Who won and who lost at COP27? And why?

by Paolo Lauriola

Recently, several comments on the results of COP27 have been published. More than a marathon, as some have suggested, it seems a greyhound race where (the poor) dogs never manage to catch up with their prey. Indeed, such a COP27 has been exhausting and, above all, demoralizing. In all, the sense of helplessness prevailed for having missed the objective of solutions that “must” be taken but which crises and conflicts make increasingly unattainable.

It is, therefore, difficult to say who won and who lost. It might be reasonably said that all humankind has failed, but it would not help us find the solutions that “must” be found.

The first attendance data released by Carbon Briefindicated that more than 33,000 delegates (afterwards, the Lancet reported 45,000 delegates, including 636 oil and gas industry lobbyists) registered for COP27, making it the second of the largest conferences in the history of the COPs.

The second figure that emerged from this analysis was the record presence of participants from African nations (it is not a  coincidence that it has been dubbed “the African COP”), but also from low- and middle-income countries in other parts of the world (South -America, Asia).

The number of NGO observers was also the second highest in the history of the COP.

These numbers reflect the need to speak up to end racial and economic injustices that go a long way.

And it was these numbers that gave a boost to the unanimously recognized positive result of this COP: Loss and Damage. But it wasn’t just a matter of numbers. It is also crucial to mention the highly active presence of those countries. The pavilions of African countries were always full of people attracted by witnesses of concrete experiences of disasters and suffering, but also of redemption projects.

We are talking about an issue raised thirty years ago when in 1991, the Republic of Vanuatu proposed an international compensation system for small island states at risk of being submerged by rising sea level, financed by the countries responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. The acknowledgement that this was a historic result derives from the fact that it represents “a first real admission of guilt on the part of the industrialized countries”. Many details are not finalized yet, and a committee of representatives from 24 countries will work over the next year to determine what form the fund should take, which countries should contribute and which countries the money should go to, how to involve Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs ), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund or regional banks such as the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank, which still do not issue soft loans for projects related to climate change.

Another significant presence, however difficult to quantify, was that of young people. Indeed, however, they were particularly evident. And this is one of the most critical messages that emerge from this COP27.

Their commitment, determination, precision, and willingness to collaborate were striking. It was clear that it was not just a matter of sharing an idea but of the perception that there is no escape; we need to work together, as Antonio Gutierres said in his introductory speech.

For everyone, and especially for young people, this was an opportunity to create opportunities for collaboration with people from all over the world with different experiences and with a lot of enthusiasm or, if you like, desperation.

Ultimately, COP27 tells us two (winning) things:

  1. An active and convinced presence such as that of low- and middle-income countries has led the self-styled “developed” countries to recognize their faults and the rights of others to embark on a development path that “must” be more farsighted than the previous one adopted here in the cradle of modern civilization.
  2. The opportunities for contact and collaboration that have arisen on the occasion of this Cop27 will not remain just an exchange of ideas but will expand dramatically in the various countries of origin, above all thanks to young people, and will be capable of arousing the consciences of people and “press” the institutions.

COP27 can therefore be considered “not useless” if after COP27:

  1. We will be able to point out the negative aspects by clearly indicating responsibilities, e.g. the corridors recalled the negative role played by Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran in reaching a solution that would guarantee the goal of 1.5°. In other words, these were some of the most potent producers of fossil fuels, run by undemocratic governments.
  2. Aggregation and awareness of the capacity of public pressure on the national and international political balance will be encouraged.

In short, the most effective tool to “mobilize” people is people. And it will be the people who can break those balances that have prevented the positive results expected by the whole “thinking” world. And this is what we must do in “science and conscience”.

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