With Cop27 talks deadlocked, protesters criticise leaders for lack of action

Real leadership will come from the most vulnerable, activists say

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Delivered with passion and zeal, the calls to act on climate change rang out at the Cop27 summit in Sharm El Sheikh.

“This is what the people look like, this is what leadership looks like, this is what power looks like – climate justice now," activists said.

The chants have resounded across the “blue zone” at Cop27 over the past few days.

As negotiations between delegates remained deadlocked on Thursday, protesters and advocacy groups railed against leaders for a lack of action.

The real power does not lie in the negotiating rooms, but in people's actions, activists said.

“This leadership will come from the most vulnerable,” said one teenage protester from the Philippines, who called for renewable energy for people and communities in developing countries.

Climate activists at the Cop27 summit in Egypt. AP

The protests have enlivened the Cop27 gathering, injecting colour and vibrancy into the grey world of UN meetings.

Demonstrations tend to last about 30 minutes and participants are required to roll up their placards afterwards.

They have been lively and well attended and focus on campaigns including phasing out fossil fuels to eating less meat.

One of the largest took place on Saturday, with hundreds calling for climate justice for Africa.

“We have seen so much drought and famine and so much of displacement because of climate change. Hence the banner,” said Sainey Gibba from The Gambia, who was holding a placard stating “droughts, floods, hunger, displacement are the new trend in Africa".

He said Cop27 had not given him much hope that leaders would act, but he would wait to find out what the final declaration said.

“We … are African youth and want to make sure Cop27 listens to Africa and justice is done,” he said.

The chances of a deal being announced by Friday, the closing day of the summit, appear slim.

Countries have been unable to find consensus on the key issues of keeping the target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels alive, as well as finance and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

A draft declaration seen on Thursday raised more concerns about the ambition of some countries to act. Protesters and activists say leaders have not yet grasped the urgency of the climate crisis.

“If we don’t make the 1.5°C target, every 0.1°C additionally will add millions and millions of additional deaths,” said Bea Albermann, 25, a doctor from Switzerland who represents a group called Health for Future.

“We know that because now at 1.2°C warming we see so many deaths already,” she said, referring to scientists' estimate of how much hotter the planet has become.

She was speaking after a protest where medics from around the world performed mock CPR on an inflatable globe while shouting that the world needs “1.5 to survive”.

Dr Albermann said the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic showed the world could act quickly when needed. The same urgency was necessary now, she said.

“With Covid-19, we couldn’t just discuss it again in three years. What they are currently doing is putting Band-Aids on bleeding wounds," she said.

Updated: November 18, 2022, 5:14 AM
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