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A bittersweet agreement reached at the United Nations’ climate change conference, represents a massive leap forward for climate justice, and a colossal failure to tackle the cause of the climate emergency head on.

The Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan agreement kickstarts a loss and damage fund for countries struggling with the impacts of climate change, after nearly three decades of poor countries calling on wealthy countries to help pay for the damage they’ve caused by fuelling their economies with fossil fuels. But at the same time this unprecedented step towards global wealth redistribution on climate grounds was taken, petro-states ensured the implementation plan does not address fossil fuels directly.

Instead, the plan’s references to fossil fuels is a copy-paste from last year’s Glasgow Climate Pact which references the need for a “phasedown of unabated coal” and the “phaseout of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.” For some countries at COP27, preventing the Glasgow Climate Pact from unraveling entirely was a win itself. However, it deeply disappointed those who wanted the language expanded to include the phase down of all fossil fuels in line with what climate science demands to prevent catastrophic warming.

“Early versions of the decision text undermined the ambition of the Paris Agreement and failed to reflect and build on the ambition and alignment reached by all parties just one year ago in Glasgow,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault in a statement. “This made no sense.”

“Canada’s position was steadfast: the latest science says that we need to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees in order to avert the worst consequences of climate change, and that countries need to be accelerating our climate mitigation efforts, and we must not backslide.”

U.N. climate conference creates a fund to compensate nations hard hit by climate change but fails to mention oil and gas phase out. #COP27 #fossil fuels

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called it fitting that the conference took place not far from Mount Sinai, an important site to many faiths, because “climate chaos is a crisis of biblical proportions.”

He said from the start of the conference, when the Paris Agreement’s goal of holding global warming to 1.5C was on life support and at the same time for the first time ever the issue of creating a loss and damage fund was on the official agenda, two themes dominated the negotiations: justice and ambition.

“Justice for those on the frontlines who did so little to cause the crisis – including the victims of the recent floods in Pakistan that inundated one-third of the country,” he said. And, “ambition to keep the 1.5 degree limit alive and pull humanity back from the climate cliff.”

This year, many countries from vulnerable small island pacific states whose entire existence is threatened by sea-level rise, to major producers and consumers of fossil fuels, like India, the United States, and European Union wanted to take the coal language further by saying there should be a phasedown of all fossil fuels (there were, however splits among supportive countries over whether to include the word “unabated”).

Ultimately though, it was the promise of a long-awaited loss and damage fund that is the historic breakthrough of the conference. A committee will now be formed to hash out details of how the fund will work over the coming year with an eye toward launching the fund next year.

“The two issues that dominated COP27 were fossil fuels and loss and damage: the root cause of the climate crisis, and the devastating consequences of climate change - two things this process has not had the guts to address for 30 years,” said Catherine Abreu, executive director at Destination Zero in a statement. “A landmark decision to establish a loss and damage fund is worthy of celebration, but the absence of a call for an equitable phase-out of all fossil fuels - oil, gas, and coal - is a major failure.”

“On both issues, Canada showed up much more constructively than ever before, though it was the last of its closest allies -including the US and UK- to get on board with stronger language on the need for just energy transitions away from all fossil fuels.”

Canada played an important role on the loss and damage front. Earlier this year in an interview with Canada’s National Observer, Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault suggested for the first time that Canada was open to discussing the issue at COP27, just as he embarked on a European tour to meet his counterparts in other countries to discuss it.

“Canada came to COP27 having laid the groundwork for a robust discussion on loss and damage, pushing to ensure it was an agenda item, something that has never happened in the three decades of COP,” said Guilbeault in a statement. “Countries must now carry this momentum into the work needed to set this fund up so that it delivers for the world’s most vulnerable and draws from expanded sources of funding, including all countries who have the capacity to contribute as well as multilateral, philanthropic, private and other innovative sources of finance.”

Driven by vulnerable communities in the Global South supported by civil society networks, the drumbeat for a loss and damage fund only grew louder as some wealthier countries began signaling an openness to setting a fund up. Not all wealthy countries were open to it. The United States was a notable blocker through the negotiations, multiple observers said, and only began to shift its position late in the game.

“In the face of horrifying climate impacts and stalling tactics from rich nations, we have witnessed the strength of our collective action,” said international climate diplomacy director with Climate Action Network Eddy Pérez. “Climate justice will only be possible if we kick polluters out of all our climate policy and decision-making spaces, so that they can no longer hold back our movement towards a safe and fossil-free future.”

Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran were notable blockers on the mitigation front of the agreement, fighting to have any reference to phasing down fossil fuels stripped out of the text. Until the last moment, Canada indicated it would not call for the phasedown either, but a spokesperson for Guilbeault said Canadian negotiators indicated their support for phasing down unabated fossil fuels as negotiations came down to the wire.

Guilbeault’s end of conference statement does not reference phasing down fossil fuel production, but does say that “during a global energy crisis, we are more committed than ever to support the global transition to cleaner, renewable forms of energy, by transitioning away from our dependency on fossil fuels.”

