COP-27 Week 1 Update

The UNFCCC climate conference COP-27 in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt is currently underway.

Greta Thunberg decided to skip the COP due to human rights abuses by Egypt’s government.  She tweeted solidarity with the tens of thousands of “prisoners of conscience” being held by the authoritarian government, which fears demands for democracy as in the Arab Spring uprising that took place 10 years ago.

There were many questions leading up to the COP about what kind of protests would be allowed.  An early ominous sign was that delegates were asked to download an app onto their phones that included suspicious requests for many permissions making it seem like the government’s purpose was to collect data on potential protesters.

FEASTA leading up to the COP

Despite Greta’s decision to boycott, FEASTA has taken the approach to engage in the imperfect world of the UNFCCC, and so we provided our accredited observer status to a delegation of young activists from Ireland, Brazil, India, and Pakistan (using Fridays for Future’s term Most Affected People and Places (MAPA) to go to Egypt and advocate for climate justice.

Ahead of the COP FEASTA released a new paper on how the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) could be expanded to become a Global Climate Trust that could manage a global Cap & Share program that caps upstream fossil fuels (leave it in the ground), sells permits for the fuels under the declining cap, and sends those funds to people as a climate dividend.

FEASTA also hosted a talk by one of our delegates to the COP, Hania Imran of Pakistan, who gave a presentation on the recent floods in Pakistan.

Irish and U.S. Leaders Speak

President Biden spoke at the opening plenary.  It was reassuring to have the U.S. part of the Paris Agreement and engaged at the UNFCCC again.  It is unclear if the U.S. is, or ever was, in a “leadership” role on climate globally, but at least President Biden had a few positive things to say, such as a recent law that will invest in renewable industries and technologies (but no cap, no carbon pricing, no dividend).  The speech did not declare victory, as it is clear there is still a lot of work ahead still to do.

Climate Envoy John Kerry announced a carbon credit concept that “generates credits” (out of nothing, I might add) and does not deal with permits under a cap.  To reiterate a long-standing position of the FEASTA climate group, we only want to hear about capping carbon, selling permits under the cap, and returning the funds back to people as a dividend.  Please stop talking about offsets and credits based on made up baselines that do not reduce fossil fuel use.

However, for those looking for some good news coming out of the US, the Department of Commerce recently started a multi-year strategy to incorporate natural capital indicators into the national economics accounting system.  It was not at the COP, but I didn’t want to end on a down note.

Sadhbh O’Neill of Climate Case Ireland has been posting daily blogs from the COP on the Friends of the Irish Environment website. Her first impressions are memorable:

Dust, heat, armed soldiers and mosquitos.

She also gave a reality check on the Taoiseach’s speech to the plenary:

While the messaging coming out of the government here at the COP is focused on Ireland’s contribution to international cooperation through climate finance and loss and damage, the real story is that we are not on track to meet our own legally binding emission reduction targets.

Report from Theresa O’Donohoe:

Climate finance dominates the conference in the form of “Loss & Damage”. Advocates for L&D are calling for a finance facility to be established so that countries who have done the least to drive climate breakdown can be reimbursed for their loss and damage. The concept is pretty simple and fairly well supported, possibly because it is the right thing to do given that those most affected by climate breakdown are not the ones to have benefitted from the emissions causing it. It’s also a fact that in some instances the fossil resources used to create the wealth, cause the emissions and plunge nations into climate chaos were stolen from them as colonies. There is absolutely nothing fair about how the climate crisis is playing out.

While the concept of payment for Loss and Damage is accepted there are major delays in the process of defining what qualifies as L&D. Can a price be put on loss of culture, loss of livelihood, loss of land, loss of life and more? Industry has the power to protect future profits with Investor State Dispute Settlements but people whose lives are turned upside down because of the fossil fuelled economy have no such protection. The lack of political will and delay tactics that are inevitably behind the bureaucracy demonstrate the uphill battle the most vulnerable face.

