Comments and analysis to the Cover Decision of COP27

by Domenico Vito*, Giacomo di Capua – Climate Reality Leaders TEAM ITALY, Observer COP27
*Osservatorio Parigi, HubZine Italia

Sharm el Sheik, Nov 20,2022 –  The conclusion of COP27, reached under the light of a bright moon in Sharm el-Sheikh, resembles an achievement that many close to the UNFCCC processes deemed a pure illusion.

Like the mirage of an oasis in the middle of the Egyptian desert, the closing plenary of COP27 kept seeming further away as the UNFCCC website continued to postpone its starting time and the hours were passing on Saturday night in the half-empty halls of the Tonino Lamborghini International Conference Center.

COP27 just ended in the middle of one of the thousand nights in which the negotiators had attempted to hurry up to conclude the dense agenda for implementation this ‘Implementation COP’ was by definition expected to achieve. The plenary started at 3.00 am Egyptian time on Sunday, November 20th, when most of the observers and press had already left the city under the (historically proven untrue) expectation that the Conference of the Parties would close on Friday, as initially planned.. 

The plenary was also long, and several interruptions were given because party delegates didn’t have the chance to fully read the text in advance and asked a few times to read, the first one being Switzerland on behalf of the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG) after less than 20 minutes from the opening. 

Noteworthy were the apologetic remarks of COP27 President and Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry who used plenary sessions to ‘gavel down’ consensus in times of negotiating stall. Nothing however will change the slow, sandy and complicated progress of COP27 negotiations throughout the week, which have had a marked impact on the last sprints in the negotiating rooms with a rich agenda to address and little time to do so. 

The Cover Decision reached in South Sinai is far from being a strong one:  in some points very generalistic and recalling the Glasgow Climate Pact, the text nonetheless features some elements of interest to the international community. Numerous  agenda items including Art.6.2 and reports from the adaptation committee have been sent by the two subsidiary body under the UNFCCC – the SBSTA and SBI – for further considerations under CMA (Conference of Parties to the Paris Agreement), which de facto implies the discussion of these items will take place in Dubai’s COP28. 

The Cover Decision, or – Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan (FCCC/CP/2022/L.19), anticipates all the main elements agreed upon by the parties through the topical negotiating streams taking place in the 14 days of COP. Below is an analysis of the last draft of the Cover Decision as released on Nov 20th h3.00am, presented after a brief summary of the relevant outcomes of COP27.

1. General Overview of the results of COP27

COP27 brought forward the UNFCCC agenda on a number of items (full analysis here). Below are the ones you should keep an eye on as we move towards COP28:

  • “loss and damage” caused by climate change will be now covered by a fund that will be operative in 2 years and will support more than 150 countries that have been heavily hit already by climate-related events
  • mitigation: no relevant step forwards respect to Glasgow especially by a strong push-back from Saudi Arabia & Russia
  • solid foundations for the Global Goal on Adaptation: a good achievement in terms of capacity building and knowledge transferal, in addition tointeresting steps forward on the support on early warning systems and  the Santiago Network
  • finance: COP outcomes recognised the need for a transformation in the global financial system especially addressing multilateral development banks; international financial institutions are now called  “to reform their practices and priorities”. Interesting transformational outcome that demonstrates how climate change is pushing also financial system to change, although more systematic changes pushed by Mia Mottley & co. in the Bridgetown Agenda remain vastly unaddressed.
  • Food systems are considered under the convention , with a 4-year programme adopted on “climate action on agriculture and food security”
  • Youth inclusion has been several times mentioned in the cover decision thanks especially to the work of the COP27 Presidency Youth envoy, further expanding the space for youth engagement previously consolidated in Glasgow.

(Acknowledgments Arthur Wings for the bullet points structure) 

2. Analysis of the text 

The Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan is a text of 66 paragraphs organized in 16 parts that summarizes the key recognitions of the decision taken by COP27 under the mandate to implement the Paris Agreement and Glasgow Climate Pact

2.1 Comparison with the previous draft of the text

From a comparison with the previous version of the text (Version 18/11/2022 9:00), 456 changes have been made on the last version.

Table 1 resumes some of the most interesting textual adjustments.

Table 1. Comparison between Draft decision -/CP.27 Ver 18/11 – 20/11

PartVersion 18/11/2022 9:00amVersion 20/11/2022 3.00am
PreambleReaffirming our commitment to collective global response to climate change based on latest science and agreed principles, in line with article 2 of the Paris Agreement, recognizing the threat posed by climate change, acknowledging that such threat calls for the widest possible international cooperation in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and through just transition pathways,
Reaffirming the outcomes of all previous Conferences of the Parties, Conferences of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol and Conferences of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, including decisions 1/CP.26, 1/CMP.17 and 1/CMA.3 (the Glasgow Climate Pact),
PreambleAcknowledging the global challenges the international community is facing due to overlapping crises of food, energy, cascading risks, geopolitical, financial, debt and economic challenges, compounded and coupled by more frequent and intense climate impacts, all having negative impacts in particular on developing countries,Also reaffirming the critical role of multilateralism based on United Nations values and principles, including in the context of the implementation of the Convention and the Paris Agreement, and the importance of international cooperation for addressing global issues, including climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty,
Preamblethe global energy and food crises that exacerbate the impacts of climate change, in particular in developing countries,