However, as Canadian negotiators signaled support for that language, a federal-provincial regulator for Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore oil industry recently granted nearly $240 million worth of exploration licenses to companies like Exxon, BP and Equinor to open up even more oil fields off the Newfoundland coast.

Tuvalu Finance Minister Seve Paeniu told Canada’s National Observer “it's difficult to build that trust when there have been pledges made, and they're not being honoured –– like finance and in terms of raising ambition,” referring to wealthy countries promise to deliver $100 billion worth of climate finance by 2020, which was broken. And then “you support the continued extraction and production of fossil fuels, so it doesn't (go over) well for building trust.”

Climate policy analyst with Équiterre Émile Boisseau-Bouvier said his organization acknowledges the “unexpected breakthrough” on loss and damage, but still couldn’t ignore that the conference reeked of oil and gas.

Fossil fuel lobbyistshave succeeded once again in preventing the real problem from being addressed in the final cover decision: fossil fuels,” he said. “On this point, Équiterre strongly condemns the lack of commitment from Canada on this issue that was far from acting with leadership in the matter.”

Over 600 fossil fuel lobbyists registered for COP27, according to an analysis from Corporate Accountability, Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Witness, representing a 25 per cent increase from the year before.

Canada was one of 29 countries that included fossil fuel lobbyists in its delegation, according to the analysis. Enbridge had three registered participants, Capital Power had two, and ATCO, Parkland and Delta Clean Teach (a carbon capture focused firm) each had one.

Not in Canada’s official delegation, but still present at COP27, was the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) which sent three people including its CEO Lisa Baiton. CAPP is the country’s top oil and gas lobbyist, advocating for the continued growth and expansion of the oilsands.





Keep reading

Article: "petro-states ensured the implementation plan does not address fossil fuels directly"

"Petro-states" does not seem to include Canada, but the evidence in the article certainly points in that direction.
Presumably, the Enbridge, Cenovus, Imperial Oil, Suncor, and RBC delegates in Canada's delegation were not demanding the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels. Canada did not include fossil fuel lobbyists in its delegation by accident.
"Canada ruffles some feathers at COP27 by including oil and gas representatives in its delegation" (CP, Nov 08, 2022)

Article: "it deeply disappointed those who wanted the language expanded to include the phase down of all fossil fuels in line with what climate science demands to prevent catastrophic warming"

IEA's Net-Zero by 2050 report says no new investment in fossil fuels after 2021 to limit global warming to 1.5 C.
The IPCC warns that the world must nearly halve GHG emissions by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050 to keep warming below the danger limit of 1.5 C.
Are Canada's policies and actions aligned with the IPCC and IEA reports?

Canada is committed only to the phaseout of "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies, narrowly defined as subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, viz., the domestic sale of fossil fuels at below cost.
Since subsidies that lower production costs, increase producer profits, and make producers more competitive in global markets do not qualify as "inefficient" subsidies, Ottawa has no plans to halt "efficient" subsidies.
Ottawa will continue to funnel billions of public dollars to the massively profitable, largely foreign-owned O&G industry. Tens of billions into carbon capture, SMRs, and blue hydrogen. Plus clean-up assistance. Canada's idea is to "green" (i.e., greenwash) its fossil fuels at the upstream end, not get off them.
"Canada leads G20 in financing fossil fuels, lags in renewables funding, report says" (CP, Oct 28, 2021)

Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault: “Canada’s position was steadfast: the latest science says that we need to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees in order to avert the worst consequences of climate change, and that countries need to be accelerating our climate mitigation efforts, and we must not backslide.”

Contrast:
"Canada refuses to back COP27 call to 'phase down' oil and gas production" (CP, National Observer, Nov 18 2022)
"Canada won't agree to add language calling for the phaseout of all fossil fuels — including oil and gas — to the final agreement at this year's United Nations climate talks in Egypt, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Thursday.
"Canada backed the coal language last year, but Guilbeault said it's not open to adding oil and gas to the pact this year."

Canada is a climate laggard, not a leader. If other nations followed our example, global emissions would skyrocket.
Grossly under-reported oilsands emissions do nothing but climb year after year.
The OECD, the UN, and the federal Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand all issued warnings in 2017 that Canada was NOT on track to meet its targets. The main stumbling block? Increasing oilsands emissions.
OECD: "Without a drastic decrease in the emissions intensity of the oilsands industry, the projected increase in oil production may seriously risk the achievement of Canada's climate mitigation targets." (2017)

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres needs to start calling out backsliders like Canada by name.

Guterres (April 2022): "[The latest IPCC report] is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world." (2022)
"Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic. … But high-emitting governments and corporations are not just turning a blind eye; they are adding fuel to the flames."
"…Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But, the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness."

Why are most Canadians and most Canadian media fooled by Canada's position? Why do we put up with sending billions of tax dollars to make the problem much worse? When will we collectively rise and turf out all who are doing corporate bidding?