What does COP27 mean for climate justice?

Victories like the loss and damage fund are a spark of hope, lit by the power of movements.
Amiteshwar Singh

I attended the UN Climate Talks (COP) for the second year in a row this November.

Taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, this had a different atmosphere to COP26, held in Glasgow last year. This was largely a result of the human rights violations taking place in Egypt, as well as the restrictions imposed upon activists to engage in any form of dissent.

To make matters worse, COP27 saw an explosion in the number of fossil fuel lobbyists, with 636 representatives at the conference — a rise of more than 25% on last year.

A protest against the imprisonment of activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah by the Egyptian state. Image: Flickr/Alisdare Hickson.

We were aware of the challenges we faced — many of us had been in this space before — but we weren’t willing to give up hope. Activists across the globe came together to resist the perpetrators of the climate crisis and to fight for climate justice.

The significant victories we achieved through this are a spark of hope, lit by the power of movements. With more work yet to be done, this spark is growing into a flame.

One step towards climate justice

On the last day of COP27, the summit made the major announcement that it would create a global fund for ‘loss and damage’ to compensate poor nations for climate change impacts largely caused by richer countries.

This is a victory worth celebrating, as it brings us one step closer to climate justice; it is a strong start towards getting rich countries like the UK to pay up for their neo-colonial, neo-capitalist, extractive practices past and present.

The summit agreed to create a fund to compensate poor nations for climate change impacts. Unsplash/Saikiran Kesari.

However there are worries amongst those expected to receive this funding and their allies that this fund will be diluted. Another important question is whether the money will be delivered in the form of loans or grants.

Civil society and affected countries will need to strategise and act collaboratively to resist these kinds of setbacks, for example through campaigns and negotiations like the Bonn Climate Change Conference next summer and COP28. They'll also need to lobby at the national level to ensure governments allocate larger funds towards loss and damage.

We must refuse any deal that does not pay up for loss and damage in full, with no obligation to have to pay it back to the oppressors.

A last minute loophole

Although we have begun to treat the symptoms of the climate crisis, decision makers are proving slower on acting on its root causes. Fossil fuels have once again been given a pass, which spoke to the presence of the fossil fuel lobbyists.

Fossil fuels got a free pass. Image: Unsplash/Chris LeBoutillier.

At COP26, there were negotiations to phase out fossil fuels but these deteriorated, resulting in a final decision to ‘phase down’ coal instead. This decision was heavily influenced by rich countries like the UK, which rely on oil and gas and weren't willing to give them up so targeted coal. Feeling backed into a corner, countries which rely on coal like India and China responded by calling for a ‘phase down’ of coal at the last minute.

There was hope for progress on agreeing to phase out fossil fuels at this year’s conference, but nothing came of it. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia joined forces to ensure the texted stayed the same — a decision that will cost us through millions choking on polluted air, to the malnutrition of bodies across countries in Africa, South America and Asia.

To make matters worse, the final COP27 text made reference to ‘low-emissions energy’ in the transition to zero carbon — a last minute loophole which could licence petro-states and fossil fuel industries to continue to invest in natural gas.

The UK government pays lip service to the climate emergency while proposing new fossil fuel projects like Rosebank Oil Field. Image: Flickr/UK Government.

The UK has remained largely silent throughout these negotiations. This act of silence is an act against those most affected and an act to ignore the role the UK has played in perpetuating the climate crisis.

The UK government continues to pay lip service by claiming to want to keep temperatures from rising above the science-backed 1.5oC limit. In parallel to this, it continues to expand fossil fuel extraction, such as through the Rosebank Oil Field — a project that would emit more than the 28 lowest-income countries combined.

In spite of all this, 1.5oC is not dead. Although it holds onto a faint heartbeat, it is alive and full of hope. To accept that 1.5oC is dead would be to accept the destruction of ecology and livelihoods across the Global South. Climate justice lives as long as the movement lives which is growing by the second.

We must push together

COP27 shows we must push harder and we must push together.

We need grassroots movements to lay the foundations of a healthier, more joyful future. This can be seen in mutual aid, community kitchens or communal gardens.

For example, Healing Justice London is working to create a safe space and culture for healing beyond the limitations posed by current healthcare infrastructure, including from the impacts of the climate crisis. Meanwhile campaigns like the Kalikasan People's Network in the Philippines are leading the Green New Deal movement within the Global South. A key part of their work involves providing the capacity for local communities to actualise a Green New Deal on the local level, without relying on so-called decision makers.

COP27 clearly carried wins and losses. In particular, the win for loss and damage shows us that we can win climate justice. There is more work to be done and plans are already in progress. Post-COP follow-up meetings are being held with political stakeholders across the globe, lobbying them to not only implement the decisions made but to also go beyond that.

In the same breath, it is clear that COPs are where discussions are finalised, not started. With this in mind, preparations to push governments to take more urgent and necessary action on the national level are taking place. Organisations such as CAN International and the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition are already preparing to ensure that the loss and damage fund is delivering justice in the form of grants, rather than loans.

Resistance against climate change is a deep ecology of organising at many levels and in many forms. Momentum for climate justice is growing. We must use this to make us stronger. We must use it to demand action now.

Amiteshwar Singh (he/him) focuses on and explores the intersection of health justice, ecological justice and abolition. His work primarily brings forward a health perspective, through which he commits himself to work towards a community-led radical, joyful future, where health equity is a reality for all.

Feature image: German Institute of Development.

Amiteshwar Singh

Want to support us?

We’ve got big plans. We want to widen and increase our output. We want to produce good quality environmental journalism. And we want to expand our team. But running a media organisation costs money – and we’re run entirely by you. Head over to our Patreon page and consider donating today. Thank you.

Support Us