Egypt is facing “an uphill battle” in getting nations to agree the negotiating agenda for the next global climate change conference, COP27, which it will host from November 7 to 18 in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
When climate change ministers and activists left the last U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26), held in Glasgow last November, the prospects of keeping global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels were just about intact. The world has changed since then.
Russia launched its war with Ukraine in February, oil and natural gas prices have soared, and a food security crisis in much of the developing world has deepened.
Against those headwinds, Egypt must find a way to keep the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement alive at COP27. (The event is called COP27 because it will be the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties to a landmark 1994 United Nations treaty on climate change.)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi told a meeting in Berlin this month he recognised the challenges posed by the energy and food crises and a lack of funds needed to combat climate change.
“This places a formidable responsibility on our shoulders as an international community to ensure that these difficulties will not impact the pace of implementation of our common vision to address climate change, which was reflected in the Paris Agreement, and confirmed last year in Glasgow,” El-Sisi said at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, which brought together representatives from 40 countries to discuss climate protection agreements ahead of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Heat Waves Show Climate Dangers
“One thing that is very important now in the lead-up to COP27 is that countries come up with new pledges for 2030, new climate targets for 2030, new nationally determined contributions, or NDCs, because those are still very inadequate.”Mia Moisio An analyst with the Climate Action Tracker
The dangers of climate change have been brought home to many by heat waves in Asia and Europe and predictions that weather extremes will only get worse and more frequent.
Europe, long dependent on Russia for oil and particularly natural gas deliveries, has discovered the dangers of relying on a single source.
Keeping homes warm this winter has become a major aim of governments. Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the European Commission, said in an interview this month that “strife and conflict” over energy prices could make it difficult to reach promised climate goals.
Alex Scott, a climate expert at E3G, a climate think tank in London, said despite the challenges some politicians still saw climate action as a way through some of these other crises.
Talking about the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, she said: “It appears that those at the table have been at pains to express their commitment to making sure any short-term investment in coal or gas to replace Russian sources is exactly that, it is short-term, and that it is linked to their commitment to a long-term transition.”
The challenge for Egypt is to create a framework for negotiations at Sharm el-Sheikh that demonstrates the green energy transition is a route to beat the current crisis, not an impediment, Scott said in an interview.
“It’s difficult for them to pick up this energy transition agenda at the same time and really shepherd through the political signal that we need from this COP about the continued commitment to energy transition and the fact that it is really a way to address these concurrent crises. I don’t think it is impossible.”
Nations Slow to Update Action Plans
Countries agreed at COP26 in Glasgow to come back this year with renewed commitments to tackle climate change. Egypt and Australia are just two of a handful of countries that have done so. Egypt’s new NDC, or nationally determined contribution, is still being analysed but it is seen by some as a missed opportunity to go further as the COP27 presidency.
“This places a formidable responsibility on our shoulders as an international community to ensure that these difficulties will not impact the pace of implementation of our common vision to address climate change.”President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt
The Climate Action Tracker, an independent research group’s analysis of government pledges, said most nations have failed to update their action plans, particularly those that see themselves as climate leaders, such as the European Union, Britain and the United States.
“One thing that is very important now in the lead-up to COP27 is that countries come up with new pledges for 2030, new climate targets for 2030, new nationally determined contributions, or NDCs, because those are still very inadequate,” said Mia Moisio, an analyst with the Climate Action Tracker.
“If we take all the pledges now together, we are still heading towards 2.4 degrees of warming by the end the century, according to our analysis. That is quite long way away from 1.5.”
Focus on Africa at COP27
A major focus of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit will be Africa, which has contributed very little to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere but is already seeing the effects of warming on the continent.
Africa lies at the heart of the climate challenge, El-Sisi told the Berlin meeting. It is affected more than other regions but has limited capacity and funding to address its difficulties.
“The recent food and energy crises have exacerbated the challenges that African countries must face,” he said. “In addition to the real threat posed by climate change to the continent’s countries that suffer from desertification, water scarcity, high sea levels, floods, torrential rains among other extreme weather conditions, changing at a faster pace and leaving a stronger impact.”
A Funding Pledge Unfulfilled
Key to climate action is finance and the willingness of wealthy nations to provide the funds for the developing world and island nations to tackle the effects of global warming and to prepare for the future.
“At the moment it is looking like an uphill battle for Egypt as the COP27 presidency. They could really benefit from appointing some partner countries to help them drive the political agenda forward.”Alex Scott An expert with the E3G climate think tank
The rich world had promised to provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt, but the deadline for that has been pushed out to next year. In reality, $100 billion is seen as just the starting point for what is required.
The demand from developing nations for fresh funding to tackle loss and damage caused by warming will be a major issue at Sharm el-Sheikh, but rich countries are likely to resist for fear of it turning into a battle for compensation.
“If major countries want to retain any credibility, they are also need to walk the talk and increase their climate finance contributions,” Moisio said in an interview from Berlin. “Otherwise developing countries will always have the argument, Why should we do this if you are not supporting us?”
Alex Scott, in London, said picking up the promises from Glasgow and delivering on new initiatives while addressing the energy and food security crises represented a huge challenge and that Egypt should seek help from other countries.
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“At the moment it is looking like an uphill battle for Egypt as the COP27 presidency,” she said. “They could really benefit from appointing some partner countries to help them drive the political agenda forward.”
Britain sought help from Denmark and Grenada to smooth the path in the lead up to the Glasgow summit, she said, and Cairo should do the same.