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COP27: ‘Watershed moment’ as UN climate summit starts

The sun sets behind the International Congress Center ahead of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference

The annual UN summit on climate change opens on Sunday with host Egypt deeming it the world’s “watershed moment” on climate action.

More than 120 world leaders are heading to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

About 30,000 people will attend the two-week summit, known as COP27, although some activists are staying away due to concerns over Egypt’s rights.

Over the past year, extreme weather has been regularly associated with climate change.

The summit will open with welcome speeches by Simon Stiell, the UN’s new leader on climate change, and Egypt’s Foreign Minister and COP27 President-elect Sameh Shoukry.

Stiell previously served as a senior government official in Grenada, the low-lying Caribbean country where climate change poses an existential threat.

Mr Shoukry said last week that the conference would be “the turning point of the world on climate action”.

There will also be keynote speeches from diplomats and scientists, including Hoesung Lee, chairman of the IPCC, the United Nations’ body for assessing science related to climate change.

COP27 will really kick off Monday with a Summit of World Leaders, when heads of state and government deliver five-minute speeches outlining what they want from the meeting.

At the latest climate summit, last year in Glasgow, there were powerful speeches from the likes of Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who told a delighted audience that a temperature rise of “two degrees is a death sentence” for island nations.

World leaders will speak on Monday and Tuesday, and as soon as they leave, congressional delegates will begin negotiations.

A number of commitments were made at the COP26 summit in Glasgow last year:

  • “phasing out” the use of coal, one of the most polluting fossil fuels

  • stop deforestation by 2030

  • to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030

  • submit new climate action plans to the UN

Mr Stiell has called for this summit to focus on turning last year’s promises into action and “getting started on the massive transformation that needs to take place”.

That will all come down to money.

Developing countries – which are at the forefront of climate change – are demanding that previous financial commitments be honored.

But they also want a discussion about ‘loss and damage’ financing – money to help them cope with the losses they are already experiencing from climate change, rather than just to prepare for future impacts. . This would be the first time the issue has been put on the formal agenda of a COP summit.

The urgency of climate change has become apparent in the past 12 months with devastating floods in Pakistan and in Nigeria, among others, and extreme heat in India and Europe in the summer.

A series of key climate reports was released ahead of the conference, outlining progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Developing countries are looking for money to recover from ongoing climate disasters. Flooding after Tropical Storm Nalgae in Philippines

The UNEP emissions gap report concluded that there was “no credible path” to keep global temperature rise below the key threshold of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

This limit of 1.5 degrees was agreed in 2015 in the Paris Agreement at the 21st UN climate summit, COP21. All subsequent climate summits focused on developing actions to achieve this goal.

In addition to all formal negotiations, there will be hundreds of events over the two weeks with exhibitions, workshops and cultural performances by young people, business groups, indigenous societies, academia, artists and fashion communities from around the world.

Protests – which are normally a lively feature of COP summits – are likely to be subdued.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, in power since 2014, has overseen a widespread crackdown on dissent. Rights groups estimate that the country has held as many as 60,000 political prisoners, many of whom are being held without trial.

Mr Shoukry has said that space will be made available for protests in Sharm el-Sheikh. However, Egyptian activists have told the UKTN that many local groups were unable to register for the conference.

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