans.
Credit: The Ocean Agency/Ocean Image Library
Significantly for nature, reference to the REDD+ mechanism, which was removed during COP26 last year, was negotiated back into the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan. Rainforest nations, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Honduras, were active in negotiating to enshrine this mechanism for sustainable management and financing of forests in developing countries.
FFI has, for many years, been calling on decision-makers to ensure that IPLCs are at the heart of all climate change planning, implementation and finance, and this was at the forefront of our priorities for the 2022 conference. Only by recognising the critical role of IPLCs – particularly as stewards of land and coastal resources – and actively involving and supporting local communities in all stages of the process, is it possible to be effective, sustainable and just.
The COP27 decision text recognises the important role of IPLCs in addressing and responding to climate change, and highlights the urgent need for multilevel and cooperative action. It also references the need to respect human rights, the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, the right to health, the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, as well as gender equality and intergenerational equity, which is very welcome. This is the first time that the “right to a healthy environment” has been mentioned in the COP cover decision, so positive progress is being made in this area.
Credit: Jeremy Holden/FFI
Despite greater recognition of the connections between climate and nature in the decision text, it’s highly disappointing that there was no mention of COP27’s upcoming sister convention on nature – the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) or COP15, taking place in Montreal from 7th to 19th December 2022.
By failing to connect the two conferences, an opportunity has been missed to, firstly, ensure approaches to the twin crises are aligned and, secondly, highlight the significance of CBD for the future of nature and ergo, the climate. Without a ‘Paris moment’ at CBD and the formulation of an ambitious Global Biodiversity Framework, we put ourselves at grave risk of running out of time to halt biodiversity loss and mitigate climate change. Look out for more on this in the coming weeks.
Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing our planet and all life on it. Find out how we are working to ensure that critical species and habitats survive, no matter what the future may hold.