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ClientEarth Communications

18th November 2022

Environmental justice

What happened at COP27?

As the furore of COP27 draws to a close and world leaders, campaigners, NGOs and fossil fuel lobbyists alike make their way out of Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh, our CEO Laura Clarke, Global Director of Communications Chris Duncan and members of our Next Generation Board have been reflecting on how they feel in the wake of the conference.

Read their accounts below.

“The agreement on a Loss and Damage fund at COP27 is a historic breakthrough and an important step towards climate justice. We also welcome the Bridgetown Agenda for reform of the international financial system, and the High Level Expert Group's mission to tackle corporate greenwashing, but the vested interests of fossil fuel majors and states put the brakes on the progress we need.

We have to phase down all fossil fuels, and peak emissions by 2025. And developed countries must deliver - urgently - on finance to scale up mitigation and adaptation ambition. We need to stop the damage done by Big Agriculture to the climate and nature, and take concrete steps to protect forests and biodiversity. We welcome the leadership of Lula's Brazil and need progress from all involved with Cop15 in Montreal.

Courts have ruled time and again that Governments have a legal duty to take action on climate change. People shouldn’t have to take legal action to force their leaders to act but are often left with no other option. Governments should expect that if their inaction continues, so will the litigation against them.

A handful of countries and companies have made major progress on their journey to deliver on the ambition of the Paris Agreement to keep temperature rises below 1.5C and they should be praised for their leadership. For the rest, litigation risks will increase, with more claims against not just Governments and fossil fuel companies, but also food and agriculture, transport, plastics and finance. It should now be abundantly clear to all that climate action is not a voluntary activity, nor a matter of PR: it is a legal duty.

When the Secretary General opened COP27 saying we that we are “on a highway to climate hell”, I thought of the proverb about the road to hell being “paved with good intentions”.  Time and again we see Governments and Businesses showcasing their good intentions: they acknowledge the scale of the climate crisis, commit to ambitious action – but then fail to deliver. But good intentions are not enough. We are here to use to the law to hold states and corporates to account for their climate commitments, and ensure that they deliver.”

Laura Clarke, CEO  

“COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh is due to end today, but talks look set to continue at least until tomorrow before there is agreement on the final text. Lots of people suspected that the issue of loss and damage would be the hardest to get agreement on, and so it has proved. Despite broad agreement that loss and damage needs to be addressed, there is no consensus on what should come next with options ranging from a new finance facility to punting it to COP28. We heard overnight that Frans Timmermans, the EU’s climate chief, is proposing a loss and damage finance facility in exchange for agreements to phase down fossil fuels. Developing countries are understandably hesitant given the track record of such agreements being delivered. Negotiations are set to continue and we’re all hoping for a positive outcome.

The issue of corporate influence has hung over COP27 with reports of a big increase in the number of oil and gas executives and lobbyists in attendance, including BP’s CEO, Bernard Looney, who was attending as part of the Mauritanian delegation. He had, apparently, not come to lobby but to sign a deal with the country. Also in attendance, this time as part of the UAE’s delegation, was Vicki Hollub, the CEO of Occidental, a US oil company. This name stuck out to me in particular as I was listening to Hollub on Bloomberg's Zero podcast with Akshat Rathi on the first evening that I was in Sharm. Hollub was trying to make the case that her firm was going to sell “net zero oil”. It’s a fairly excruciating listen in some parts and the claims clearly don’t stand up to scrutiny but you can see that they’re compelling to those who believe we can continue with business as usual.

Transitioning away from coal-fired power has been a big focus for ClientEarth for sometime, so news of a new Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) signed at the G20 meeting to move Indonesia off its dependence on coal is promising, with $20bn in funding committed. In theory these are just the kinds of mechanisms we need to see more of but there’s still some scepticism. The JETP for South Africa has yet to deliver significant change and is mired in political wranglings about whether the money should come in the form of private sector loans or funding from governments. As ever, the big question is: where is the money coming from.”

Chris Duncan, Global Director of Communications

"I'm so inspired by all of the work that youth and bipoc groups around the world are doing against the climate crisis after visiting the first-ever Children and Youth Pavilion. Simply having a space to be and rest and laugh and plan and chat is something that was never provided before, and the difference is astounding. From these chance conversations, I better understand now how each of us can enact change through different avenues that account for our positionality and capacity, but that all of these routes are legitimate and complementary.

The US' lack of leadership on loss and damage negotiations is concerning. As an American, I am especially disappointed. I know we have the money - the fact that we have the largest GDP is because of our historical involvement and profiteering on fossil fuels and other extractive measures. It's simply a matter of priority - when the military asks for more, it is seen as a national security concern, but when climate action is raised, it is "too costly." Climate change is a security concern, but beyond that, it is a matter of survival for the global south and frontline communities in the US too. No more sacrifice zones.

Living with a new delegation of youth from around the world who are working on grassroots efforts made me realize how important it is that the climate space is better represented by communities rather than individual influencers. There is an element of accountability to the work that is being done, and I hope that the funders, media, and other influential stakeholders that provide opportunities recognize their role in shaping the youth climate movement.

I think that being at COP27 was the most educational experience of my gap semester and that is largely in part to the vast exposure of different stakeholders that I was constantly rotating contact with. In the future, I would like to learn more about what groups on the ground are doing and how we can better elevate voices of youth from the global south, since the funding, accreditation, visas, training, and English-default are all barriers to accessed for those from the most impacted areas."

Angela Zhong, ClientEarth Next Generation Board

"The Conference of Parties are remarkable diplomatic events that indeed bring global leaders together to negotiate climate-related issues. Nonetheless, we are far - light-years - from where we should be in terms avoiding irreversible catastrophes and and ensuring justice.

Time is simply running out. We need a miracle. The miracle could be us. At COP, youth inclusion is not only an asset, but a need. We need to empower young people willing to make a change. In order to do so, capacity-building schemes must be put in place (this is something we would look forward to doing).

Seeing action from the inside reminds me that the situation is not under control at all, and we are not treating the climate crisis as urgent as it is. Now, my priority is learning skills to have a significant input at negotiations, but specially to contribute locally back in the Canary Islands and beyond. Think globally, act locally, and have a voice at COP if you can."

Carlos Shanka, ClientEarth Next Generation Board

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