Struggling to build global governance through the COP process

Struggling to build global governance through the COP process

The equity that loss and damage seeks

Pedro Walpole SJ

Dedicated delegates met for the final outcome of COP27 in the early morning of 20 November, the last day of COP27, and officially closing after two weeks of negotiations with the adoption of the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan that establishes the funding arrangement for vulnerable countries for loss and damage. This process was shepherded through the dedication and integrity of COP27 President Sameh Shoukry, and final statements by countries and non-government organizations were heard and held sacred, especially that of human rights.

The advanced unedited versions of the package of decisions during COP27 can be accessed here, one of which is the document on Funding arrangements for responding to loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including a focus on addressing loss and damage.

Now that there are funds for Loss and Damage when distributed, there needs to be national monitoring that these funds are not wasted on pet projects or diminished by corruption, and truly reach their destination of pulling people out of disaster. The intricacies of these documents also indicate the need for representation of poorer countries to argue and rewrite proposals successfully.

This is an achievement after 30 years, when developed countries acknowledged their responsibility in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development during the Earth Summit in 1992, and agreed that ways and means of providing new and additional financial resources and funding mechanisms particularly for developing countries were to be identified, considered, and quantified.

It was also consoling to hear genuine voices that acknowledged the difficulties in the negotiations, as there were parties (not named) who blocked the needed action while there were others who fought with urgency and integrity. This is a positive note that can be taken and shared with others in committing to action and seeking ways to support locally.

Yet, there are also the shadows looming at the side of these lights of achievements such as the:

  • Failure to set up the arrangement for adaptation finances
  • Failure to commit to phase out fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) despite support from 80 countries
  • Removal of some clauses acknowledging human rights in Article 6
  • Presence of over 600 fossil fuel representatives outweighing the whole of global society, youth, and children
  • Dilution of equity language and Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR)
  • Failure to reflect in the Climate Deal (final document) the IPCC warning that carbon production must peak in 2025 if commitment to 1.5°C is to be kept, due to lack of consensus.

The simple and the complex in the COP process in Sharm el-Sheikh

In the COP process, there is the simple and the complex at each level. For the simple part, there are several quotes that define COP27.

The world is on the “highway to climate hell” by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, is a frank appeal where actions did not follow. There were some good moments while others faded. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said Brazil is back and seeks to save the Amazon while Australia mumbled a general phasing down of commitments. The platform was given to Venezuela, one of the worst climate offenders, and described as an act similar to asking “an arsonist to put out a fire.” These are serious attitudes of political staging that further undermine the loose promises given when lacking integrity.

COP 27 in its last days still had “energy,” good human interaction, commitment, and the struggle for collaborative reasoning for action. Guterres has a cohort around him who resolutely believe in his endurance in the mission; where can be found one good man or woman, there are tens and hundreds by extension who simply work for the shared common good.

While there were weak outcomes, there was still integrity, upheld especially by Sameh Shoukry. In the end, there were voices in the wilderness such as Satyendra Prasad, the Fiji ambassador and permanent representative to the UN, who said that phasing down all fossil fuels will not keep us below 1.5°C.

Climate clock with the Maldives delegation during the COP27 closing plenary

Meanwhile the Alliance of Small Island States (Big Ocean States) felt their cries are not heard and the Developed Countries are backsliding. A woman from Ecuador shared that in her culture “our blood is considered brown as it returns to the earth.”

These are the simple moments that all must gather and need to recall, the moments that touched people’s hearts.

Then comes the complex, the difficulties, the promises without laying down steadfast actions that hold for this day forward. There is the challenge on how to understand the negotiations, the wheat and the chaff, as there was a lot of chaff.

It was showtime for many with carbon wands, magical technology, and distractive talk. COP was an opportunity for gas producers and financial backers to rebrand natural gas as a transition fuel rather than a fossil fuel. Hydrogen from fossil fuels was another “option” for distraction.

