Who cleans? The issue of contention at a tough climate meeting

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Facts: COP27

The UN climate summit COP27 is held in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt from 6-18 November. Then representatives from all over the world gather to discuss and negotiate how the global climate work under the Paris Agreement is to be implemented.

In the Paris Agreement of 2015, most of the world’s countries agreed to keep the increase in the global average temperature well below 2 degrees, and most preferably below 1.5 degrees, compared to pre-industrial times.

But the countries’ plans to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases are far from sufficient to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, according to a compilation that the UN climate secretariat UNFCCC has made of all climate plans ahead of the meeting. If the plans are followed, the world is instead headed for around 2.5 degrees of warming before the end of the century.

COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh has been designated by some in advance as “the most difficult climate meeting ever”. The reasons are several.

Reports ahead of the meeting have warned that countries’ climate pledges are far from sufficient and that we are headed for 2.4-2.6 degrees of warming by the end of the century. So far from the 1.5-degree target that world leaders breathed life into as recently as last year’s meeting in Glasgow.

But now many countries are busy dealing with the energy crisis, skyrocketing food prices, inflation and the Ukraine war – in part by increasing the use of climate-damaging fossil fuels.

At the same time, large parts of Pakistan are under water, Africa has been hit by a severe drought and many vulnerable developing countries feel that they are already being hit hard by climate change.

— It is a tough starting position. I think it will be a difficult meeting, says Åsa Persson, head of research at the Stockholm Environment Institute.

Åsa Persson, head of research at the Stockholm Environment Institute, SEI, hopes that Sweden pushes for a sharper climate policy during the meeting in Egypt. Bubbling anger

Emission reductions to slow down warming are a standing theme at UN climate meetings, but are not expected to be in focus this year. The countries are under no obligation to make new promises in this area, even though Egypt’s foreign minister appealed to the countries to tighten their commitments, which only about 20 out of 193 countries have done.

Instead, the spotlight is directed at wallet issues – and a growing crisis of confidence.

Many warn that trust between rich and poor is at stake. The rift is deepening between rich countries that have historically spewed out the most greenhouse gases – and poor countries that bear a small part of the blame for global warming, but suffer the most from floods, parched farmland and other climate effects.

In developing countries, anger is bubbling over the fact that the rich parts of the world have not fulfilled the promise of 100 billion dollars annually in climate support. The issue is becoming increasingly pressing as it becomes clearer that the rich countries are not reducing their emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, notes Mathias Fridahl, researcher in climate policy at Linköping University.

— Who has contributed to the problem – and who is responsible for cleaning up the big mess we are in? There is no common view, but there is a negotiation about what is fair and what is not.

African COP

The meeting has been called an “African COP” and since Africa is the continent most affected by climate change, it is hoped that the location of the meeting will make the continent’s interests take a bigger place than before.

“A key issue for the Egyptian presidency is how the African countries and the small island nations will receive compensation for their damages,” says Fridahl.

Developing countries are pushing to get compensation from rich countries for what they call “damages and losses” caused by floods and other climate effects. They want to see a completely new financing system, which rich countries, above all the United States, strongly opposed.

The polarization is so great that it is uncertain until the end whether the countries can even agree on how the issue of damages and losses should be formulated on the meeting agenda.

Show sympathy

Instead of a new financing system, it is more likely that more countries will follow in Denmark’s footsteps and pledge money to show their sympathy, without agreeing to binding rules, believes Åsa Persson.

— It’s about showing your good will, but you don’t have to come to a decision this year.

Overall, not many sharp decisions are expected in Egypt.

“I don’t expect very many concrete results, but an increased clarity around support for climate adaptation and damage and losses,” says Mathias Fridahl.

One of the few areas where there can be talk of sharp decisions, according to Fridahl, is how climate work that takes place between countries should be handled purely administratively. It is about when a country takes climate action in another country and gets credit for the reduction in emissions it provides.

— I hope for a decision here, because this is a way of encouraging countries like Sweden to do more in other countries, where the measures are often cheaper, says Fridahl.

Mathias Fridahl, researcher in climate policy at Linköping University. Hopes that Sweden steps forward

Both he and Åsa Persson hope that more countries, even if they don’t have to, will tighten their commitments on emission reductions during the meeting.

— In a way, the most important thing for these meetings is to increase ambitions to reduce emissions and prevent even more global warming. It is also the best way to prevent the damage that would otherwise follow, says Persson.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (M) and Climate and Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari (L) are coming to Sharm el-Sheikh. Åsa Persson hopes that Sweden will step forward and press on during the negotiations.

— Sweden has an important role as the future chairman of the EU and in order to be able to influence other countries it is important that we ourselves have a strong climate policy that is in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. It is important to lead by example.

Extreme weather such as forest fires are becoming more common as the earth’s average temperature rises, according to the scientific community. Here, fire-damaged forest from the large forest fire in the summer of 2018, which mainly affected the northwestern parts of Gävleborg county. Archive image.