[EXPERT REACTION] COP 27 wins and losses

(Photo: Unsplash/Markus Spiske)


On 20 November, the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 27), that took place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt concluded with a historic decision to establish and operationalise a loss and damage fund, particularly for developing countries that are most vulnerable to the climate crisis. 

Attention on methane, a more-potent but shorter-lasting greenhouse gas than carbon, was also considered a major win at the summit. Yet there were concerns that no real progress was made on raising ambition or cutting fossil fuel emissions to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, as committed to in the Paris Agreement.

We asked experts to highlight some of the big wins and losses at COP 27, as well as what they signify for Malaysia and the rest of the world.

Lavanya Rama Iyer, Head of Policy and Climate Change, WWF-Malaysia, said:

“The COP 27 decision has placed a strong emphasis on the role of nature in addressing climate change. Nature-based solutions, oceans-based actions and protection, restoration and conservation of forests and water ecosystems have been recognised as means to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. The growing convergence in addressing climate change and nature loss together is of particular significance to Malaysia. As a mega-diverse rich country, which has also been facing increasingly erratic weather patterns, we should protect our natural heritage to gain from the multiple benefits this would provide which range from addressing climate change to providing us with food and water security. 

“COP 27 also saw the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund. After almost 30 years, this is a historic win for developing countries that are facing devastating impacts of climate change. The details of who pays, how much and for what are still being worked out. Even in Malaysia, we encountered loss and damage to the tune of about RM6 billion in the unprecedented floods last year which can at least partially be attributed to climate change.  Malaysia should hence establish a mechanism to evaluate the extent of climate-related loss and damage in the country.

“Unfortunately, however, despite the ongoing and increasingly severe climate impacts being felt the world over, COP 27 failed to deliver on an increased ambition on climate mitigation to keep within the 1.5 degree threshold. Without substantial action to stabilise future climate (mitigation) while at the same time taking sufficient action to adapt to the changing climate (adaptation), loss and damage will continue to rise. In Malaysia, we have yet to prepare our National Adaptation Plan and this must receive the utmost priority.

“COP 27 also put a strong focus on non-state actors. The UN Secretary General warned that there would be zero tolerance for greenwashing in net zero and COP 27 reiterated the principles that non-state actors like the private sector, cities, and investors should adhere to in meeting their net-zero targets. Malaysian non-state actors should pay attention to this growing scrutiny and adhere to these principles in their net zero journeys.    

“The contributions of Indigenous Peoples especially as stewards of nature and the knowledge they bring were recognised. It was indeed good to have Malaysian Indigenous Peoples at COP 27 this year, and Malaysia would greatly benefit from having indigenous wisdom in managing the challenges of climate change here. The role of children, youth, women and local communities was also emphasised. For example, COP 27 had the first youth-led climate forum, hosted the first youth and children’s pavilion and appointed the first youth envoy. Malaysia should encourage more youth participation in developing and implementing our climate action and even attend as part of the Malaysian negotiation delegation at future COPs.”

Nithi Nesadurai, President, Environmental Protection Society Malaysia & Director & Regional Coordinator, Climate Action Network Southeast Asia, said:

“The main outcome of COP 27 was the decision to establish a new funding arrangement for assisting developing countries that are particularly vulnerable with a focus on addressing loss and damage. While Malaysia is unlikely to be a beneficiary of the fund to be established for responding to loss and damage, which includes a mandate to focus on addressing loss and damage, our country needs to actively support the prompt institutionalisation of the fund. This is to enable vulnerable countries suffering the worst consequences of climate change which have contributed the least, to receive financial compensation for the climate-induced loss and damage that they suffer from.

“Another positive outcome at COP 27 was the adoption of the Sharm el-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda, which requested the Standing Committee on Finance to prepare a report on the doubling of adaptation finance. Malaysia should support the effort to double finance for adaptation while finalising its long overdue National Adaptation Plan.

“While the Mitigation Work Programme was finalised, the decision text was not progressive and also backslide on the Glasgow Climate Pact adopted at COP 26. Not only did it go back on the resolve of 1.5C and leave low emissions and clean energy mixes on the table, but it also opens the route for gas, nuclear and other inappropriate practices when facing the current climate emergency. Malaysia should not be distracted by the latter and focus on reducing its absolute emissions by transitioning to low-carbon development through energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions and shifting away from dependence on fossil fuels with just transition.

“This will also tie in with the substantive decision on the ‘Just Transition Work Programme’. As a country which has declared net zero emissions by 2050 and is a fossil fuel exporting nation, Malaysia should initiate work on developing a policy on Just Energy Transition and creating the institutional framework to implement it.”

Mark Brownstein, Senior Vice President, Energy Transition, Environmental Defense Fund, said:

“It’s no surprise that COP 27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt closed with few groundbreaking headlines. Going in, we knew it would be a “working COP” focused on steps to advance the commitments made at previous gatherings. However, there was real progress in the fight to reduce methane, the pollutant driving nearly a third of current warming.

“The biggest methane news at COP 27 came from the United States – number one in both global oil and gas production and methane pollution – which announced a substantial strengthening of long-awaited EPA rules that will dramatically cut emissions from tens of thousands of wells, pipelines and other facilities – including high-polluting, low production wells that had previously been left out. Additionally, the proposal introduces measures to reduce wasteful flaring. Canada, the world’s fifth largest producer, announced the main elements of an ambitious new set of oil and gas methane regulations that it will formally propose early next year. Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change also reaffirmed the country’s commitment to cut overall methane emissions by at least 75 percent by 2030. Mexico’s state oil company PEMEX rounded out North American momentum with its announcement to develop and action a plan by first half of 2023 to cut methane pollution, with technical support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Nigeria, another major producer, became the first African country to regulate methane emissions from its oil and gas sector. And China, affirmed that it has drafted a national methane emissions plan that focuses on data and measurement and information sharing on best practices and technology. Malaysia’s Petronas set strong methane reduction targets and signed up to OGMP, the only direct measurement-based reporting framework for methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. The company also entered into agreements with Japan to jointly pursue carbon neutrality strategies.

“Even as markets in Europe and around the world continue to struggle with supply shocks caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, countries gathering at COP 27 increasingly embraced the core idea that energy security and climate security are two sides of the same coin – a common problem that can only really be addressed by accelerating the global transition away from fossil fuels.  Oil and gas companies worldwide waste at least 210 BCM of natural gas a year through leaks, flaring and other emissions. That’s nearly 25% more gas than Europe was importing from Russia before the Ukraine war. At a time when Europe is worried about keeping homes warm and lights on, the quickest and cheapest option for filling the gap created by the loss of Russian gas is to simply stop wasting gas that’s already being pulled out of the ground.

“The UNEP International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO), a core implementing partner of the Global Methane Pledge, launched the Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) to scale up detection of major emission events, notify relevant stakeholders, and support and track mitigation progress. Carbon Mapper will use airborne and space-based instruments to develop a global waste sector methane baseline assessment of over 10,000 landfills and dumpsites. RMI and Clean Air Task Force committed to developing an open-source Waste Methane Assessment Platform with waste sector information to drive methane action.

“None of these developments on their own get us where we need to be. But taken together, they set the stage for major new progress over the next 12-18 months – potentially the biggest, fastest steps we’ve set seen in our decade-long battle to address this powerful climate pollutant.”

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