COP27 Cables: Cash, Promises, and Absurdity

‘Climate justice’ is the latest term of art to take center stage.

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As was the case for the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, I’m filing cables on the annual United Nations–led climate-change confab. This year, COP27, or the 27th Conference of Parties, is hosted by Egypt, in Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea. (Find the previous cables herehere, and here.)


As the annual climate conference moved toward its conclusion, everything was coming down to the money. Egyptians and other developing nations wanted a clear announcement on this front, specifically a loss-and-damage fund, something that would require a last-minute change of heart from the Americans. (Spoiler: One was agreed to. More on this to come.) 

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With the COP delegates attempting to navigate the hard realities of economic stability, growth, and increasingly strident demands to shift the world away from traditional fossil-fuel energy, “climate justice” is the latest term of art to take center stage. While it is not always clear what it means, it was being attached to every conversation, document, and placard in Sharm el-Sheikh.

At the same time, the EU as well as a coalition of Caribbean nations called for the phase-down of all fossil fuels. They were followed by tiny Tuvalu, a country reliant on imports of diesel that fuel 81 percent of its electric grid. Next up, India called for a commitment to phase down all unabated fossil-fuel use. American and Finnish negotiators followed the lead of the Indians and are banking on promising, but not yet widely available or commercially viable, technologies such as carbon capture to ameliorate the effect of emissions from traditional energy sources.

Powerful words, but ultimately performative. There is no technological path to a phase-down of fossil fuels. De-growth and de-industrialization form the only path to the elimination of the tried and true when it comes to changing energy sources on the scale that many climate policy-makers are looking for. 

Meanwhile, the Egyptians and other developing nations were worried that the annual U.N. caravan would pack up and leave this Red Sea refuge before creating a new financing facility — a new office of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — and a mechanism, or financial instrument, to detail the specific terms of how money would flow. The secretariat of the UNFCCC runs the COP meetings and is responsible for coordinating member nations’ responses to the threat of climate change. Establishing a new office to be staffed and authorized to collect and distribute funds would mean that eventually new transfers of financial resources would flow from developed to undeveloped nations. Short of deciding all the details on how to raise and distribute climate-change welfare, the COP could decide to set up the office (the facility) now and work out the details (the mechanism) later. The COP is all about the money, and poorer countries want to see more of it.

Read the full article at National Review.