COP27: Historic forum but fails to address fossil fuels menace


Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, heads the closing session of the COP27 climate conference, at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre in Egypt's Red Sea resort on November 20, 2022.

Photo credit: CXOP27

The two-week United Nations climate summit that was in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt ended on Sunday in jubilation as the Parties agreed to fund Loss and Damage for vulnerable countries but ignored the science on the root cause for climate change –fossil fuels extraction and use.

This year’s conference, reading from the same script as last year’s, a coal phase down is mentioned, but a last minute effort to expand this to phasing out all fossil fuels fell short of including oil and gas as well. Instead, there is a new mention of inclusion of 'low-emission' energy sources at the Sharm El-Sheikh Implementation Plan.

While countries most vulnerable to climate change are happy with the creation of a funding mechanism for climate related Loss and Damage, detractors on fossil fuels are disappointed that 27 years since the first Conference of Parties (COP), leaders still fail to agree to phase out fossil fuels.

Predictably so, as an analysis done in the first week of COP27 by Global Witness showed that about 636 fossil fuel lobbyists had infiltrated the conference, an increase of 25 per cent compared to last year's summit.

Power Shift Africa boss, Mohamed Adow said that in regards to fossil fuels, this year’s COP was ‘copying and pasting the outcome from COP26 in Glasgow.

“It's deeply saddening that countries couldn’t agree to commit to a phase down of all fossil fuels, not just coal, as contained in the Glasgow Pact.  The science is clear, the impacts are getting worse and we know that renewables are the future.  Polluting countries need to leave coal, oil and gas in the ground if we’re going to keep global heating from running out of control,” he said.

Tasneem Essop, Executive Director for the Climate Action Network International, described COP27 as a “historic victory for climate justice on African soil” with the Loss and Damage text, but a COP that also “failed to address the root causes of climate change” by excluding a push to phase out all fossil fuels

“The world’s most vulnerable call COP27 a ‘missed opportunity’ due to an inability to include “all fossil fuels” in the final text and to agree on a peaking of emissions before 2025,” he said in a statement.

While Kenya has branded itself as a powerhouse on renewable energy having 90 percent of its electricity and 74 percent of its overall energy from renewable sources, President William Ruto said this month that the country will shift to renewable energy by 2028.

In a new twist, the President while launching Devki Company in Kwale said that coal needs to be explored in the country, ‘to benefit the people of the Republic of Kenya.’

“We need to ask ourselves the rationale of importing coal from other countries when we have our own coal, and we can ensure that the people from Kitui benefit from the resources that are currently going to south Africa and other parts of the world, so that we can balance our issues on green energy and balance our benefits,” he said.

Environmentalists in the country have in the past years fought tooth and nail to ensure coal is not explored. The latest attempt of exploration in the country was in Lamu but the Kenya National Environment Tribunal rescinded the licence that had been granted to Amu Power Company.

As the president now touts coal exploration, the International Energy Agency released a new report on Energy day at COP27 showing that the global demand for coal has skyrocketed and that countries need a 90 per cent drop in coal use globally by 2050.

Lisa Fischer, a gas climate expert at Independent Climate Think said that it is time for countries to move on from coal.

“Global gas use is expected to reach its peak this decade, no matter how high the level of climate ambition. Solar, wind batteries, digital technologies combined are ready to form a powerful package that outcompetes gas in the power sector. A transition from coal to gas has never been less necessary, where you see it, it is an indicator of how outdated an energy planning department is, not of energy fundamentals,” said Lisa.

Philbert Aganyo, Climate Activist affiliated to GreenFaith, a civil organization championing for climate justice told the Nation that Africa should not be cowed but maintain their stance against fossil fuels.

“We cannot transition from fossil fuels to green energy overnight. When the strategies come from the top, then we can set a timeline on when we can clear the fossil fuels. We say that they should remain in the ground, where they are,” said Philbert.

While there is an ongoing call for a Fossil Fuels Non-Proliferation Treaty, its realization remains a pipe dream as the climate summit expected to push for it, failed to back it in its cover decision.
This article is courtesy of the Climate Tracker Fellowship.