In the closing hours, Saudi Arabia came around focusing on carbon capture technologies in partnership with the national oil company, Aramco, that announced in a recent press release its third quarter 2022 net income of US$ 42.4 billion, a 39% increase year-over-year. Integrity? There is great skepticism and it is shameless for a country to play with science and with reality given the present suffering of millions of people in the South.

When Craig Golinowski, president of Canadian private equity fund Carbon Infrastructure Partners, proposed carbon capture with gas as a solution, COP became a showground for corporate dreams that governments are tied to with a noose.

The absurdity, the grossness of such distractions and filibustering outran the promises, while climate change continues uninterrupted this year again. Just watch the present 418ppm increase in the coming year.

There is simply much selfish money and it would be foolish if there is thought this would be shared.

US President Joe Biden sadly did not achieve anything for the long term, only buying time. China’s impact has grown massively in the last 30 years and trying to politically focus on China and distracting from what others must do, only wrecks the process.

Where is the leadership from the North to make a steadfast (not concrete, which is often mentioned) commitment and not just an undefined promise, to phase out all fossil fuels and to establish a realistic financial mechanism for adaptation that is true to the spirit of the COP ambition?

Speaking simply again, COP is still a global debate where the loudest argument stalls the day’s potential, while others are left feeling the pain. It reflects the lack of progress made in reconciling rich and poor nations over how to pay for the rebuilding of countries ravaged by climate breakdown.

As early as the 1950s, scientists of oil companies, through their research, publicly made available the data on projections for climate change (see related article in Ecojesuit and documents in Smokes & Fumes). Aviation and shipping have had little attention. Also, a fifth of greenhouse gases (GHG) come from livestock that make up more than 60% of mammal biomass on the planet. And with humans taking up 30%, not much space is left for the elephants, hippos, and rhinos, plus the smaller myriad of mammals threatened with extinction.

Bolivia sought guidance on the Green Climate Fund (GCF) while calling others out for procrastination on getting the GCF moving, as elements in the document were constantly blocked, bracketed, or dropped.

Recommendations from the COP26 Koronivia Joint Work on agriculture were noted and this is now replaced by the Sharm el-Sheikh Joint work on implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security. The key outcomes for food systems that emerged in COP27 were analyzed and shared by Bryan Galligan SJ from the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa (JENA) and who joined COP27 as a registered delegate for Ecojesuit. These include:

  • An expanded mandate for food security that broadened from the narrow focus on agricultural production to promoting a holistic approach in addressing issues of agriculture and food security, but with no agreement yet on a food systems mandate.
  • A strong focus on the importance of small-scale food producers described as “stewards of the land” and their importance as “key agents of change” and calling for inclusion and participation of indigenous and local communities, women, and youth in policy formulation
  • Opening avenues to provide more, better, and targeted resources to small-scale food producers through cooperating with the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism, the Adaptation Fund, the Least Developed Countries Fund, and the Special Climate Change Fund
Vegetables prepared for agricultural training sessions for farmers in Taita,Kenya (FAO)

Galligan also shared that while there is no explicit linkage with the UN Committee on World Food Security defined, there is space in the mandate to cooperate with other UN bodies. Also, the importance of aquatic food systems is gaining attention in the UNFCCC and considering that aquatic animal-sourced food accounts for 17% of global food protein consumption according to the 2022 State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, the inclusion of fisherfolk along with other types of food producers is needed in subsequent deliberations. In relation, there was also a renewed call to consider the integration and strengthening of ocean-based action in existing mandates and work plans, recalling the outcomes of the 2022 Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue in Bonn in June 2022.

Turkey’s intervention on agriculture and food security reminded people there was still not even a definition of water insecurity and security.

Maldives did the calculation that there are 86 months before reaching the projected peak in fossil fuels to keep within the 1.5°C.

Several countries spoke of the beginning of climate justice. Climate science and climate policy for countries are yet to realistically connect. The youth spoke of “villains and heroes” and asked “where is the urgency?” given the deal is nowhere near stopping the disasters.

The struggle to build global governance through the COP process

The COP process shows the long evolution in building a global governance to serve the common good and the long haul to build trust in each and every generation and enhance the global response to the most existential threat to the world today – climate change. In the COP process there is integrity and dedication, but much needs to be done to continue to restore greater trust globally.

