© Helvetas / Ricardo Franco
20. November 2022

Climate Summit COP27: Progress Despite Standstill

© Helvetas / Ricardo Franco

The results of the COP27 climate conference are mixed. With the adoption of a fund for loss and damage, a historic step was taken towards climate justice - Switzerland, too, could no longer refuse this request. But instead of a clear commitment to phase out fossil fuels, there is once again only a work program.

Media release of the development umbrella organization Alliance Sud, which is supported by Helvetas and other major Swiss development organizations.

From a development perspective, the negotiations on financing climate-related loss and damage were particularly important at this conference. The pressure on developed countries has been greater than ever this year, given the floods in Pakistan and the drought in East Africa. No one can deny the damage caused by climate disasters or the impact of rising sea levels any longer. The rich countries - including Switzerland - had to bow to pressure from the particularly affected countries, island states and civil society and agree to the creation of a fund for loss and damage. This is a success for climate justice. But the job is not done. It is crucial that the new fund quickly receives adequate funding.

Disappointment on the topic of «adaptation»

«For food security, adaptation to climate change is a key issue. Given the current world situation, it is distressing that there was little discussion about it at COP27 and accordingly no progress. The funding pledged so far is completely inadequate,» says Christina Aebischer, who attended the COP27 on behalf of Helvetas. This is a great disappointment, especially for the African countries and organizations; they had hoped for more at this African climate summit.

It seems all the more unlikely that the agreement reached at last year's COP in Glasgow to double adaptation funding by 2025 compared to 2019 will be honored. «Switzerland has not made any additional pledges either, which is incomprehensible to many poorer countries. Unfortunately, this is largely related to the failed vote on the new CO2 law. Switzerland urgently needs to strengthen climate finance in its legislation so that matching funds can be made available for adaptation.»

On the positive side, however, it was agreed for the first time to finally start the discussion next year on how to shift international financial flows to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote climate-resilient development. Of course, clarification of the content and even more so the agreement are still a long way off, but the urgently needed discussion has been launched.

No phase-out of fossil fuels in the final declaration

However, not enough progress was made on the crucial reduction of emissions. Despite pressure from a wide range of countries, including Switzerland, the rapid phase-out of coal, oil and gas was not enshrined in the final declaration. «With the adoption of a multi-year work program to reduce emissions, only a minimum goal of this conference was achieved to keep the 1.5-degree target alive. It is now important to increase funding for emission reductions in developing countries as well, otherwise the targets cannot be met. Here, the industrialized countries have so far failed to fulfill their promises», comments David Knecht, who spent two weeks in Egypt observing the negotiations for Fastenaktion.

The fact that more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists were present at the conference helped to water down the final declaration. It is imperative that the UN issue guidelines for the climate conferences on how to deal with conflicts of interest. The meager commitments to phase out fossil fuels are particularly shocking when one considers that fossil fuels account for over 70% of emissions, and when one compares the billions in profits made by oil and gas companies this year with the billion-dollar gap in climate finance.

Meanwhile in Bern: Scandalous decision in the Council of States

The climate conference took place with the understanding that the global 100 billion dollar target was missed by at least 17 billion. The need for more financial resources from the North was the central topic on the agenda. But that did not stop the Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy Committees of the Council of States of Switzerland (ESPEC-S) from cancelling a slight increase in the «Framework Credit Global Environment 2023-2026» again during the current conference. This was despite the fact that Swiss President Cassis had already announced this additional money for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in his opening speech at the COP27.

The fund is designed to support developing and emerging countries in combating the climate crisis and adapting to climate change. Over the past four years, this has enabled greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 1.440 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalents. This is equivalent to 33 times Switzerland's annual CO2 emissions.

The Council of States has to make adjustments

The Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy Committees of the Council of States of Switzerland announced on November 11 that a majority of the committee is asking the Council of States to reduce the amount by 50 million francs. The argument used is Switzerland's «strained financial situation» - a mockery of countries in the global South that are financially far worse off and which, moreover, did not cause climate change themselves. «If the financial situation of rich Switzerland is considered strained, how can the poorest countries be expected to cope with the climate crisis without additional support? The Environment Commission should have recognized the urgency of the situation and increased the contribution instead», stresses Andreas Missbach, Director of Alliance Sud, the Swiss center of excellence for international cooperation and development policy. Alliance Sud calls on the Council of States to reject its commission's cut proposal in the winter session and to implement Swiss promises made at the climate conference.

For further information:

Helvetas, Christina Aebischer, Advisor Climate Adaptation, Tel. 076 459 61 96, christina.aebischer@helvetas.org

Alliance Sud, Andreas Missbach, Director, Tel. 079 847 86 48, andreas.missbach@alliancesud.ch