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Photo by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis

Deflated hope as over 600 fossil fuel lobbyists attend COP27

Going by the high hopes with which the COP27 summit opened on November 6, one would not have imagined the disappointment that took over faces as the first week of the conference came to a close on Saturday.
Going by the high hopes with which the COP27 summit opened on November 6, one would not have imagined the disappointment that took over faces as the first week of the conference came to a close on Saturday.

With just six more days to the end of the conference, the first week leaves little expectation for the activities ahead. A lot of activities held in the past week focused on implementation, adaptation, finance, decarbonisation and agriculture. 

But what was at first referred to as an “implementation COP” with the theme “together for implementation” doesn’t seem to match the aspirations of delegates who say they have not seen strong political will that will ensure the conference delivers its mandates. 

Below are some of the events of the first week that cast down initially built up hopes. 

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Over 600 fossil fuel lobbyists present at COP27

According to a Global Witness report, up to 636 fossil fuel lobbyists are in attendance at the COP in Egypt.  This is more than the number recorded in 2021, which was about 503. Also, delegates are not excited that Coca-Cola, a company that sells over 100 billion plastics annually, is one of the major sponsors of the conference.

“What are they doing here?” questioned Baraka Felisa, climate activist from Tanzania. “They have no business here.” But since they are present, Felisa said the COP seems to be a conference for fossil fuel instead of one that addresses the issues of climate change. He, however, said that the lobbyists must understand that the COP attendants are gathered to insist on “no new investment in fossil fuels.”

Lucky Abeng, a Nigerian climate activist, said the infiltration of the COP by the lobbyists is an attack on the call for climate justice, adding that one cannot treat malaria by inviting mosquitos to the table.

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Biden’s $150 million pledge – a drop in the ocean of adaptation financing

US president Joe Biden landed in the red sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on November 11. Despite much expectations for his speech, Biden only seemed to have come to brag about the milestone inflation reduction act signed by his government and the US goal to achieve climate targets by 2030. He however committed the sum of $150 million for climate adaptation initiatives in Africa.

But even this, according to delegates, is an old finance being pushed to adaptation, nothing new. With up to $340 billion needed for adaptation and only $29 billion mobilised so far, Biden’s support is only but a drop in the ocean. They say it is lack of political will that has made developed countries not to commit more financing to tackling climate change. They say going by the Russia-Ukraine crisis, Ukraine has received more than $100 billion support in eight months.

Also, Biden did not recognise loss and damage in his speech and delegates are concerned that despite it being an important issue at this year’s COP, it seems the US wants to clog the wheels of its progress. 

First youth pavillion, but still not as much involvement in negotiations

For the first time, there is a children and youth pavilion at the UN climate summit and this, according to young people, is positive development.

Samuel Okorie, a climate activist, said it is important that youths are now being recognised as an integral part of the climate summit. But one thing, which re-echoed in the voices of most youths that spoke to TheCable, was that inclusion of youths in the negotiation process is still at large. Sameh Shoukry,  COP27 president, said youths “should be considered a natural ally and partner in driving climate action”. But Okorie said this is not yet the case as the conference “doesn’t give youths the opportunity to be part of the negotiation process.”  

For Abeng, it is not about providing a space for youths to meet but “when we have young people, women and girls, indigenous people represented at the negotiations rooms, that is when we can say we have youth engagement.”

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Loss and damage financing has been a key area of interest for protestors from the Global South at COP27. Photo credit: David Tong, Oil Change International

Loss and damage makes the agenda, but no real commitment so far

Loss and damage — a term used to describe climate impacts that are beyond what people can adapt — made its way into the agenda of COP27 at the opening plenary. This, by many, was a step in the right direction after back and forth by negotiators on if the item deserved a spot. 

The G77+China are still adamant on their demands that there should be a loss and damage finance facility and that developed countries that have contributed the most to the climate crisis should pay up. But there is also another call by small island states for developing countries like China and India to be part of those who pay because they are the two of the three largest emitters of greenhouse gasses. But the countries seem not to give in to these demands as Xie Zhenhuaand, Chinese climate envoy, made it clear that China does not feel obliged to pay.  But monetary commitment by the major polluters is still not in the books and the likelihood looks faint. 

A finance day without commitments

It has been 13 years since the $100 billion climate finance pledge was made by developed countries. The pledge was meant to come into force by 2020 and every other year after that. But the year is 2022 and this promise has been broken.

The UN has said the target is “out of reach”. At this year’s COP, hopes are still high on rich countries making true on this promise. However, on the COP27 finance day, which was supposed to see a lot of pledges pouring in from developed countries, the sheets were practically empty.

Conversations on this day revolved around the finance sector being encouraged to assist the transformation to a sustainable economy; the launch of reducing the cost of sustainable borrowing initiative; the role of the private sector in mobilising resources; private finance as essential to deliver trillions of dollars needed to achieve 1.5 degrees, among others. One thing that was largely missing was actual finance. 

Curtailed protests amid high security presence

In the first week of COP27, delegates arrived to the venue under the watchful eyes of security operatives who were positioned in different corners of the stretch of dry lands and hills surrounding the conference centre. This could pass as ensuring that delegates are safe, but it is also to stifle and nip in the bud any form of protest in the tourist city.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) and climate activists have had to limit their protests within the conference centre. This is unlike previous years where protests were held on the streets with thousands of attendees joining the movement to demand for climate justice.

Between Friday and Saturday, demonstrations were held by different groups and CSOs holding up placards and demanding “climate justice now”, while calling for an end to fossil fuel explorations especially in the global south. There were also calls for the Egyptian government to release its political prisoners, especially Alaa Abdel Fattah, who was jailed for allegedly spreading false news on social media.

As the conference moves into its second and last week, there is little hope left that much success will be achieved.  Delegates are concerned that nothing has really happened, making them ask the question “where is the implementation?” Will week two answer this question? fingers crossed. 

This story was originally published by The Cable, with the support of Climate Tracker’s COP27 Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship.