While we were focused on elections, prepping Thanksgiving Turkeys and gearing up for the World Cup, an important summit on climate change came and went without much media coverage. The 27th Conference of Parties summit in Sharm el-Sheikh Egypt brought together the world’s nations in an attempt to rally solutions for the climate crisis.
Last year’s summit in Glasgow was successful in keeping nations rhetorically committed to keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, a threshold in which dangerous feedback loops will be triggered causing catastrophic damage. However oil and gas dependent nations successfully focused emission reduction targets on coal use, and blocked language on reducing all fossil fuel consumption.
This year’s summit did not move the needle on expanding emissions reductions targets but did see a breakthrough in getting wealthier nations to create a “loss and damage” fund to help poorer nations pay for climate change-fueled disasters. The United States had been the primary hold out in creating such a fund for years. As the highest historical emitter of greenhouse gasses, the U.S was afraid of what admitting liability to being the primary driver of the climate crisis would mean for paying out reparations to poorer nations.
A big sticking point for the United States is the classification of China as a “developing nation.” As the current highest emitter of greenhouse gasses the U.S believes China should play a bigger role in contributing to a loss and damage fund but as a developing nation China could potentially receive funds.
Despite the obstacles, the creation of the fund is seen as historic. President Biden verbally committed $11.4 billion to help developing nations adapt to climate change but that funding is unlikely to see daylight with Republicans controlling the U.S House.
The fund is historic in that it is the first time the United States and the nations of the European Union have admitted in an official capacity some historic responsibility to creating the climate crisis and that the wealth they possess as a result of burning fossil fuels should be used to pay for the damages. Tucked into the deal for the fund was language that “low emission energy” could be supported by the fund. This is fossil fuel lobbyist code for methane gas. Yes, the climate fund could end up funding fossil fuels. Additionally in typical international climate negotiation fashion, who will fund this will be left up to next year’s summit in the United Arab Emirates.
While there were positive developments in this year’s climate summit, it’s kind of like if there was a wildfire rampaging through the neighborhood and the neighbors finally agreed to chip in for some buckets. And oh, they are gonna wait until next year to buy the buckets.