COP27 kicks off in Egypt, with rich countries under scrutiny on fulfilling promises
Published: Nov 06, 2022 10:32 PM
Delegates attend the opening ceremony of the 27th Conference of the Parties in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on November 6, 2022. Photo: AFP

Delegates attend the opening ceremony of the 27th Conference of the Parties in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on November 6, 2022. Photo: AFP

This year's UN climate summit in Egypt, which kicked off after a year of devastating natural disasters and energy crisis, will focus on industrialized countries' commitment on tackling global warming, as asking wealth countries to honor their pledges of financing developing countries on the climate issue will be top focus of the summit. Chinese experts warned that rich countries should take real actions at the summit, which is billed by some as the world's "watershed moment" on climate action, otherwise global efforts on the climate issue will be thrown into great jeopardy. 

Meanwhile, the climate cooperation efforts between China and the US was singlehandedly bungled by Washington as it neglected Beijing's core interests and weaponized climate issue to suppress China. Observers predicted climate talks between Beijing and Washington are unlikely to be reopened during this summit unless the US properly addresses its previous wrongdoings against China. In addition, the US is an unreliable partner on addressing global climate issue, because it is likely to roll back its promises on climate if Republicans secure a victory in the House after the midterm elections. 

The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) on climate change kicked off at the Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on Sunday. This year's summit, under the slogan Together for Implementation, is seen by scientists as an opportunity to advance prior commitments to limit global warming.

COP27 delegates agreed on Sunday to discuss whether rich countries should compensate poorer nations most vulnerable to climate change at the summit, Reuters reported.

Diplomats approved a much-disputed agenda item to talk about matters relating to "funding arrangements responding to loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including a focus on addressing loss and damage."

Top of Egypt's "to-do" list is the $100 billion a year developed countries promised way back in 2009 to help the developing world cut emissions and adapt to changing climate, BBC reported. Saying the money was supposed to be delivered in 2020 but now won't be available in full until next year - three years late.

"Don't underestimate how angry developing nations are," Guterres said in an interview with BBC recently. He said they feel high-income countries have welched on the landmark deal made at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015.

During an interview published on Sunday, Li Gao, general director of the Department of Climate Change with the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) of China said that since COP27 is held in a developing country, it should reflect the developing world's request, and achieve results that are in accordance with those countries. 

Li stressed that currently, what's missing is not goals but actions. This conference [COP27] is not a place where countries make new goals, countries should implement the already agreed promises, including rich countries to honor their promises of helping developing countries financially, said the official.

The reason rich countries and developing countries failed to push forward cooperation on the climate issue is largely because of developed countries' failure to fulfil their promises of financing the developing world on tackling climate change, said Teng Fei, Deputy Director of Energy Environment Economy Institute, Tsinghua University. He noted that such inaction has broken the mutual trust built in 2015. "Now that the trust is hobbled, even collapsed in some areas."

Pakistan, which suffered terrible floods this year, is demanding the developed world to also agree on a funding mechanism to compensate for the loss and damage climate change is already causing in developing countries.

It brings real heft at the talks as chair of a key UN grouping of 134 developing countries, including China.

"I don't think it is an impossible request," the Pakistani climate minister, Sherry Rehman, told the BBC last week. Just look at how much money the world finds to fund wars, she said.

The COP27 summit is overshadowed by this year's climate disasters such as the deadly flood in Pakistan and historical heatwave in Europe and China. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis has also ignited an energy crisis that has stoked inflation and threatened food security. These incidents have greatly set back global efforts on tackling climate change, with many European countries backpedaled to coals. 

Glasgow's objective to "keep 1.5 C alive" looks increasingly in jeopardy after the latest UNEP report concluded that national emissions reduction pledges implied a rise of between 2.4 C and 2.6 C.

Despite similar challenges, China is steadily pushing forward its climate agenda. On Oct 27, the MEE released a 2022 report on China's policy and actions on climate change. According to the report, the country's carbon emissions per unit of GDP dropped by 3.8 percent in 2021 compared with the previous year, 50.8 percent lower than 2005.

Climate talk saboteur

Another focus of COP 27 is whether China and the US will be brought back to the table and resume the climate talk, which was suspended as a countermeasure of Chinese side in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's provocative visit to the island of Taiwan in August.

Before the summit, John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, said last week that China and the US must find opportunities to work together to address the global climate crisis. "We have argued adamantly that it's not a bilateral relation, it's a multilateral global threat," he said.

Teng believes the bilateral talks are unlikely to happen at the COP27 summit, though there could be talks on multilateral occasions. 

Cooperation should be based on trust, yet the trust issue between the two countries is not solved, and for this trust to be restored, the ball is on the US side to properly address China's bottom-line problems, said Teng. 

Li Haidong, a professor from the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, believes climate cooperation between the two has been greatly impeded by the US, who has always weaponized the climate issue to crackdown on China. 

"The US has repeated pressured China to back to the climate talk table, but if Kerry is sincere to resume climate talks between China and the US, he should first persuade the US government to remove the roadblocks, for instance, lifting sanctions on Xinjiang's photovoltaic industry and ceasing the unreasonable crackdown on China in the field of chips," said Li.

Li pointed out US climate policy is again on the crossroad of getting flip-flop as Republicans are positioned to regain control of the House of Representatives during midterm elections. "A Republican-controlled House will greatly frustrate Biden's climate plans. Moreover, such policy shift by the world's biggest emitter will exert huge blow to global effort of realizing climate goals," said Li. 

Republicans are preparing to advance an ambitious energy agenda if they win control of the House in the upcoming elections, including faster approvals of fossil fuel projects and probes of how the Biden administration is spending its hundreds of billions in climate dollars, US media Politico reported earlier this month.