Cop27: summit set for crucial final week with hopes hinging on talks leading to action

The conference in Sharm El Sheikh has reached the half-way point

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The Cop27 conference is set to enter a decisive final week on Monday with much of its success hinging on the results of key negotiations aimed at securing vital support for poorer countries hardest hit by the impact of climate change.

After a Sunday rest day at Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, hopes will rest on high-level talks securing concrete action on grave environmental challenges facing the globe.

So with the crucial UN climate talks around the half-way stage, what has happened so far and what can we expect next week?

First, the bad news

The summit in Egypt started with a sobering warning that the world was on a “highway to climate hell”. Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, told world leaders at the opening of the summit on Monday the planet was reaching a point where “climate chaos” was irreversible.

The bad news did not stop there, with report after report released during the week outlining how leaders have repeatedly failed to act despite rising seas, melting sea ice and extreme weather events that are imperilling the world.

The avalanche of doom culminated on Friday with the release of a major report showing global emissions remain at record highs with no evidence they are slowing. The Global Carbon Brief outlined how there was a 50 per cent chance that global temperature rise will hit 1.5°C in less than a decade. If this vital threshold is breached, scientists say up to half the world's population could be exposed to life-threatening heat.

Protests at the Cop27 venue

Small protests have been taking place across the sprawling venue during the week. They intensified in frequency once world leaders left and have injected a colour and urgency to the dry Cop27 world of briefings and technical committees.

Youth delegations have lambasted leaders for inaction; activists urged the world to go vegan to save the planet; and indigenous voices have told the West they need financial support to deal with the effects of a climate change they did not cause.

Loss and damage

The issue has become so fraught it delayed the start of Cop27. Loss and damage — money to pay for the effects of climate change rather than adapt to them — has quickly become a key part of the talks. In a small, early win for the summit, it was added to the agenda at the UN's annual climate talks for the first time.

Developing countries sharply criticised wealthier nations — who also tend to be the worst emitters — for not agreeing to establish such a fund.

The crisis in Pakistan this year has again brought loss and damage into sharp focus. The country, responsible for one per cent of global emissions, suffered devastating floods that killed about 1,600 people, inundated large parts of the country and forced 33 million people towards destitution.

The US and other major rich countries have resisted paying compensation for such disasters. China said it supported developing nations and would play its part but this would not include cash.

Several counties such as Denmark, Ireland and Scotland agreed to contribute.

China and the US in informal talks

The United States and China are central to the success of the talks as they account for about half of global emissions.

But China halted climate dialogue with the US in August after the House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan.

However, Chinese climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua confirmed during the week that he had informal contacts during the summit with his “friend” US climate envoy John Kerry.

Delegates face difficulties in Sharm El Sheikh

Tens of thousands of Cop27 attendees, from UN officials to activists, have descended on the Red Sea resort that is typically the preserve of Russian, Ukrainian and British groups on package tours.

Delegates initially complained about huge queues and high prices at the small number of outlets at the venue, some of which were charging up to $17 for a burger. The situation improved later in the week with prices cut by 50 per cent, new outlets opening and water and soft drinks being given away for free.

The public transport system has also been pressured, with delegates seen stranded on roundabouts trying to flag down the shuttle buses to the conference venue.

What happens next

The Cop27 presidency on Saturday asked countries what they want to include in the summit’s final declaration. It said that while there had been “good progress” in many areas, others remain complex. Talks ramp up from Monday when each country will put their interests forward. Many will want to see progress on loss and damage. However, those close to the negotiations told The National the establishment of such a fund was unlikely at Cop27.

Countries also want to see action on a pledge by developed countries to provide $100 billion a year to poorer countries to help them reduce emissions and prepare for climate change.

Ministers start arriving later in the week to try to resolve these issues ahead of the summit’s final declaration expected on November 18, the closing day.

Updated: November 13, 2022, 9:09 AM