Race to COP27

By Aisha Khan
Published in DAWN on November 04, 2022

IT is the time of the year when countries convene to negotiate roles and responsibility for safeguarding the future of the planet. This year the strident chorus of voices will reach a crescendo in its demand for urgent climate action.

In the backdrop of a year bedevilled by polycrisis, the need for climate diplomacy will be the most important piece in solving the climate puzzle. The face of human tragedy will be splashed all over the COP with images of floods from Pakistan and the drought in Somalia to jog the collective conscience of parties responsible for the mayhem in nature. Coming on the heels of an uneven recovery from the continuing pandemic, the rising cost of food and energy, the acceleration in the loss of biodiversity and the deepening debt crisis for many countries, voices of anger and disappointment will define the mood and shape the contours of the two-week talks.

The element of distrust will intensify the divide if talks don’t move towards reaching agreement on some issues that have routinely become a bone of contention at the annual climate meet.

This year, countries will expect decisive responses to the latest science and concrete and actionable steps towards implementation of the Paris Agree­ment. A key part of an effective response will require demonstrable political will from wealthy nations to scale up finance and acknowledge loss and damage as a separate category of finance to address recovery and rehabilitation from climate-induced disasters.

The planet is hurtling towards its sixth extinction and pinning hopes only on futuristic technologies is not a safe option.

The spotlight will be on the increasingly severe impacts of climate change being felt by developing and vulnerable countries. The ask will be to fix the finance system beyond the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to appropriately resource the achievement of climate and development goals and agree on new ways of collaboration at the UNFCCC to enhance delivery of emissions reduction, scale up climate finance, support adaptation and address loss and damage.

Given the pile-up of complaints and slow progress on Paris Agreement goals, intense diplomatic activity will be required outside but complementary to the COP negotiations. In a world where crisis is the new normal, the integrity of the multilateral system will be at stake. The developing and vulnerable countries will lose no opportunity to flag risks of greenwashing and violations of human and nature rights.

COP27 presents the world with a chance to show climate leadership by injecting political momentum and building on the tenuous but key consensus reached at COP26 on accelerating action to keep the goal of 1.5 alive. Since Glasgow, the changes in the geopolitical landscape, with mounting global tensions and pressure on economies, have de-prioritised the climate agenda. The challenge at Sharm El Sheikh will be to put climate at the front and centre of politics and economic growth by making a case for collaborative action as the pathway to recovery from the multiple crises that the global community is facing.

It is important to use this gathering to reassert the relevance of multilateralism in addressing interlinked challenges. The world cannot afford destabilisation on three fronts (political, economic and environmental) simultaneously and have no agency that provides space for dialogue and resolution of contesting issues.

Pakistan will champion the need for a new global deal on nature and showcase the ‘Living Indus’ as its flagship ecosystem restoration project for conserving the rights of nature. High on the agenda will be the damages incurred as a result of the floods of 2022 and demand for climate justice. Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman has been recognised at the top of the pack of the nine movers and shakers at COP27 in an article published by Climate Home News. This sets the stage for Pakistan to combine its clim­a­­te representation and presidency of the G77 to use its political and diplomatic skills to push the agenda forward. Pakistan’s political narrative will be built on seeking investment on climate cooperation as a so­­lu­tion to energy, economic, food and biodiversity loss.

The issues at stake will include: i) increasing volume of public finance through additional country initiatives and pre-visibility on reaching $100 billion per year provided by the Delivery Plan, ii) building a new climate finance regime for a Paris-aligned transition through political guidance on the New Collec­tive Quantified Goal, iii) implementing the commitment to double adaptation finance to address the adap­tation gap, iv) increasing the mobilisation ratio of private finance, v) ensuring that progress does not stop at the acceptance of an agenda item on loss and damage and moves beyond to mobilise and coordinate loss and damage finance, vi) restructuring the debt burden on developing and vulnerable countries to ease recovery and rehabilitation from climate-induced disasters.

Pakistan is all set to place adaptation at front and centre of the implementation agenda at COP27.

Sharm El Sheikh will set the stage for COP28. This puts a big responsibility on the host government for a successful outcome. Confrontation and contestation need to be replaced by collaboration and agreement. Vilification will not solve the climate conundrum, while a delay in responsive action will bring humanity a step closer to an apocalyptic end. The planet is hur­tling towards its sixth extinction and pinning hopes only on futuristic technologies is not a safe option.

In the final sprint to COP27, it is important to keep in mind that the agreement in Paris was built on a moral mandate and moving forward can only happen if the principle of equity is respected at the negotiating table.

The minister for climate change says that Pakistan’s message will be articulated loud and clear to let the world know that what happened here will not remain confined to Pakistan.

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