The tagline to COP27 is “Together for Implementation,” but NGOs are asking why has it taken until the 27th conference to finally focus on implementation? Years of empty promises and broken commitments hang over the proceedings, as well as the concern that the 1.5 degree limit is being abandoned.

We stood together to relay the message that the only place for Fossil Fuels has to be in the history books with Imperialism and colonialism.

Fridays For Future Ukraine and MAPA, Most Affected People and Areas are pointing out that the Climate Crisis and Wars share one root: Fossil Fuels. We stood together to relay the message that the only place for Fossil Fuels has to be in the history books with Imperialism and colonialism. I live in Lisdoonvarna where the number of Ukranian refugees is more than the original population of the village at the start of 2022. Between asylum seekers and refugees the population has approximately tripled since January 2018.

Following that action we joined the march inside the COP. The UNFCCC identified 4 areas for protest within the venue because of the strict protest laws in Egypt.

The Government of Ireland and Former Irish President Mary Robinson hosted an event titled: Climate Justice in Action: Solutions for enhancing adaptation and responding to loss & damage. Speakers included activists and representatives from Uganda, the Marshall Islands, and more.

Report from Amália Garcez:

Upon arriving in Sharm El Sheikh, it’s hard not to see the difference between the city’s residents and visitors.  In the coastal region are located large luxury resorts, where most people going to COP are staying.  Just across the street, you can see neighborhoods with old houses, peeling paint and unpaved alleys.  Thus, the only contact COP participants have with the country’s civil society seems to be when they are served by them at cocktail parties and events.  When taking a taxi to the conference, my colleagues and I were forced to get off at an unknown location when the driver did not know where the conference was located.  This lack of connection between a conference on human rights and sustainability and the society around it is sad to see.  Achieving climate justice requires dialogue with populations and an understanding of their needs, not the imposition of green policies disconnected from their realities!

The only contact COP participants have with the country’s civil society seems to be when they are served by them at cocktail parties and events.

Climate justice is much contemplated in the COP discussions.  The main agendas to be discussed are Loss and Damage, Climate Financing and Decarbonization, all topics that discuss historical responsibilities of countries of the Global North with the Global South.

The issue of financing losses and damages, whose discussion is being led by Egypt, guides solutions for the prevention and maximum reduction of damages from climate disasters in the most affected countries, and the need for high-income countries to finance low-income countries so that they can adapt to climate change.  However, on the subject of finance, there is a lot of demand due to promises never fulfilled.  In 2009, for example, there was a pledge of funding of 2 billion dollars for the most affected countries, made by the administration of then US President Barack Obama.  So far, the promise has not been fulfilled and several countries remain without resources to adapt to environmental disasters.  In terms of decarbonization, the discussion is very much focused on renewable energies, but much is being invested in underdeveloped and unreliable energies, such as green hydrogen.

For the Brazilian youth at the event, this is a COP of hope.

In addition to these topics, for the Brazilian youth at the event, this is a COP of hope.  With Lula’s presence, which should take place in the second week, we believe that a return of Brazilian leadership in climate discussions will take place.  Also, with the presence of the new president, we expect the announcement of the future minister of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples.  When talking to indigenous leaders, such as Sônia Guajajara, Neidinha Suruí and Vanda Witoto about this new reality in the Brazilian government, all of them were optimistic and confident that there will be much more reception for the indigenous and socio-climatic agenda in the coming years.

I, as an activist, feel and share this optimism.  On the third day at the COP, I already met Sônia Guajajara, Marina Silva (probably the best environment minister Brazil has ever had), Vanda Witoto, and other Brazilian leaders.  Access to decision makers seems to be easier, and youth seem to be invigorated with the new possibilities for action.  Although we cannot demonstrate in the streets due to the laws of Egypt, I feel that we are strongly expressing what we want, through the spaces that we are occupying and the speeches that we are bringing to this conference.  So, for the first time in a long time, I can say that I feel hopeful for what’s to come.

Note: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one ‘Feasta line’. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members.