“The clock is ticking,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told participants. “We are in the fight of our lives. And we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible…It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact or a Collective Suicide Pact.” He added: “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”
The 27th UN conference on climate change, known as COP27, is currently taking place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. There are topics that cannot be thrown down the to-do list for next year. The delegates know that they must follow through on lowering fossil fuel pollution. Period.
Last year’s summit in Glasgow, Scotland made it clear that if world temperatures are to stay below 2 degrees Celsius – or better, much better, 1.5 degrees Celsius – implementation of the aspirational goals set there must translate into signed and sealed legal agreements. Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a UN climate adviser, says: “Putting off to tomorrow that which needs to be done today has come back to bite us… Decades of under-investment in infrastructure, of too-slow progress on protecting Nature, faltering responses to rising inequality, undervaluing energy efficiency. Now we find ourselves scrambling to swing away from fossil fuels, ramp up renewables, respond to famine and food price shocks, and with inflation on the rise and growth stalling, and very little of the policy frameworks we need to make the transitions move smoothly at speed. 2021 was about ambition – 2022 is about following through.”
If there were ever a summer to prove that speedily implemented decisions to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions and the subsidies given to oil and gas, 2022’s months of drought, floods and forest fires surely would convince anyone. Demands from non-G7 nations to finally receive for climate adaptation the billions of dollars promised by those wealthy industrial countries that almost single-handedly caused the climate crisis will feature prominently at COP27. But the hypocrisy of countries like the US and Canada that subsidise or promote new fossil fuel projects while not doing nearly enough to accelerate the production of renewable sources of energy fuel projects will also be highlighted.
With the spotlight now on Africa, as COP27 is taking place there, transitioning away from oil and in particular ending new fossil fuel projects will be a key barometer of this year’s conference. But are countries like the US really interested? Please see tinyurl.com/US-Africa-fossil-fuels
Two other focal points will be aimed at having debt as well as loss and damage to developing countries examined. Massive debts that have grown in these countries must be rescinded, since those debilitating debts to rich countries stop them from initiating climate adaptation, including building infrastructure that can withstand the new reality of climate breakdown such as the devastation caused by flooding in Pakistan. Take a look at this summer’s catastrophes through this video: tinyurl.com/climate-carnage-2022
In what is thought of as a slap in the face to social justice groups, the Egyptian dictatorship decided to arrest hundreds more people days before the convention. There are many people who are so upset that the global conference will take place in a police state that they are boycotting it. Many activists, including Greta Thunberg, will not show up, with Thunberg citing UN meetings’ propensity to “encourage gradual progress,” which is not plausible now with the accelerating climate emergency.
King Charles, another long-avowed climate advocate, will not be going to the UN conference on the advice of Rishi Sunak, the new prime minister of the UK, perhaps because Sunak didn’t wish to be outshone by the king’s climate credentials. Billionaire Sunak, who initially said he would not be going because he had more pressing domestic matters to deal with, changed his mind after receiving massive condemnation for his statement.
Justin Trudeau won’t be going to Egypt either. Green MP Elizabeth May had this to say about his absence: “No one will miss more self-congratulatory platitudes from Canada, but we’ll all lament the lack of leadership. It is only critical for Justin Trudeau to attend if he is part of the solution… He could come to COP27 to set a new standard for climate leadership — cancelling the TMX pipeline, reversing the Bay du Nord decision, cancelling all fossil fuel subsidies while expanding forest protections.”
Canada will instead be represented by environment minister Steven Guilbeault, joined by Catherine Stewart, the country’s climate change ambassador, and Steven Kuhn, the federal government’s chief negotiator for climate change.
As Naomi Klein has pointed out, this world climate change summit is more than just greenwashing a polluting state: it’s greenwashing a police state. The entire conference’s integrity is being called into question. Nobel laureates and US congress members have signed letters demanding the release of political prisoners, including Alaa Abd el-Fattah, who is on hunger strike in prison, but recently the state of terror has intensified to the extent that people are being taken off the streets and even Indigenous people of Sinai have been displaced because of the extreme paranoia of the totalitarian regime of Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
It has long been recognized that political, social and climate/biodiversity injustices hamper or stop any real progress towards climate/biodiversity protection. The Egyptian human rights crisis will clearly continue to be an impediment to the overall success of this year’s summit, which is in itself another crime perpetrated upon Egyptian society.
The next seven weeks will be filled with apprehension. Not only is the outcome of the climate negotiations of vital importance, but also, starting on December 3, the Montreal Convention on Biological Diversity will bring the world’s nations together to try to finalize a framework for halting biodiversity loss. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, said: “What’s at stake are the fundamentals of human existence. Biodiverse, well-balanced ecosystems provide climate moderation, fertile soil and foods, clean water, modern drugs, and the foundation of our economies… Nearly half of humanity depends directly on natural resources for livelihoods and, in many cases, their daily subsistence needs.”
It’s crucial to be knowledgeable about these crises. Failing to educate ourselves on these vital planetary issues will not help our children’s future, and nor will ignorance contribute to democracy. The word of the year chosen by Collins English Dictionary is “permacrisis,” which is defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events.” Certainly climate/biodiversity breakdown is playing a part here.
However, doom and gloom are not conducive to getting people to act. Future articles will explore ways in which individuals can contribute to a safer and more just alternative.