Excited. Overwhelmed. Anxious. 

My first week at COP took me through a whirlwind of emotions. There were so many events happening simultaneously that there was this constant fear of missing out, so I did my best to fill up my schedule to the very brim. I would run to event after event, getting lost in the maze that is the blue zone, while eating my energy bar in one hand and drinking my coffee in the other. I was mostly tracking developments on loss and damage and just transition – two very different thematic areas circumscribed by the single most controversial question in this year’s conference, who pays for climate change?

Loss and Damage: the damage has been done, so what now?

COP 27 kicked off with a joint press encounter by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, and the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. Pakistan incurred unimaginable losses and damages, estimated to be around 30 billion USD, following the unprecedented flooding earlier this year. Despite contributing only less than 1% of global emissions, the nation is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In Guterres’s speech, the UN Secretary-General highlighted the need for loss and damage to be formally acknowledged and institutionalized in this year’s COP.

“But more needs to be done. The Prime Minister has said, if there is any doubt about loss and damage go to Pakistan. There is loss and there is damage. And this COP needs to recognize it and needs to define a clear roadmap to deal with it. This should include the creation of an institutional framework and financing in order to address the problems of loss and damage. I hope that Pakistan will be able to benefit from these developments.

Pakistan deserves loss and damage to be considered as a reality and for that reality to be recognized through financial mechanisms that I hope this conference will be able to decide.”

In the first high-level ministerial dialogue on the new collective quantified goal on climate finance, 50 ministers and high-level representatives from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations discussed the need for a clear and transparent signal on setting a new climate finance goal that would adequately reflect the needs and priorities of developing countries, consistent with achieving the objectives set forth in the Paris Agreement. South Africa stressed that the current 100-billion USD goal is insufficient, and we would need a post-2025 goal of at least US$ 1.3 trillion per year. Moreover, determining a timeframe for that goal should be the starting point. In another high-level event on the climate finance needs of developing countries, speakers from Georgia, Saint Lucia, and the Republic of Maldives spoke about the need to strengthen climate finance mobilization and access. Developing and small island nations require greater support from developed countries to address inherent climate challenges and vulnerabilities to shocks.

From Left to Right: H.E. Ms. Minister Nino Tandilashvili, Georgia, Hon. Minister Shawn Edward, Saint Lucia, and H.E. Ms. Aminath Shauna, Republic of Maldives

Sherry Rehman, Minister of Climate Change of Pakistan, repeatedly advocated for the “common but differentiated responsibility” between developed and developing countries, and how major polluters should be responsible for the resulting loss and damages experienced by climate-vulnerable countries, mostly in the Global South. At the panel discussion on ‘The Broken Bargain between the North and the South,’ she was joined by Professor Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), Aisha Khan, Executive Director for Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change, and Harjeet Singh, Head Global Political Strategy for Climate Action Network International to talk about the need for the Global North to deliver and account for the historical injustices and the secondary and intergenerational impact of climate losses. The failure of developed and big polluting countries to provide the appropriate finance is putting a heavier burden on the poor people of the countries bearing the brunt of climate change impacts.

“Loss and damage is about human rights, social justice, economic justice, reversin the harms of colonization, and so much more.” – Harjeet Singh

Another major thematic area in this year’s COP isn’t found in the negotiations, although this has been referenced multiple times in the discussion of climate finance and the need to catalyze private sector investments.

Spotlight on Just Transition: opportunities, lessons learned, and recommendations

“Leave no one behind,” the Paris Agreement highlights the need to take into account the imperatives of just transition of the workforce in accordance with nationally defined development priorities. Holding the conference in the continent of Africa provides a unique platform to support and exchange dialogue in the just energy transition, considering South Africa in COP 26 announced the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) with Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union to phase out coal. The just energy transition has been gaining momentum among countries worldwide, especially in the Global South, as a pathway to effectively divest fossil fuel assets, reinvest in clean energy, and reach net-zero targets. The main pillars of a just energy transition are energy access, technology, and finance.

Approaching the Managed Phaseout of Coal Power Generation in Asia Pacific in Singapore Pavilion

Indonesia has recently expressed its plans for an Energy Transition to achieve net zero by 2060, which will formally be announced during the G20 Summit in Bali. To achieve this, an investment of 1.108 trillion USD is needed for power plant and transmission upgrades. Some of the challenges they’ve brought up include technological and infrastructural capacity, balancing supply and demand, integrating social dynamics, and limited funding. Several events have also shed light on the challenges in financing a just energy transition. Mitigating investment risks through guarantees has been identified as key to mobilizing private capital and reducing the cost of green borrowing. Moreover, multilateral development banks are considered the most effective intermediaries in operationalizing the energy transition.

On 10 November 2022, the Sharm El-Sheikh Guidebook for Just Financing was officially released. The Guidebook, a presidential initiative launched by the Egyptian state, provides actionable steps to address the issues of justice and equity in public, private, and philanthropic climate financing. The Guidebook further aims to translate commitments into implementable projects and provide universal access to information, specifically targeted to countries who need financing the most, on how to leverage and catalyze finance and investments. The Sharm El-Sheikh Guidebook for Just Financing can be found here.

But wait – more can still be done

As Week 2 of COP27 kicks in, we hope to establish more ambitious climate actions and commitments from world leaders. Likewise, we too should seek to raise our personal ambition for ourselves, our nations, and our planet, and work all the more harder to achieve them.