COP27: Raising climate thermometer

Nik Luqman Wan Zainoddin
06 Dec 2022 06:16pm
A person walks near a mockup depicting the Earth globe at a booth in the deserted hall at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre, in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of the same name near the end of the COP27 climate conference on Nov 19, 2022. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
A person walks near a mockup depicting the Earth globe at a booth in the deserted hall at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre, in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of the same name near the end of the COP27 climate conference on Nov 19, 2022. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

The recent United Nations Climate Change Conference, or infamously referred to as COP27, finally wrapped last week in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

The annual climate summit had gathered global senior officials and leaders, which were engaged in somewhat intense weeks of debates, negotiations, and ultimately coming to terms to compromise on ways to address climate change.

Indeed, the COP27 is the world’s most prominent climate summit, which broaches global approaches to keeping the world temperature to 1.5 deg C, a level with which considered vital by scientists to avoid bearing the brunt of the worst climate change’s effects.

In the words of last year’s COP president, Alok Sharma, where the summit was held in Glasgow, Scotland, “Those of us who came to Egypt to keep 1.5 degrees alive, and to respect what every single one of us agreed to in Glasgow, have had fight relentlessly to hold the line,”.

Already, Pakistan, for instance, has paid the highest price for climate change. Though the country accounts for less than 1 per cent of global carbon emissions, third of Pakistan was submerged by floods affecting approximately 33 million people.

This thus makes the country face the worst displaced person crisis ever. And one should have heeded the scientists’ warning that the world should be phasing down the use of fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic heat waves, drought, sea level rise, and other climate disasters.

According to the International Energy Agency, there should not be any newfound oil or gas fields, or coal mines, if the world aims to reach net zero plant-heating emissions by 2050. But this appears to be a daunting task, especially when oil and gas producer companies are recording rocketing profits with close to $100 billion in the first quarter of this year, which is often buoyed by soaring oil commodity prices because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Indeed, at the recent COP27, countries still refuse to halt the burning of fossil fuels.

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Instead, they opted to repeat earlier pledges to “phase down unabated coal” and eliminate “inefficient” fossil-foil subsidies.

Hence, COP27 constitutes a pursuit of justice against the global emitters, which are equally responsible for raising the climate thermometer.

But the spotlight of COP27 is shed on the “loss and damage” fund, a euphemism for climate reparation – a growing call by developing countries for the developed countries to offer reparations as a result of damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

While the reparation is not by any chance able to commensurate with the climate-related damages, the $262 million commitment by the European governments, however, is a commendable effort, with the lion’s share coming from Germany.

This fund will be set up under the auspices of the United Nations, with the details will be further ironed out by November next year.

Southeast Asia’s Climate Change Closer to home, the Southeast Asian region is not spared from climate-induced disasters. And it is projected that the climate disasters, such as floods, droughts, sea-level rise, urban heat, biodiversity, and habitat losses in the region, would be further exacerbated when global surface temperatures exceed the 1.5 deg C threshold.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report already warns that the region is among the hardest hit by climate change, with the Southeast Asian countries at risk of losing settlements and infrastructure to sea-level rise.

Interestingly, the report also suggested adaptation action to be taken to address the increasing climate risk.

The adaptation action, among others, refers to measures to reduce climate-driven events in societies.

At the recent COP27, Southeast Asian countries participated actively in the negotiations. Singapore, for instance, has pursued undertaking a carbon credit cooperation mechanism.

For the record, Malaysia and Singapore have also agreed to deepen cooperation in the green economy front this year, focusing on strengthening collaboration to decarbonize industries.

While Indonesia has close ranked with Brazil and Congo, which possess more than half of the world’s forest if combined, to protect their forests from deforestation.

The Philippines was also proactive at the negotiating table.

The country requested to expand the coverage definition of loss and damage and also to include biodiversity loss and sea-level rise in the extreme weather events definition.

The inclusion of biodiversity loss and sea-level rise is deeply related to Southeast Asia’s scenario.

Indeed, while there is progress at the COP27 sessions, challenges remain especially getting the countries to commit fully.

Alas, if the international community can still not maintain the 1.5 deg C threshold in the coming years, the world’s future will be bleak.

Nik Luqman is an analyst and writer focused on Southeast Asia and ASEAN, currently an Associate Fellow at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS), National University of Malaysia. He tweets @Nluqman.

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