that the impacts of climate change exacerbate the global energy and food crises, and vice versa, particularly in developing countries,
Enhancing ambition for implementation12. Notes the reaffirmation of the steadfast commitments of the leaders of the G20 group, in pursuit of the objective of UNFCCC, to tackle climate change by strengthening the full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement and its temperature goal, reflecting equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in light of different national circumstances;Deleted
Mitigationand to net zero around midcentury, as well as deep reductions in other greenhouse gases;Deleted
Finance– including investments in technology and infrastructure – to allow usto be able
Financereform their practices and priorities, in order to reduce the cost of borrowing for climate projects in developing countries and to increase their investment into adaptation financing and urges MDBs to align their operations with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and climate change emergency;contribute
Agriculture none53. Welcomes the establishment of the four-year Sharm el-Sheikh joint work on implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security as well as the establishment of the Sharm el-Sheikh online portal under the joint work by decision -/CP.27;32
Enhanching implementation of non party stakeholdernone58. Invites Parties to provide support to developing countries for undertaking gender related action and implementing the gender action plan;
Enhanching implementation of non party stakeholdernone61. Expresses its appreciation to the children and youth constituency for co-organizing the Sharm el-Sheikh youth climate dialogue with the Presidency of the twenty-seventh session of the Conference of the Parties and notes the outcomes of the seventeenth Conference of Youth, organized by the constituency and held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2022;

From the comparison, it emerges  that the final text is more generously loose with regards to controversial elements like energy and finance, but in the latest version reference to Sharm el-Sheikh joint work on implementation of climate action on agriculture as well reference to youths and gender.
Noteworthy is the  hard-fought debate on the “REDD+”, under article 6 , which however did not galvanize enough consensus to be included in the final draft.

2.2 Comments per parts


The Saudi proposal to focus on emissions rather than energy sources prevailed in the end: no single reference to gas or oil is present in the entirety of the text. Furthermore, parties failed to build a bridge between COP27 and the CBD’s COP15, the conference on biodiversity that will take place in Montreal in less than a month and could have used all the statements of public support from Sharm. 

The preamble recognizes the intertwined crises of global security  (“complex and challenging global geopolitical situation  and its impact on the energy, food and economic situations, as well as the additional”) and global health and pandemic (“challenges associated with the socioeconomic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic  and that these  should not be used as a pretext for backtracking, backsliding or de-prioritizing climate action (Par 3.).

Reiterated is also the reference to 1.5°C as a global warming limit to maintain  until 2100, although very little progress is made with respect to defining the pathways to remain within such limit.

I. Science and urgency
Despite divergence at the negotiating stages as some countries were accusing others of deliberately “picking and choosing” scientific reports to include in the Cover Decision,the work conducted by the IPCC has been welcomed in the text.
The language utilized here however -simply a  “take note” – in reference to the Adaptation Gap Report unquestionably weakened the strength of the message.

II. Enhancing ambition and implementation
The concept of Climate Resilient Development defined in the 6th Assessment Report of the IPCC has been included in the text in addition to references to a just, equitable and inclusive transition (para. 9)
Anyway an overall weak text is present if the the mission was to enhance the ambition

If the goal was to enhance ambition, the overall text remains fundamentally weak and has been heavily criticized for not bringing forward the conversation in climate governance on limiting GHGEs.

III. Energy
While energy poverty and inequalities did not find a space in the cover text, notable is the recognition of the current energy crisis as a push toward an ‘urgent’ energy transition. Overall, the text remained text and without new and additional objectives.

IV. Mitigation

Unquestionably one of the most controversial parts of the text, the ‘mitigation’ section abounds of loopholes.
There is a complete absence of fossil fuels from the text and not a progress on the ‘phase down’ of unabated coal previously agreed in Glasgow. The call for a ‘phaseout’ of all fossil fuels by the Indian delegation fails to be included, with ‘phaseout’ only being referred to ‘harmful fossil fuel subsidies’ – a factual iteration of the Glasgow Climate Pact (Par. 28).
There is the reference to unabated coal power:
There is no agreed definition of ‘unabated’ within the UNFCCC which makes the inclusion of this term risky and open to abuse by the fossil fuel industry and producing countries to justify almost anything from methane control to unproven offsets.
Furthermore abatement of fossil fuels generally refers to the application of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies that remain non-viable at scale, are unnecessary for rapid emissions cuts, and are risky for communities and the environment.
CCS has been used to disguise climate inaction, justify fossil fuel expansion and distract from the urgent work of managing a global just transition away from oil, gas, and coal [1-2].
Par 28. also refers to inefficient fossil fuel subsidies
This term first appeared at the G20 in 2009 – and was used by the G7 and in the COP26 cover text. In the 13 years since its first use, no one has defined what criteria would make a fossil fuel subsidy ‘efficient’ and governments who have agreed to this language have continued to pour trillions of dollars of subsidies into the fossil fuel industry. It is clearly a loophole designed to deceive the public and allow for continued financing of coal, oil, and gas.
Some countries consider all subsidies to be inefficient (e.g. Italy, Peru). The UK Climate Change Committee considers that no subsidies should be classed “efficient” in the UK. Other countries use “inefficient” as a loophole to avoid actually decreasing subsidies.
At least the text recognises  negative  economic and social impacts of the implementation of response measures in Par. 19, to harm on bad mitigation action not compliant with a just transition

