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By KARL MATHIESEN
with Federica Di Sario, Victor Jack,Charlie Cooper and America Hernandez
— Leaders arrive in Egypt for a climate summit beset by crises and facing growing calls for disaster compensation.
— Loss and damage is on the agenda for COP27, but that’s just the start.
— 6 themes and events that will shape the conference
Good morning from Sharm El-Shiekh, wedged between the desert and the sea. It’s warm and sticky and, as I write this in the back of the taxi from the airport at 10 p.m. on Sunday night, there’s little indication that the temperatures in the COP27 venue are any cooler as things get off to a feisty start.
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DECADES OF BROKEN PROMISES HAUNT COP27: World leaders arriving today at the COP27 U.N. climate talks in Sharm El-Sheikh will be confronting the consequences of 30 years of failure to address the causes of global warming. More than 120 leaders or their deputies will address the talks in the coming few days. “Rousing speeches and inspiring language are but hollow sentiments now,” Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hassina writes in POLITICO. “Just empty rhetoric and fine-spun nothings in the absence of the robust action that scientists have long been urging.”
Climate changed: Hanging over the opening speeches is the reality that a long-forewarned, yet still shocking, age of consequences has arrived. One in which floods, fires, droughts, heatwaves and storms have been supercharged by climate change and affected millions of people in 2022 alone.
Damage control: That is why, on Sunday after marathon overnight negotiations, wealthy governments bowed to the demands of those countries most affected by these events and agreed to hold an official discussion on financial transfers to aid victims — under the rubric “loss and damage.”
It’s a historic and a “decisive” step, said German State Secretary Jennifer Morgan. EU countries have been cautiously admitting that a discussion on this issue was merited and they want to leave the talks having at least given the sense that they are open to transfers of finance in some form. But AOSIS, an alliance of 39 small island states, said the agreement to hold talks was the “bare minimum.” They are in Egypt looking for a deal on the creation of a new fund for climate damage to start operating in 2024. That’s a line the EU may not be willing to cross, with officials suggesting that existing mechanisms could suffice.
‘Together for implementation’ is the mind-numbing motto the Egyptians have stuck on the conference. What it means is that they want this talks to be about demonstrating action, rather than making more new promises. But action might be hard to find. Egypt’s Foreign Minister and COP27 President Sameh Shoukry summed up the situation in a letter to delegates last week: “We gather this year at a critical time of cascading risks and overlapping crises, multilateralism is facing a challenge due to geopolitical situations, spiraling food and energy prices, and a growing public finance and public debt crisis in many countries already struggling to contend with the devastating impacts of the pandemic, all of which demand urgent attention. Yet the climate crisis is existential, overriding and ever present.”
6 THINGS THAT WILL SHAPE COP27|
1. LOSS AND DAMAGE: As we outlined above, this is the critical discussion at COP27. After years of total refusal from rich countries apprehensive of getting hit with near limitless liability, it’s finally going to get a proper airing. But here’s the rub, if the U.S. and EU are going to pay out, they want China to pony up too. That argument has some merit. The U.S., EU and U.K. are together responsible for more than half of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere. But China’s contribution was logged at 12.7 percent in 2019 and growing fast. Zack Colman and I look at how this big power dynamic plays into the talks here.
2. EGYPT’S DEMOCRACY TEST: Egypt has invited the world to Sharm El-Sheikh, but that comes with uncomfortable questions about a government criticized by human rights groups for repression of political dissent. First things first, don’t download the COP27 app the Egyptian government has asked delegates to put on their phones. POLITICO’s reporting so far on this suggests there is more than enough reason to be concerned about privacy. If you’re concerned about the app — or have regrets downloading it — please reach out. Anonymity is guaranteed (unless you want to go public).
A family fights for freedom: Meanwhile in a prison in Egypt, British-Egyptian dissident Alaa Abd el-Fattah took his last sip of water Sunday, his sister Sanaa Seif said. As his hunger strike deepened, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wrote to Seif to say: “I will continue to stress to President Sisi the importance that we attach to the swift resolution of Alaa’s case, and an end to his unacceptable treatment.” Seif meanwhile, flew into Sharm El-Sheikh on Sunday evening on a civil society badge for COP27. “The Egyptian regime claims civic space exists” at the talks, she tweeted, “I’ll be testing that.”
