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COP27 wrap-up: positives and negatives in final outcomes

They say that change comes slowly, and then all at once.

COP27 represented both ends of this spectrum: a truly significant outcome in the multi-decade fight by vulnerable countries for financial support to recover from loss and damage caused by climate change and the less discernible advances on addressing the emissions that cause it.

The 27th meeting of the 190+ parties to the UN Climate Change Convention closed in the wee hours of Sunday morning, almost 40 hours after its scheduled conclusion, with countries reaching consensus on the high-level communique that rounded out the two weeks of negotiations.

The communique, known as the ‘cover decision’, reflected genuine progress on loss and damage. The parties to the convention ultimately agreed to establish a new dedicated fund for vulnerable developing countries, with a ‘transitional committee’ to begin work next year on how to operationalise the new funding.

The outcomes in relation to mitigation were decidedly more modest, and in some cases disappointing. On the positive side of the ledger, a new ‘mitigation work program’ was launched in Sharm El-Sheikh aimed at scaling up mitigation ambition and implementation between now and 2030.

However, many observers were left frustrated with the relatively weak language in the final cover decision text relating to the need for countries to align their actions with the 1.5°C commitment and the absence of a reference for emissions to peak by 2025 in order to keep the goal of 1.5°C alive.

In relation to the energy sector, the final text continues to reference the ‘phasedown’ rather than the ‘phase-out’ of ‘unabated coal’. In addition, late in the overnight weekend wranglings, new references to ‘low-emission’ energy were also included in the text to complement the existing references to renewable or clean energy. Some have interpreted this as opening the door for a continuing role for gas.

Whatever the case, the communique also "highlights that about US$4 trillion per year needs to be invested in renewable energy up until 2030 to be able to reach net zero emissions by 2050". That means that our industry has a very large and central part to play in moving the world forward in the year and decade ahead. And that gives me hope.