Dhe meeting is gigantic, as are the challenges – but will the results live up to it? From Sunday on, almost every country in the world will meet for two weeks at the UN World Climate Conference.
But a courageous, joint approach to the climate crisis by the international community is considered illusory. The meeting is overshadowed by the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, which has sowed a lot of distrust around the world. Many diplomats fear that this could thwart groundbreaking agreements.
What is the world climate conference?
The world climate conference takes place annually, always in a different country. At the invitation of the United Nations, around 200 countries are debating for two weeks how global warming can be contained to a tolerable level.
Why is the climate conference also called COP 27?
COP stands for “Conference of the Parties”. This refers to those states that have signed the so-called United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This year they are meeting in Egypt for the 27th time – hence COP 27. The first World Climate Conference took place in Berlin in 1995.
Who exactly is meeting where?
This year, the 27th World Climate Conference will take place from November 6 to 18, 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.
197 contracting states, who arrive with a number of government representatives, are organized in the COP. Over 3,000 non-governmental organizations have been approved as official observers, and hundreds of journalists are expected. A total of around 30,000 participants are expected. The number of people in the seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, which is also popular with foreign tourists, is likely to double in the short term: the city normally has around 35,000 inhabitants.
The COP is managed by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is based in Bonn and is led by Simon Stiell from Grenada.
What is discussed at world climate conferences?
Science has been warning politicians for decades: Too many greenhouse gases in the air, i.e. above all carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane, ensure that the earth continues to heat up and could become partly uninhabitable. Depending on the region, there are also more frequent storms, droughts and floods – with many millions of victims.
The first world climate summits were therefore already held in the late 1970s and 1980s. The first “COP” under the umbrella of the Framework Convention on Climate Change took place in Berlin in 1995. The German negotiator at the time was Angela Merkel, as Environment Minister under Chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU). As early as 27 years ago, the summit set itself the goal of laying down by when and by how much climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced worldwide.
What are the current goals of the COP?
Above all, the conference creates transparency. Because it reveals with sad regularity that many countries are already doing business more sustainably, but overall they are far from doing enough to protect the climate. Therefore, from the point of view of all experts, the goal jointly set in 2015 of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times is still a long way off – we are already at 1.1 degrees. Falling below the 1.5 degree mark reduces the risk of triggering “tipping elements” in the air conditioning system and uncontrollable chain reactions.
But: Contrary to what was promised at the COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, most governments have not sufficiently tightened their national climate protection plans this year – i.e. above all they have delayed the phase-out of coal, oil and gas and neglected the climate-friendly conversion of transport and agriculture.
China, among others, is in a bad position, the country with the highest amount of CO2 emissions in terms of quantity: In its climate protection plan submitted to the UN in 2021, the People’s Republic only promises that China’s emissions should only increase until 2030. In addition, the giant empire does not want to become carbon dioxide-neutral until 2060 – ten years later than most industrialized nations.
According to analyzes by the think tank “Climate Action Tracker”, even if all the available climate plans of the states are implemented, the world is heading for warming of well over two degrees – with CO2 emissions continuing to rise for the time being. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in order to achieve the 1.5-degree target, global emissions should actually have peaked by 2025 – and then quickly be reduced by 43 percent by 2030 compared to 2019.
At the latest at the start of the conference, much more ambitious commitments would be due – but hardly anyone expects them in view of the current energy crisis, in which many countries are increasingly relying on climate-damaging coal and subsidizing fuel and gas consumption with billions.
With what result would the COP27 be successful?
At the end there is a kind of final declaration. It should actually explain in a comprehensible way how the international community intends to get on the 1.5-degree path. But in view of the newly opened rifts between NATO and Russia (because of the Ukraine war) or China and the USA (because of Beijing’s claims on Taiwan), it is even conceivable that not even a final paper will be decided.
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) said soberly these days that it is not automatically clear in these times that there will be a final document. When asked which minimum goal the federal government was pursuing at the UN conference, the Greens politician said: “That it takes place. You never know in this world situation.”
Another issue the Egyptian hosts are seeking decisions on is money. Specifically, it is about financial aid for climate protection in poorer countries. Years ago, the rich industrialized countries and development banks promised to mobilize 100 billion US dollars annually from 2020 to 2025. (Germany contributed eight billion euros in 2021.)
This sum, mostly loans, will probably only be reached in 2023 – and follow-up financing with larger sums expected from the developing countries is still pending. This caused frustration in a number of developing countries – and is already considered a burden for the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh. The host, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Samih Schukri, put it this way in the dpa interview: “There is a lack of trust.”
What goals did the countries set themselves at the climate conference in Paris?
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted at the Rio Conference in 1992. Currently, 196 contracting parties and the EU commit themselves to “stabilizing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that prevents a dangerous man-made disturbance of the climate system.
The convention came into force two years later, in 1994, and the international community recognized global climate change as a serious problem and committed to taking action.
The Kyoto Protocol followed in 1997. At the conference in Japan, it was determined that industrialized countries must reduce their emissions by 5.2 percent compared to 1990 levels. After that, no agreement was reached.
The Copenhagen conference in 2009 is even considered the low point of the climate negotiations. It was only in 2015 at the 21st meeting that the Paris climate protocol succeeded. 195 contracting states signed it.
The goal of the Paris Climate Protection Agreement of 2015 is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees if possible. The goal is to keep global average temperature rises well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and make efforts to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
criticism of Egypt
In the run-up to the climate conference, numerous arrests were made in Egypt. According to dpa information, security forces are said to have arrested around 100 people by Wednesday. The independent news site Mada Masr, citing two lawyers, reported that around 150 people were being held by the security forces, including in Cairo, Giza, Ismailia and Alexandria. “Mada Masr” reports that “hundreds” have been arrested in Egypt and some abroad since October.
According to the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, dozens have been accused of spreading false news, abusing social media and being involved in terrorist groups. There was no official confirmation of the arrests.
Protests by climate protection activists, for example, are permitted in Sharm el-Sheikh in a specially set up zone. There are also increasing calls on social media for protests in the country on November 11th and thus during the COP. Otherwise, demonstrations are effectively forbidden in Egypt.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power in 2013 after a military coup and has ruled with an iron fist ever since. There is no serious political opposition. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press have been massively curtailed. Human rights activists repeatedly report serious violations, such as torture and extrajudicial killings. The government has promised improvements. However, organizations such as Amnesty International continue to describe the human rights situation as catastrophic.
Rishi Sunak is coming, Greta Thunberg is not
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to attend. It is the first reversal of his government, which is just over a week old: Sunak initially did not want to take part because he wanted to concentrate on domestic political challenges and the medium-term budget plan due in mid-November. Last year Great Britain hosted the world climate conference and will hold the presidency until the start of the next summit. The deputy leader of the opposition Labor Party, Angela Rayner, described the reversal as “embarrassing”. In a way, Sunak was beaten to do the right thing.
There was also disagreement as to whether King Charles III. attend the world climate summit. Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss is said to have advised the monarch – a lifelong passionate climate protection pioneer – against the trip and thus effectively blocked it. Charles now wants to hold a reception in London before the summit begins, which will also be attended by US climate chief John Kerry.
Greta Thunberg will not attend. The Swedish climate activist said in London: “I’m not going to COP27 for many reasons, but the space for civil society this year is extremely limited”.
The conference is doing “greenwashing”, i.e. only pretending to do something against global warming. She also criticized the limited opportunities for civil society participation in Egypt.
Which German politicians are there?
In addition to Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens), Development Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD), Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) and Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) will travel to the conference, as well as Stefan Wenzel (Greens), Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for economy and climate protection.