3. THE MIDTERMS: It’s just like COP22 all over again. U.S. Democrats are bracing for a setback that could see them lose control of one or both of the houses of Congress. If the Republicans win big on Tuesday, the consequences will be less dramatic than when Donald Trump won the presidency during U.N. talks in 2016. But it will raise the specter of a Trump or Trump-like president crashing into the climate process in two years. NGOs are already circulating brave-faced talking points on how the Republicans are unlikely to undo the spending agreed in Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. But as Center for Climate and Energy Solutions President Nat Keohane told Zack: “We certainly won’t make any progress.”
Now read this: My piece on why the presidencies of Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro were just the opening skirmishes in a rising populist culture war in which the planet’s stability will be collateral damage.
4. LULA’S RETURN: Those looking for hope from the talks will look for the intervention of Bolsonaro’s vanquisher Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He’s already floating an “OPEC of rainforest nations,” with Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Guardian reports.
5. G20: The meeting of leaders talking place in Bali next week offers the chance for the body that represents around 80 percent of global emissions to bury some of its differences. But after a disastrous meeting of G20 climate ministers in August, at which China pushed back even on its previous backing for the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree global warming limit, hopes are thin. The presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin means, like so often this year, climate change will be a sidebar to the war in Ukraine. But advocates hope that at least some progress can be made on the widely held desire for reforms to the multilateral financial system that benefit climate lending.
6. US-CHINA: Traditionally little of consequence has happened at U.N. climate talks without cooperation between Beijing and Washington. But relations between the two biggest polluters on the planet are at an all time nadir, with official communications suspended. Phelim Kine looks here at how their bigger geostrategic standoff lands smack in the middle of this year’s climate talks. Meanwhile Doug Palmer looks at the U.S. incentives for clean energy that are annoying China, but also the EU.
**A message from the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament: “If every country followed the EU’s climate ambition the world would be heading towards 3 degrees of global warming. The EU must step up its climate action to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, in accordance with the Paris Agreement.” Read our demands for ambitious climate action at COP27 here.**
LEADERS SUMMIT WHAT TO WATCH: The speeches are limited to five minutes but, just like the 1.5-degree warming limit, adherence seems unlikely. A few things we are looking for when the leaders take the stage today.
Gas desires 1: How hard will certain African leaders push to develop their oil and gas resources?
Gas desires 2: How explicitly will Germany’s Olaf Scholz agree with them?
Islanders: Seychelles, Kiribati, Tonga, Palau and the Maldives pack out a big representation of small island leaders who have traveled far to voice their fears at the passing of 1.5 degrees and the need for loss and damage finance.
The far right at COP27: Back-to-back speeches from Italy’s far right leader Giorgia Meloni and Sweden’s new Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, who governs with the support of the nationalist Sweden Democrats.
**Tomorrow US voters head to the polls for mid-term elections. Dive deep into what a power shift could mean to the transatlantic relationship during our POLITICO Pro Briefing Call on November 9 at 4 PM CET. Register here.**
While supplies of natural gas delivered by pipeline to the EU fell dramatically this year, liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from Russia into the EU increased by 46 percent year-on-year in the first nine months of 2022, my colleague Charlie Cooper reports.
The EU executive is aiming to ban the sale of new CO2-emitting combustion engine cars by 2035. But it’s opting to take a pass on reining in other killer emissions, according to documents seen by Sarah Wheaton and Josh Posaner.
It wouldn’t be a COP without Carbon Brief and their round up of what every party wants at COP27.
U.S. funds are pressuring the French government to raise its buyout offer for the 16 percent of EDF that Paris doesn’t control yet, the Financial Times reports.
**A message from the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament: The Greens/EFA MEP Michael Bloss at COP27: “They say our house is on fire. We face a future of droughts, floods, and wildfires. This year, Europe has experienced the worst droughts in 500 years. Large rivers like the Rhine in Germany or the Po in Italy were barely filled with water throughout summer. Our forests experienced a heat shock that will impact them for years to come. This is the reality of a world just 1.2 degrees warmer. So what is the European Climate Commissioner Frans Timmermans doing about it? He is hiding in denial that more global climate action is desperately needed.” Continue reading why the EU must pledge to step up climate action at COP27.**