By Lindlyn Moma, Director of Advocacy, Laudato Si’ Movement

The Catholic narrative at the COPs is related to the financing of Loss and Damage (L&D), the financing of just transition in terms of alternative energies, and the urgent need to phase out fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas). In line with this, earlier this year, the Vatican Dicastery for Human Development adopted the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty calling for the proliferation of coal, oil and gas by ending all new exploration and production of coal, oil and gas, an existing phase-out production of fossil fuels in line with the 1.5ºC global climate goal and a fast track in real solutions and a just and fair transition for everyone.

In this sense, the outcome of COP 27 is deeply disappointing for the Catholic community who hoped and worked for an advanced agreement on fossil fuel phase-out. Instead, what was agreed upon was a copy and paste of the Glasgow accord referencing a phase-down of unabated coal power, phase-out of inefficient oil subsidies, and the inclusion of a transition to low-emission energy, which is essentially gas that is a source of GHG emissions. 

With nearly 25% more delegates from fossil fuels-related companies at COP this year than at COP 26, they were fond of watering down the Glasgow agreement. There were several proposals regarding the elimination of fossil fuels, such as that of India, which in the days prior to the closing of the COP, proposed the phase-down not only of unabated coal but of all fossil fuels. Any attempt to move forward with respect to what was agreed at COP 26 did not succeed. Recalling that the 2015 Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels, and ideally to 1.5°C, and given that fossil fuels are the first and foremost cause of global warming, the absence of tackling the issues is absurd. Nonetheless, even though in the end everything remained the same as in the Glasgow agreement, there was an important difference: 80 countries requested that the elimination of fossil fuels be formally included. This growing critical mass of countries is a sign of hope. 

Both COP 26 and 27 speak of “phasing down unabated coal”. Coal power abation is generally understood to mean the use of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) or Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) technology which does not technically work. So in converse, ‘unabated coal’ means coal power plant without CC(U)S technology equipment. The lack of technical functionality to achieve unabated coal, allows the fossil fuel industry and producing countries to abuse and justify continued coal production. Likewise, the term “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” was first included thirteen years ago at a G20 meeting in 2009, but it was never made clear what makes a fossil fuel subsidy “efficient”. Since then, the term has been misused to cover up the continued public financing of coal, oil and gas. Therefore, the expressions used in both COP 26 and 27 documents are insufficient to seriously address the drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

We celebrate the long awaited framework on loss and damage and the limited window of progress to establish a Ministerail work programme for urgently scaling up mitigation ambition through a just transition work program. The directives given to the ministerial committees are mainly to exchange views, information and ideas, noting that the outcomes of the work programme will be non-prescriptive and non-punitive, but in respect of national sovereignty and national circumstances taking into account nationally determined contributions that will not impose new targets or goals. This is a watered-down committee intended to rubber stamp current unambitious NDCs

Together with Pope Francis, we note that, “The failure of global summits on the environment makes it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so their plans will not be affected” (LS 54). We therefore acknowledge that much more can be done, and we continue the struggle to put real mitigation at the heart of climate negotiations through a fossil fuel non proliferation treaty and divestment from fossil fuels.