COP27 finally drew to a close in the early hours of Sunday, having run into almost-record overtime as leaders struggled to reach agreement on key issues. Billed as an ‘implementation COP’, these talks were seen as an opportunity to demonstrate real action, especially on issues of climate finance and phasing out fossil fuels. In their opening speeches, leaders proclaimed that climate change could not be put on the back burner and that the summit must deliver the action needed to meet the scale of the crisis.
At a summit held on African soil – home to some of the most climate-vulnerable communities in the world – there have been many stories of suffering but few real signs of progress.
Falling short on finance…
The message from climate-vulnerable countries and communities in the run-up to and at COP27 has been clear and consistent: wealthy countries must deliver financial support to meet their own climate targets and help low-income countries adjust to the impacts of climate change. In a year of climate chaos, the need for this support has never been clearer.
But wealthy countries’ leaders have failed to put their money where their mouth is, putting very little new cash on the table. This COP has merely recognised the ongoing failure of wealthy nations to deliver the long-overdue $100 billion that Tearfund and others have been calling for. But it’s not enough to keep apologising year after year when it leaves millions of people in poverty shouldering such a heavy burden.
‘Every day that “rich” countries refuse to pay their bill, communities around the world are paying a very real price in homes destroyed and lives lost.’ Jessica Bwali, Tearfund Zambia
… but a last-minute win on loss and damage
But there is a glimmer of hope and it’s found in the 11th-hour agreement to establish a fund for ‘loss and damage’. This refers to climate impacts that have happened or can’t be avoided, such as sea-level rises that are sweeping away entire communities. While many of the details are yet to be worked out, the last-minute inclusion of this pledge offers a ray of hope and relief for vulnerable nations and communities. It’s a welcome sign that their voices are finally being heard – and collective pressure from civil society is having an impact.
We urgently need to see wealthy and high-emitting countries honouring their existing climate finance pledges, as well as rapid action to turn the loss-and-damage funding pledge into reality.
‘The island my father lives on is already under water because of sea-level rise due to climate change.’ Jocabed Solano, climate activist, Panama
No change on temperature rise
Limiting warming is vital to minimise the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Every fraction of a degree matters, and could be the difference between life and death for millions of people in poverty around the world.
And yet, in the last year, our trajectory hasn’t changed: despite governments committing at COP26 to come back this year with stronger national climate plans, we leave this COP still on course for around 2.5°C of warming – and that’s only if countries implement their current plans. Warming of a degree more than the agreed target and safer level of 1.5°C would mean more floods, storms, droughts, and food and water insecurity: a devastating sentence for the world, but especially for the most vulnerable.
‘If your house is burning you don’t plan how to put the fire out, you just put the fire out.’ Collins Lungu, climate activist, Zambia
Failure on fossil fuels
We cannot stay within 1.5°C without phasing out coal, oil and gas. The energy security crisis further highlights the urgent need to move away from fossil fuels and create a more secure, resilient and cheaper energy system based on renewables. But we’ve seen the fossil fuel industry wield too much influence at COP27, and the fact that the final text stops short of calling for a phase-out of fossil fuels is a colossal failure.
We urgently need to see more high-emitting countries commit to a complete phase-out of coal, oil and gas. It’s vital we prevent a ‘dash for gas’ as a false solution to the energy crisis, and instead accelerate the transition to renewable energy. As well as reducing emissions, this could create good green jobs and improve energy access and security for people in poverty around the world.
‘African citizens want and need renewable energy to build a fairer, cleaner future.’ Fred Njehu, climate policy adviser, Tearfund
Beyond the negotiations
We draw hope from the fact that COP27 has been about far more than just the negotiations. It’s been about people coming together to create change and people all over the world – including thousands of Christians – speaking up for climate justice.
In Sharm El Sheikh, we saw many demonstrations inside the Blue Zone. The voice and determination of the movement is building. One person who leads a big coalition we’re part of said, ‘We are unstoppable!’ It’s a privilege to be part of this group of amazing indigenous people, young people, women and environmental activists from across the world.
And on Saturday 12 November, thousands of people – including many Tearfund supporters – took to the streets of London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and other cities across the UK to raise their voices as part of the Global Day of Action.
Tackling the climate crisis is never just about a two-week conference. The crisis is a daily reality for millions of people, and demands a daily response. In the weeks and months ahead, we will need actions that meet the scale of the crisis, and leaders who will step up to their responsibilities and turn climate action into a daily commitment. People in poverty cannot afford another wasted year.
And so we will not stop praying, taking action and speaking up – holding our leaders to account for keeping their promises and urging wealthier nations to step up to their responsibilities. And we will continue to choose hope, and to keep our eyes fixed on God, who can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.