Good and bad news from COP 27: China Daily editorial
China Daily

A logo of the COP 27 summit. [Photo/Agencies]

Depending on what one expected, the outcome of the two-week UN COP 27 summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, was either inspiring or disappointing.

For those who anticipated an event producing "action" on what countries agreed upon last year, the "loss and damage" deal alone was nothing less than a historic, monumental achievement.

For those hoping for a greater global commitment to joint moves toward goals set under the Paris Agreement and a faster pace, the absence of a substantial commitment on phasing down fossil fuels was another "missed opportunity".

Considering how divided nations have been on the urgency of and approach to a joint response to climate change, having developed nations finally commit to a special fund to compensate developing countries that suffer "loss and damage" is a significant step toward "climate justice". Which is why some have praised it as "the most significant" development since the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The historic concession of the rich nations will certainly be conducive to fostering synergy and building a truly global contingent for containing climate change. After all, over the past decades, developing nations have borne a grudge against the developed ones, which have obviously been the foremost contributors to global warming, yet have been dragging their feet in delivering the assistance they had pledged. In this sense, there may be a greater chance for developing countries assuming more active roles when it comes to a collective climate response.

Yet until the specifics are worked out, and the most vulnerable victims get the assistance they need and deserve, it is hard to tell what a difference this could make in the real world. The difficult negotiations throughout COP 27 illustrate how divided countries remain over a common course of action. So much so that the prospect of having one appears dim even after that "historic" milestone.

Indeed, except for meeting the developing world's demand for "fairness", which may help mitigate the pains resulting from climate-related losses, the meeting produced little consensus on addressing emissions. Without dealing with the root causes of climate change, with the most outstanding roadblock being the reliance on fossil fuels, there is no hope of limiting the global temperature rise.

The text of the final statement did not include commitments to "phase down" the use of fossil fuels. Key fossil fuel suppliers and consumers alike had lobbied hard against calls for accelerating the phase-out. President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, which will host next year's COP 28 climate summit, even said his country would continue to deliver oil and gas "for as long as the world is in need". All these indicate the impossibility of emissions peaking in 2025.

EU green chief Frans Timmermans was correct in saying, "This is the make or break decade but what we have in front of us is not enough of a step forward". That means there's still work to be done.