COP27 world climate summit: “Results are not good enough”

11/22/2022 – A COP failure was avoided, but it was only a very moderate success for the climate. While 1.5 as a global goal is still there on paper, COP27 does not offer a concrete plan on how to achieve that. These are, in a nutshell, the assessments by PIK Directors Ottmar Edenhofer and Johan Rockström just after the 27th edition of the world climate summit COP concluded on Sunday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Positive outcomes of the summit include a first-of-its-kind set up of a ‘loss and damage fund’ that shall aim at compensating climate impacts for developing countries.
COP27 world climate summit: “Results are not good enough”
Photo: PIK

Given what is at stake, the results of COP27 are just not good enough to ensure a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Ottmar Edenhofer: ”At the world climate summit, the countries reaffirmed targets for limiting global warming. But that is of little use if the paths to these goals are not defined.” For the German ZDF, Edenhofer assessed "the outcome of COP27 as a very small step" (link to ZDF Interview and to Deutschlandfunk interview,  both in German).

Set-up of climate loss & damage fund one of few achievements

During the two-week negotiations, where climate policy-makers and experts came together to take forward urgently needed climate action, hopes for this very COP had been relatively low already at the beginning. Yet, the appearance of many heads of state at COP, such as President Biden, did show that the changing climate appeared to a topic on the political agenda, according to PIK Director Johan Rockström (read more about Rockström's assessment after half-time COP27 in this Guardian interview).

One of the few positive outcome of COP27 could be the loss and damage fund for developing countries, where rich nations are supposed to pay poorer countries for the damage and economic losses caused by climate change. PIK Director Ottmar Edenhofer generally welcomed the set-up of the fund: “If you have to expect to pay for future damage, you have an incentive to avoid it. This also creates an incentive for the biggest emitters, the USA, China and the EU, to cooperate and reduce their emissions. The money should be spent in such a way that the poor countries immediately turn onto a development path free of coal, oil and gas. A good climate policy is not one where we pay for the damage, but avoid the damage.” Edenhofer also underlined that for the time being, lots of details of the fund remained unclear, e.g., who has to makes deposits into the fund, according to which criteria the money should be distributed etc. In The Hindu podcast, Edenhofer gives more insight into possible finance options for mitigation and adaptation.

Strengthen the role of science at COP

Johan Rockström voiced his concern about the role of science at COP: "Science has a much too weak voice at the negotiations at the COP meetings. We tend to underestimate the climate risks. The pace of human caused global warming is kind of moving faster than we had expected. In view of the current negotiation results, policy-makers probably need more, not less science on their tables." (Read more about Rockström's COP27 assessment on ZEIT online  - German only - and his view on cascades of crises colliding in NYT).
Rockström also proposed a reform of the COP process with more focus on the actual delivery on agreed climate goals according to scientific necessity.
“The world needs to cut global emissions by 50% in 7 years’ time - and in Sharm, we were still battling over whether we are phasing down or out coal, and were not even willing to talk about fossil fuels. The mismatch could not be wider.” Germany and the EU would now have to try to work with the U.S. and China – an alliance of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases would be needed to make progress, Rockström concluded.


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