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A protest in the final days of COP27 PA Images

Newsletter: COP27 has ended. It scraped a pass

“The world remains on the brink of climate catastrophe.”

This is a special edition of Temperature Check, The Journal’s climate newsletter, sent as part of our COP27 series. Sign up in the box at the end of this article to receive Temperature Check to your email inbox every month for free. 

IN THE EARLY hours of yesterday morning, bleary-eyed negotiators finally signed off on a deal that left no-one fully satisfied, but no-one storming out of the room either.

It’s not unusual for COPs to run late. This one’s scheduled finish date – Friday – was being taken with a liberal pinch of salt, but it certainly pushed it out to the 11th hour; the closing plenary didn’t start until around 4am yesterday. 

When everyone got there, it took another few hours to consider and adopt texts like loss and damage finance and the mitigation work programme before the session finally closed shortly after 9am on Sunday.

In his final statement of the conference, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “COP27 took place not far from Mount Sinai, a site that is central to many faiths and to the story of Moses, or Musa.”

“It’s fitting. Climate chaos is a crisis of biblical proportions.

“The signs are everywhere. Instead of a burning bush, we face a burning planet.”

So what did the conference decide about how to put out that fire, prevent a new one, and support those who have already been burnt?  

It narrowly hung on to the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. 

However, it failed on fossil fuels to go much further beyond the agreement that was reached last year at COP26 in Glasgow, echoing previous calls to accelerate “efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”.

On loss and damage, widely considered from the outset to be the litmus test of whether this COP would be considered a success or not, negotiators had broadly been in agreement that a system would be developed to support certain countries.

What that system would look like and which countries would be involved was a different story though. That was where the key divisions emerged between the G77 group of developing countries and China on one side and the European Union on the other.

The G77, which includes 134 developing countries, called for a dedicated fund for loss and damage, whereas the EU wanted to use a broader base of sources that it insisted on describing as a “mosaic”.

And the EU wanted to target the funding to countries “particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”, while the G77 would have expanded it to a wider audience. In particular, whether China would be a contributor or recipient was a key source of contention, with the EU pushing for the former.

Ultimately, the deal was a compromise, taking the G77’s dedicated-fund model and the EU’s language on recipients.

cop27-climate-summit Minister Eamon Ryan outside the Irish delegation office on 18 November Ahmed Hatem / PA Images Ahmed Hatem / PA Images / PA Images

Ireland’s Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan, who was leading the EU’s side of the negotiations on loss and damage since the middle of last week, said this morning that “negotiations are about compromise and the European Union, in our negotiations, broke the deadlock when in the middle of the week we changed our position and listened particularly to the small island nations”.

“Even though we don’t think having a single fund is the be-all-and-end-all, we agreed we will establish the fund. That provided the opportunity to break the deadlock and to get the compromise in,” he said, speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

However, he said the EU was not happy with the negotiations’ lack of progress on keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees.

“We were looking for more ambition. We held the line in terms of there wasn’t any retreat but we need to advance further.” 

In 2015, the Paris Agreement called for countries to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and not to allow it to surpass 2 degrees.

Currently, the world is around 1.1 degrees warmer than pre-industrial times and is already experiencing impacts of the climate crisis, such as heatwaves, droughts and melting ice sheets. 

The scale of recent changes to the climate are “unprecedented” over hundreds and thousands of years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and it is “unequivocal” that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.

Global surface temperatures are expected to exceed 1.5 and 2 degrees unless “deep reductions” are made to emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Former President of Ireland and Chair of The Elders Mary Robinson said that the “renewed commitment” at COP27 on trying to limit warming to 1.5 was a “source of relief” and that the historic outcome on loss and damage shows international cooperation is possible”.

“However, none of this changes the fact that the world remains on the brink of climate catastrophe,” she said.

PA-698579461 Attendees and media waiting in the final hours of COP27

That was the sentiment across much of the reaction to the conference’s decisions – fine, but not enough.

May Boeve, Executive Director of, said there is “no time left for incremental change – every fraction of a degree matters”.

“We needed a swift, just and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels and the COP has, yet again, failed to deliver.

“The breakthroughs on loss and damage are testament to the incredible work of civil society from the most impacted countries. But without a phase-out of fossil fuels we are setting the world on a path for further losses and damages. This is where the COP has failed.”

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that “without any binding commitments to rapidly and immediately reduce greenhouse gases, the world stands no chance to deliver on the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit and by doing so minimising risks of uprooting the life-supporting systems we all depend on and endangering countless human lives”.

Director of the Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe Chiara Martinelli said that this “particularly challenging COP brings one piece of hope, especially for the most vulnerable people, with an agreement to set up a loss and damage fund, but very little progress on the long to-do list countries have in order to tackle the biggest challenge of our times – most importantly, phasing out all fossil fuels”.

“The poor role of Egypt’s Presidency and some countries blocking progress in the wee hours should not deviate our attention on other crucial aspects. 

“The EU has to continue to raise its ambition on emissions reductions, support a just transition out of fossil fuels, deliver on climate finance and unravel the details of the new loss and damage fund to help to make it operational as soon as possible. 

“This winning combo is, at this stage, the only way out of the climate crisis and the EU should be taking a leading role.”

Its next chance to take a stab at that will be December 2023, when COP28 is scheduled to take place in the United Arab Emirates.

With the UAE one of the world’s largest oil producers, the location of next year’s COP will cast a very particular backdrop for the climate conference.

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