There are some repetitions and textual adjustments to be made. Es. Par 35 “urges […] urgently”

V. Adaptation

The call to double adaptation financing did not make it – now “scale up” on Par.(35)

VI. Loss and damage 

The text accompanies one of the most successful negotiations streamlines of COP27.
After welcoming the scientific evidence for loss and damage and concerning the lack of finance , the text welcomes the decision of institutional arrangements and funding starting from 2023.

VII. Early warning and systematic observation

It’s just interesting the fact that this paragraph exists as a relevant point for adaptation.
After Guterres launches at the opening a renovated GCOS  the text of this part on Par 29 interestingly recognizes existing gaps in the global climate observing system,  particularly in developing countries and the need to enhance coordination of activities by the systematic  observation community to provide useful and actionable climate information  for mitigation, adaptation and early warning systems. A knowledge and digital divide gap still to be filled

VIII. Implementation – pathways to just transition  

This is an hidden good point of the text not just because it mentions to just transition and poverty eradication, but also because it not trivially highlights   meaningful and effective social dialogue and participation of all stakeholders to realize just transition, that’s crucial for the real compliance of any NMP o NAP (.ndr) [3-5]
Stakeholder engagement is doubled also in part XVI, but this is not an error but a double good point (.ndr).

IX. Finance 

For the COP of implementation this paragraph was crucial.
On the Climate Pledge (100 billion per years)  text seemed to allow countries to provide supplementary financing past 2030 to “make up” for previous gaps.
Now more aligned with goal and timeline, even if there is the clear admittance that this has not been achieved.
There are more quantification of the overall global climate finance needed and the current status estimated to be USD 803 billion,which is 31–32 per cent of the annual investment needed
Good to know.
Extremely interesting the request of reform of the multilateral development banks on Par 40-41 to effectively contribute to climate action. Even if not in the mandate of UNFCCC this demonstrates how climate change is transformative also for the global financial system.

X. Technology transfer and deployment 

Nothing special, mostly on CTCN work . Just important to reiterate  he importance of cooperation on technology development and transfer and  innovation in implementing the joint work programme activities; 

XI. Capacity-building 

Nothing special, also here, even though the sub-scaling at national level capacity building colling parties  to increase support for long-term country-driven capacity-building  interventions to enhance the effectiveness, success and sustainability of those interventions.
Fortunately the work of PCCB is self sustaining 

XII. Taking stock 

No claims after the success of world cafe at SB56, why?
Maybe because money was more important and other stuffs instead of the homeworks. Very deluding paragraph.

XIII. Ocean
After the first drafts of the decision (Ver 16/11)  where Oceans seems everywhere, the final text have just a paragraph that sets lasque deadlines on the ocean and climate change dialogue from 2023 and just an encouragement if appropriate to include Oceans into NDC strategies and climate goals. As well deluding.

XIV. Forest

We all know the importance of nature based solution and reforestation.
Nice to remind. But mentioning REDD+ seemed to be problematic. Better to cut off.

XV. Agriculture 

After a lot of struggles during the two weeks under Koronivia for the food systems , COP27 finishes with a brand new Sharm el-Sheikh joint work on  implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security, with web portal annexed. A big achievement of the cover decision.

XVI. Enhancing implementation: action by non-Party stakeholders 

This last paragraph is the end with a big surprise.
Again it is reiterated the acknowledgement of the engagement of non-Party stakeholders in climate action, but in particular the encouragement to the parties to increase the full, meaningful and equal participation of women  in climate action and to ensure gender-responsive implementation recalling the Lima work programme on  gender action plan. Not trivial to recognize and important to recall (Par. 57-58)
Moreover Youths have an overarching presence into the final decision text (Par. 59-61). That’s a great result for the first COP holding an entire pavilion dedicated to Youths.
The role and action of the Presidency Youth Envoy , Omnia el Omrani has been also recognized as deserved, and that’s a great step even toward the intergenerational dialogue that’s one of the pillar of Paris Agreement and UNFCCC as a whole as well.

To note also the recall to Non-State Entities and the welcoming of the report of  High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero  Emissions Commitments within the Race to Zero initiative  (Par. 63-55)

Of importance also the last Paragraph for the recognition of synergies among Paris agreement and SDGs.

3 Conclusions

The COP27 Cover decision is not of the most satisfactory and at traits seems very generalistic and not ambitious at all.
It’s possible to record some key achievements of loss and damage, agriculture and non-state stakeholder engagement, that deserves notice and it’s important to valorize this results for the next future.
This COP after Glasgow was felt to be transitional and difficult for several concurring conditions. 

The negotiation elements at this stage were not trivial and require technical details that of course can lead to hard delays.
And in some times good that some final decisions has been postponed to new negotiations


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