Between success and disappointment

It is often asked why the annual climate conferences are still needed. But “multilateralism is alive and well,” says Renate Christ, climate scientist and former head of the Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). She herself was present at the negotiations – this year for the 25th time. One can see very well that due to the international negotiations in the past, a “certain reduction in emissions” has taken place.

In the meantime, the climate issue has also “reached the top and has become a top priority”. This is shown, for example, by the fact that a number of heads of state and government were present at the climate conference. And: Almost all industrialized countries are now on the progressive side when it comes to climate protection. In addition, despite great resistance, the 1.5 degree target is being adhered to. All of these are “developments that should not be underestimated,” said Christ on Monday at an online press conference by “Scientists for Future” and “Diskurs, das Wissenschaftsnetz”.

Climate Summit COP27

Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The greatest success of the negotiations was agreement on a fund to compensate for climate-related damage

“Important sign” for climate justice

Risk researcher Reinhard Mechler from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) also found words of praise. The “surprising” agreement to set up an aid fund for climate-related damage (“Loss and Damage”) to poorer countries is an important building block in the architecture of climate change measures.

This is a demand that countries in the Global South and island states in particular have been making for decades. Not only can this fund close a large gap in climate protection, it also sends an “important signal” for climate justice.

Aid fund expert: Cannot replace human lives

Christ spoke of a great success with this form of climate financing, as it was a step that strengthened trust between the countries of the Global South and the North.

In fact, climate justice is a debate that is primarily fought between the Global North and South. Data on global emissions shows that it is primarily countries in the Global North that are responsible for the majority of global CO2 emissions. Depending on the calculation, the top three places in the world’s biggest climate sinners are shared by China, the USA and the EU.

However, both experts pointed out that there were still many unanswered questions about the fund – for example, who would have to pay how much to whom. The details are to be worked out by experts in the coming year, and concrete decisions could be made at the next climate conference. But it is also clear to Christ: “Losses and damage are not only of a material nature, but also loss of human life. And no fund can replace that. As good as it is dated.”

Activists at the COP27 climate summit

Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Young climate activists call on those responsible to comply with the 1.5 degree target

No exit from oil and gas ‘regrettable’

It is all the more urgent to meet the 1.5 degree target – i.e. not to exceed the pre-industrial temperature level by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. However, this would require enormous efforts and all countries to improve their national climate protection plans, according to Christ. She criticizes that in this year’s final declaration, states are only asked “in weak language” to improve their climate plans by the next conference – without any obligation.

The exit from oil and gas is also not included in the final document. “Regrettable”, as the two experts told ORF.at. A number of Arab states in particular have slowed down here, according to Christ. Although the importance of renewable energies was emphasized, at the same time there was a “definite refusal” by the countries to make concessions when choosing their energy sources.

For Mechler, the absence of oil and gas in the final statement was depressing, but to be expected. “In an energy crisis, it’s not surprising that gas and oil don’t show up,” Mechler said, referring to the Ukraine war. According to Christ, it was also this who, as the “big elephant in the room”, made ambitious steps more difficult.

Climate conference: Compromise leaves many questions unanswered

At the UN climate conference in Sharm al-Sheikh, after years of struggle, an aid fund for climate-related damage in particularly vulnerable states was launched. However, the clarification of central disputes was postponed, for example which countries have to pay in money.

1.5 degree target still achievable?

But against the background of all these missing resolutions, is the 1.5 degree target still within reach? The climate experts are skeptical, as it is becoming “more difficult and unrealistic” from year to year. Nevertheless, it is important to stick to it and build up pressure so that appropriate emission-reducing measures are taken, says Christ, for example. For Melcher, the goal is a long way off, humanity is currently moving towards an increase of up to 2.5 degrees, but 1.5 degrees are possible – at least for the time being.

If Austria wants to meet this target but continues as before, the greenhouse gas budget will be exhausted by mid-2025, as experts have calculated. The Climate Change Center Austria (CCCA) reminds that the government’s plan would actually be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Austria to “net zero” by 2040 – more on this in science.ORF.at.

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