It’s been more than a week since delegates from nearly 200 countries landed in the coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to ponder how to implement their climate pledges amid an unprecedented energy crisis.
Around 45,000 COP27 attendees battled the hot Egyptian sun as they rushed between over-air-conditioned convention halls for meetings and panel discussions.
The first week was dominated by the arrival of world leaders, ending on Friday with the visit of US President Joe Biden. It wasn’t all big names and big speeches. Behind the scenes, negotiators have started to get to the heart of what needs to be achieved at this year’s summit: most importantly scaling up climate finance rapidly and ensuring that global emissions are finally put on the table. a downward trajectory to maintain the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree Celsius target is still in effect.
In the second week, ministers will try to break the deadlock on a range of issues and ensure the world does not backtrack on ambition.
“The outcome is not just for the climate, it is also for the harsh geopolitical crisis we find ourselves in and where we need multilateral cooperation,” said Tom Evans, climate policy adviser at the group of E3G reflection. “If we find ourselves with a sense of setback, a sense of being stuck, then what kind of signal does that send about our ability to work together in the face of all these crises?”
Here’s how the first week went and what to expect from the rest of this year’s UN climate summit:
A big step forward
Talks got off to a flying start this time last week when negotiators agreed on an agenda item for loss and damage. In other words, for the first time, countries are discussing how the economic and cultural destruction caused by extreme weather in developing countries can be covered financially by those with the highest historical emissions. Recent climatic disasters, such as the floods in Pakistan, have brought the issue back to the fore.
However, the luster has quickly dissipated, with countries squabbling over how such loss and damage can be paid for – whether through a dedicated financial facility or a “mosaic” of existing institutions. Rich countries also want newer big emitters like India and China to cough up money. The US president’s special climate envoy John Kerry said anything involving compensation or liability “just isn’t happening, for a whole bunch of countries”.
“It is now an item on the agenda, it is not resolved,” said Jochen Flasbarth, German State Secretary for Economic Cooperation and Development. Whatever solution we find “must apply to all relevant polluters”.
More positive news
The first week of COP27 saw other successes. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s “Bridgetown Agenda” outlining how multilateral banks should be revamped to provide more climate finance – along with other innovative financial solutions – has won praise from French President Emmanuel Macron and interim support from the UK and Germany.
South Africa’s landmark $8.5 billion investment plan to phase out coal has received official donor approval. And that should be eclipsed by a similar deal for Indonesia. It will total up to $20 billion when it is launched at the Group of 20 summit in Bali next week.
Canada, the United States and Nigeria, meanwhile, have all announced new regulations to tackle emissions of one of the most potent greenhouse gases: methane.
A step back
The U.S. midterm elections cast a shadow from Washington to Egypt, as Biden administration officials sought to assure foreign leaders that Republican gains in Congress would not decimate the country’s climate progress. (Democrats retained control of the U.S. Senate.) Kerry brushed off concerns that it could impact the flow of investment in green tech. His plan to create new carbon credits to accelerate decarbonization in developing countries has drawn criticism, but America’s top climate diplomat has insisted a new approach is needed to attract climate-averse private capital. risk in renewable projects in emerging economies.
When it comes to climate finance, poor countries have already been burned by promises of funds from the developed world. And the wealthy counterparts seem no closer to meeting a long-elusive $100 billion pledge. So far, there hasn’t been much extra money spat out, apart from some small pledges for loss and damage from Germany, Scotland and Austria.
Europe, meanwhile, has been criticized for encouraging African countries to build more gas infrastructure. Germany, in particular, has been accused by an African NGO of “energy colonialism” as it seeks to replace its Russian supplies following the invasion of Ukraine. The activist said the EU and Germany are using the continent as their “gas station”. A report released last week said new liquefied gas production and facilities could see the world miss its 1.5 degree warming target. Other scientific reports have painted an equally bleak picture.
What to watch
With the exception of the imminent arrival of newly elected Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, many world leaders have come and gone from the climate talks. The second week is when the negotiators really get down to business as ministers arrive to break the deadlock of the more technical discussions of the first week. Aside from the heated talks over loss and damage, a key element will be the type of “hedging decision” the Egyptian presidency will pursue. The document outlines the policy actions countries are prepared to take to meet their climate commitments.
Last year in Glasgow, countries agreed to relentlessly “roll down” coal use and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies – a historic commitment that has been tested by the energy crisis. The level of ambition targeted by the Egyptian presidency is the key question. Too much and they risk failure. Too little and they risk receiving strong criticism from developing countries, island states and civil society.
Interestingly, India has pushed for coal language to be extended to all fossil fuels. The High Ambition Coalition – a key group of countries advocating for stronger climate outcomes – will also release its statement earlier this week.
Elsewhere, Turkey could release a revised climate pledge next week, following Mexico’s stated ambition to increase its 2030 emissions reduction target to 35% from 22%.
On the sidelines
Don’t just look inside COP27 for more ambition. World leaders will meet in Bali, Indonesia next week and anything said about the climate there is likely to leak into the negotiating rooms in Sharm el-Sheikh. Hopes for a thaw in China-U.S. relations have also been boosted with Biden and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping set to meet for the first time since climate talks between the two sides collapsed. .
It will also be where Indonesia will announce its massive partnership for a just energy transition.
Among the PR nightmares for organizers this week was what smelled and looked like a leak in the sewage system between the halls of the conference center. There were also accusations of price gouging, which forced Egyptian authorities to halve the cost of $11 sandwiches and make soft drinks free.
Undeterred by overpriced hotels and myriad security concerns, non-governmental groups have continued to call on countries to recommit to further emissions reductions. For the first time, activists held their traditional Saturday protest march inside the conference grounds, overseen by the United Nations.
Watch for any updates on the health of imprisoned British-Egyptian political dissident Alaa Abd el-Fattah, who has stopped eating and drinking water.