While it was a very laudable COP27 closing, there is still a very slow addressing of the suffering all over the globe. Simon Stiell, COP27 executive secretary, pointed to COP 28 for new components on adaptation while seeing this COP as a break with business-as-usual, but left much unsaid about the cause for a just transition from fossil fuels. Having a dedicated fund for loss and damage is a “glimmer of hope” he suggests in the future, and not going beyond 1.5°C to enact the Paris goal on adaptation and the finances needed must be concluded in COP28. He called for unitive trust, empathy, and understanding.

During the two weeks of COP27 and before, there were protests demanding responses and people, mainly youth, are seeking greater political space. Different concerns were highlighted from Africa and the youth caravan, Senegal over the gas and also in Latin America and its elections. The war in Ukraine continues to be the central area for action. On the side scroll, there is mention of the fall of crypto currency and Twitter, but these are not the concerns of the poor.

Environmental and political activist George Monbiot, spoke about COP27 in a local street gathering in Bridport town in West Dorset, UK. He spoke of the soft facts, the promises that will be tried, but that there is no fundamental agreement to face the need to leave fossil fuels or animal farming. Presenting another face of XR or Extinction Rebellion, he calls for building movements where the social tipping points become inevitable, for systems change over the endless incremental change that calls for compromise. Activists may indeed be preaching to the choir, but that choir needs to be extended. Social change happens when 25% of the population strikes out for change and it never comes from meeting halfway.

Return to the present day is a very helpful approach in moving forward as COP fades, as depicted in this new climate awareness video from Centre Arrupe Madagascar. Efa Ravelonantoandro, who is in charge of the centre’s Environment and Sustainable Development program, shared that he hopes COP 27 was fruitful and a source of good news for the fight against climate change, for the common home, for Africa, and for Madagascar (remember how much Africa and Madagascar are suffering in the forefront of climate change). Now we must turn humbly with hope in our hearts in making every effort in our community of care.

In the twelve months ahead, there is a need for hope, honesty, courage, and perseverance to move forward. The world cannot sit and wait until next year’s COP to act on the climate crisis that is still on a sustained track for a 2, a 3, or a 4°C temperature rise.

It is only by being together that this change for 1.5°C can be pursued, always coming from efforts to daily enrich each caring community of support, as otherwise the self is swamped by the global disorder. Unraveling global problems and solutions at the global scale of COP is not possible unless there is a belief in where we come from.

After reaching out socially to the global COP process, we must again return to where we started – from communities and commitments of hope finding ways to extend help each other. The many gains of COP21 are draining away, and so the call for social action of a broadening world is essential.

Sunday, 20th November, while waiting for the closing plenary of COP27 to start here in Mindanao, Philippines, I sat with our little gathering of the youth from Grades 4 to 12 in the dugo (sunken floor) of the dalēpaan (place of safety) and we wondered about the feast of Christ the King with a big crucifix hanging on the end wall. What does this mean for us? How do we understand suffering and action?

This is a feast of deep hope in the face of much anguish. There is understanding that leadership comes not from the kings of this world but from below, from those who willingly accept their suffering not as useless but as essential in making the path straight for the common good. In this mystery of life, we need our faith in the present context to share a vision for which new paths must be found again to move forward.

Statements from different countries and organizations were shared and can be viewed from this video clip of the closing session. These include statements from Pakistan, the European Union,  Australia (on behalf of the Umbrella Group), Zambia, Antigua and Barbados (on behalf of IOSIS), Senegal (on behalf of the Least Developed Countries), Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Arab Group), Bolivia (on behalf it the ILDC), Colombia (on behalf of ILEC), Papua New Guinea (on behalf of Rainforest Nations), United Kingdom, Maldives, Japan, Turkey, Nigeria, Indonesia, Norway, India, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Tuvalu,  Barbados, Palau, local governments and municipal authorities, women and gender NGOs, children and youth NGOs, business and industry NGOs, environmental NGOs, indigenous people NGOs, trade union NGOs.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *