Ridges to Reefs: COP27

It’s Time to Stand and Deliver

By Professor Derek Walker

COP27 has reached its final day and the VLGS student delegation is getting a birds-eye view of the wide chasm between developed and developing country parties that may prevent the talks from ending on time or without a satisfactory conclusion—or both.  The differences are especially acute on the issue of who pays for the range of impacts climate change has and will likely cause, known within the walls of the COP complex as “loss and damage” and adaptation.

(COP27 Week Two Delegation)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres returned to Sharm el-Sheikh late yesterday and immediately took parties to task for failing to converge on concrete outcomes for the COP and demanded they “stand and deliver…the kind of meaningful climate action people and the planet so desperately need.”

VLGS students, in their roles as members of the party delegation of the Republic of Palau, are collaborating with counterparts in the Palauan government to attend technical meetings, daily strategy sessions, and consultations among countries with common agendas, including the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).  They have witnessed passionate pleas for unity among vulnerable countries, along with obstruction and name calling that Guterres summarized as “a breakdown in trust between North and South, and between developed and emerging economies.”

(Becky Kimmel consults with Palau Negotiator Marli Klass)

Student Delegate Hope McLellan-Brandt participated in a three hour “huddle” of parties across the geographic and development spectrum trying to come to terms on an approach for climate finance; the United States and Saudi Arabia were among the small group of countries preventing an agreement from emerging.  Student Delegate Megna Murali was in the room for one of the few positive steps taken thus far in Sharm el-Sheikh:  the approval of the Santiago Network, which is designed to coordinate technical assistance for loss and damage, particularly among developing countries.

(Hope McLellan-Brandt engaging with NAACP leaders at an event highlighting the Jackson water crisis)

Loss and damage is the top priority for virtually every developing country.  Developed parties are, at best, agreeing to a partial step that would push a decision on funding mechanisms to next year if not 2024.  “I don’t want to leave COP27 empty handed,” Shauna Aminath, the Maldives’ minister of environment said at an event earlier this week. “Agreeing to work on something that will be established in 2024 is leaving empty handed,” she added.

The slow pace of progress clearly won’t work for the Maldives, Palau, and countless other climate-vulnerable countries.  Against this stark, existential backdrop, the sniping between parties and failure to bring real commitments forward is particularly disheartening.  As Guterres said on Thursday, “the blame game is a recipe for mutually assured destruction.”

(Visit with White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) chair Brenda Mallory)

About the VLGS International Climate Change Law course

This 3-credit hybrid classroom/experiential course examines the negotiation of international climate change agreements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Paris Agreement signaled the beginning of a new, universal approach to combatting climate change, and negotiations continue. Through tracking negotiations and working on interdisciplinary, client driven research projects, this course will provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental issues, negotiation process, and political dynamics of the international climate regime.