COP27 kicks off in SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt
COP27 begins a ‘new era to do things differently’, UN climate change chief declares as pivotal conference gets underway
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt: The UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, should shift the world toward implementing previously agreed-upon plans to address humanity's greatest challenge, said Simon Stiell, the new Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Convention (UNFCCC), at the opening of COP27 on Sunday.
“Today a new era begins – and we begin to do things differently. Paris gave us the agreement. Katowice and Glasgow gave us the plan. Sharm el-Sheik shifts us to implementation. No one can be a mere passenger on this journey. This is the signal that times have changed,” Mr. Stiell told delegates gathered in the main plenary room of the Tonino Lamborghini International Convention Centre.
The UN climate chief stated that leaders, whether Presidents, Prime Ministers, or CEOs, would be held accountable for promises made in Glasgow last year.
“Because our policies, our businesses, our infrastructure, our actions, be they personal or public, must be aligned with the Paris Agreement and with the [UN Climate] Convention”, he underscored.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) entered into force on March 21, 1994, to prevent "dangerous" human interference with the climate system.
It now has near-universal membership, having been ratified by 198 countries.
The Paris Agreement, signed in 2016, serves as a supplement to that convention.
Deliver what has been promised
Recognizing the current complex geopolitical situation, Mr. Stiell stated that COP27 represents an opportunity to create a safe political space, shielded from whatever is going on "out there," in order to work and deliver world change.
“Here in Sharm el-Sheikh, we have a duty to speed up our international efforts to turn words into actions”, he emphasized.
The UNFCCC Executive Secretary underlined three critical lines of action for the Conference:
1. Demonstrate a transformation shift to implementation by putting negotiations into concrete actions.
2. Cement progress on the critical workstreams – mitigation, adaptation, finance and crucially – loss and damage.
3. Enhance the delivery of the principles of transparency and accountability throughout the process.
“I welcome detailed plans on how we deliver what we have promised”, he told delegates.
No backsliding allowed
Mr. Stiell, who describes himself as a "accountability chief," stated that 29 countries have now come forward with tightened national climate plans since COP26, five more since the publication of the UNFCCC NDC Synthesis report last week, but still not a majority.
“So here I am now, looking out at 170 countries that are due to be revisiting and strengthening their national pledges this year,” he said.
He reminded delegates that the Glasgow Climate Pact was agreed upon at COP26 last year, and he expected them to keep their word.
“Stick to your commitments. Build on them here in Egypt. I will not be a custodian of back-sliding,” he said.
An inclusive process
In remarks that drew a standing ovation in the plenary, the UN climate chief emphasised the importance of putting women and girls at the centre of climate decision-making and action.
“Their empowerment leads to better governance and better outcomes,” he said, also highlighting the importance of civil society organizations and the youth in the COP27 process.
During the opening plenary, Alok Sharma, President of COP26 representing the United Kingdom, officially handed over the baton to the new Egyptian President, Sameh Shoukry.
Mr. Sharma reviewed the accomplishments made in Glasgow last year, such as the completion of the so-called Paris Rulebook - the guidelines for how that Agreement will be implemented - and the making of stronger financial commitments.
“The UN Secretary-General has said ‘our shared long-term futures do not lie in fossil fuels’, and I agree with him, wholeheartedly”, he said.
According to the COP26 President, if all of last year's commitments, including the net-zero pledges, are met, the world will be on track for 1.7 degrees Celsius warming by the end of the century.
“Still not 1.5C, but progress,” he said, recognising the scale of the challenge that the world is facing.
He urged leaders to act, echoing Mr. Stiell, despite current geopolitical challenges.
“As challenging as our current moment is, inaction is myopic, and can only defer climate catastrophe, we must find the ability to focus on more than one thing at once”, he urged.
Egypt urges implementation
COP27 President Sameh Shoukry urged delegates to raise their ambitions and start putting their promises into action.
“Moving from negotiations and pledges to an era of implementation is a priority,” he said, later commending the countries which have already shared updated national climate plans.
Mr. Shoukry went on to say that the $100 billion promised by developed countries for adaptation to developing countries should be delivered and that finance should be at the forefront of the discussion.
“The negotiations [during the next two weeks] will hopefully be fruitful. I urge all of you to listen carefully and commit to implementation and to turn political commitments into agreements and understandings and texts and resolutions that we can all implement,” he underscored.
He also warned that "zero-sum games have no winners" and that the implications of the negotiations will affect the lives and livelihoods of millions of people suffering from the effects of climate change around the world.
“We cannot afford any negligence or shortcomings; we cannot threaten the future of upcoming generations”, he emphasised.
Loss and damage
During the procedural opening on Sunday, the agenda items that will be discussed over the next two weeks at COP27 were also agreed upon.
'Loss and damage,' an item that was still up in the air prior to the conference, was finally added to the agenda after being proposed by negotiators from the Group of 77 and China (which essentially includes all developing nations) and after extensive discussions among the 194 UN Climate Convention parties.
Climate change causes costly damage to countries through extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, desertification, and rising sea levels.
Because the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from rich industrialised countries, is causing the intensification of these otherwise "natural disasters," developing countries - often the most affected - have long argued that they should be compensated.
These payments, known as "loss and damage," will now be a major topic of discussion at COP27.