At the recent UN climate talks – COP27 – we’ve seen some small steps, but what we need are giant strides, bold leadership and action.
The recent UN climate talks - COP27, again shone a light on global efforts to combat and address climate change and its unfolding impacts. This year, world leaders, government ministers, civil society representatives and activists from around the globe congregated in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikhand in what was described as the ‘African COP’.
COP27 was also labelled as the ‘implementation COP’ - an opportunity to build on the revised commitments made a year earlier in Glasgow and to demonstrate real action, especially on the key issues of climate finance and phasing out fossil fuels. But at a summit held on African soil - home to some of the most climate-vulnerable communities in the world - we’ve seen some small steps when what we need are giant strides, bold leadership and action which match the scale and size of the problem. As Christians, we must lament this missed opportunity whilst continuing to hope in a God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
What continues to be clear is that collectively, we need so much more if we’re to see justice for people living in poverty across the world - the ones counting the cost of inaction and facing ever bigger bills for climate suffering, as a result of a crisis they didn’t cause. The outcome of this COP has not taken us much closer to justice for those suffering the worst effects of the climate crisis. Next year, in this decisive decade for climate, we need to see much more.
At COP27 climate finance has rightly been front and centre. But - while wealthy countries’ leaders have talked a good game - they have failed to put their money where their mouth is, putting very little new cash on the table. On climate finance, this COP has done the very least it could do: recognise the ongoing failure of wealthy nations to deliver the long overdue $100 billion promised to climate-vulnerable communities. What's worse is that it has weakened a COP26 commitment to double finance for communities to adapt to this crisis.
The glimmer of hope from COP27 was the last-minute agreement to set up a fund for Loss and Damage - a fund where wealthier countries support developing countries having to cope with the climate damage they didn’t cause. We can celebrate that Australia played a significant role in this, even if the specifics are still to be worked through.
We urgently need to see wealthy and high-emitting countries honouring their existing climate finance pledges, promises they’ve made each year since 2009 but haven’t met yet, as well as action to turn the pledge to establish a ‘Loss and Damage’ fund into reality.
Limiting warming is vital to minimise the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Every fraction of a degree matters, and could be the difference between life and death for millions of people in poverty around the world.
And yet, in the last year, our trajectory hasn’t changed: despite governments committing at COP26 to come back this year with stronger national climate plans, emissions continue to rise and we leave this COP still on course for around 2.5C of warming - and that’s only if countries implement their current plans. Warming of a degree more than the agreed target of 1.5C would mean more floods, storms, droughts, and food and water insecurity: a devastating sentence for the world, but especially for the most vulnerable.
The energy security crisis this year has reinforced the urgent need to move away from fossil fuels and create a more secure, resilient and cheaper energy system based on renewable energy. We’ve heard much at COP27 about the benefits of renewables - particularly in Africa - and momentum around the Glasgow Pledge to shift overseas funding out of fossil fuels and into clean energy, and the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance to phase out oil and gas production. But the fossil fuel industry continues to wield too much influence, and the omission from the final text of a call to phase out all fossil fuels is a lamentable missed opportunity and a colossal failure that lets polluters off the hook.
We urgently need to see more high-emitting countries commit to a complete phase-out of coal, oil and gas. It’s vital we prevent a ‘dash for gas’ as a false solution to the energy crisis, and instead accelerate the just transition to renewable energy.
COP27 represented the new Australian Government an opportunity to play a stronger and more renewed role in the global climate conversation than it has in the past. This increased ambition was reflected in Australia's role in negotiations on the new fund for Loss and Damage, as well as making an official bid to host COP in 2026 in partnership with Pacific Nations.
However, despite this increased ambition, there is still some way to go. Australia’s climate policies, spending and strategies must reflect a clear, effective and credible pathway to respond to the global climate challenge, particularly as it relates to Australia's climate finance commitments and its ongoing reliance on fossil fuels.
Tackling the climate crisis is never just about negotiations at a two-week conference and we draw hope from the fact that COP27 has been about far more than just the negotiations, but about people coming together to create change - amplifying the stories and experiences of those most impacted by the climate crisis and building the urgency for immediate and effective Climate Action.
As a movement of Australian Christians working for justice, we will continue to pray, act and amplify the urgency of the situation. We will hold our leaders to account and urge the Australian Government to follow through on its promises and step up its Global leadership responsibilities. We will continue to have hope despite the enormity of the task ahead - choosing to believe we serve a God who is actively restoring and renewing all things.
And as we look forward, we recognise the ongoing challenge that communities around the world face as a result of climate change and other complex social challenges. The current hunger crisis affecting millions of people remains an urgent priority. Tearfund is continuing its call for the Government to spend $150 million dollars on a Famine Prevention Package and invest long-term in a targeted food security strategy.
As the church, we need to be persistent and strong in ‘raising our voice for justice for the world’s most vulnerable. Communities in contexts such as Somalia, South Sudan, and Ethiopia where Tearfund’s partners are actively responding to deepening and worsening situations of poverty and marginalisation.
Please, if you haven’t already done so, we ask you now to write to your MP today as part of our Help Fight Famine response. You will find all the details on the link below and you will join thousands of others from across the country in raising your voice.