Cop27 bulletin: Welcome to Sharm el-Sheikh

While delegates were greeted with hotel price-gouging on Sunday, vulnerable nations scored a win on the Cop27 agenda

An art installation at the Cop27 venue in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt (Pic: Kiara Worth/UNFCCC)


Under the blazing sunshine of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, surrounded by sea and desert, the Cop27 climate talks got underway on Sunday.  

For the first time in the history of the UN climate talks, the issue of mobilising finance to help climate victims recover – loss and damage – made it onto the agenda. There will be no talk of liability or compensation (a red line for wealthy nations) and countries agreed to conclude the process within two years.

Negotiators have already spent late nights finalising the agenda. Cop27 Sameh Shoukry told the opening plenary that consultations went on for a marathon 48 hours before the start of the meeting. At 2.30am, the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) was still assessing the proposal.

But this is an important milestone for the vulnerable nations that have raised the issue for more than 30 years. In a statement, Aosis said this “is our bare minimum”. It opens the door for a substantive conversation on who should pay for climate damages and how.

“Loss and damage has to be credibly addressed and the time has come for us to do so. The real test will be the quality of the discussions. The judgement will be based on the quality of the outcome,” UN Climate Change head Simon Stiell told a press conference on Sunday.

Leaders to watch

110 world leaders start arriving this morning. After they shake hands, mingle awkwardly and take a group photo, they hit the podium from 2pm local time.

Several of the big hitters have stayed away and Joe Biden isn’t expected before Friday. But there could still be some important interventions.

First up is UAE president Mohamed bin Zayed, host to Cop28 in 2023. He is expected to reference the UAE’s work with the US on climate-smart agriculture (which is controversial) and clean energy. Look out for gas boosterism.

Kenyan president William Ruto will speak on behalf of the African group of negotiators. Ruto is a proponent of leapfrogging to renewables “rather than trudging in the fossil-fuel footsteps of those who went before”.

Colombia’s new leftist president Gustavo Petro has pledged to phase out fossil fuels and is pushing for debt forgiveness in exchange for protecting the Amazon.

Indonesia’s vice-president Maruf Amin may hint at how coal-to-clean energy partnership talks are going. Any official announcement is likely to wait until the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali next week.

Mohamed bin Salman will tout Saudi Arabia’s “green initiative” and renewable plans – less oil used at home means more to export. Has his vision for economic diversification survived the latest oil price boom?

Europeans take to the stage late afternoon, starting with Germany. Chancellor Olaf Scholz is set to outline the “Global Shield” Initiative to insure vulnerable populations against climate disaster. The controversial “climate club” could also get airtime. The idea is for ambitious carbon cutters to put up trade barriers against laggards.

Finally, Italy’s far-right prime minister Giorgia Meloni makes one of her first outings on the world stage. Her government comes fresh from watering down fossil fuel financing commitments – but then so did the preceding technocratic one led by Mario Draghi.

Pre-Cop primers

Forest pledge firms up

At Cop26 last year, an incredible 145 nations representing over 90% of the world’s forests promised to collectively “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030”.

Those signing up included Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Their decision was made easier by the fact the pledge didn’t really require them to do anything.

Since then, there have been no major meetings to take forwards the pledge nor body to organise the work.

Until now. Today, a scaled-down group of countries will launch the “forests and climate leadership partnership”, to deliver on that Cop26 aspiration.

They’ll work on mobilising public and private finance, eliminating deforestation in supply chains, supporting indigenous peoples’ conservation work, strengthening and scaling carbon markets and international collaboration.

To become a member, countries have had to prove to the UK’s satisfaction that their forests policies are credible.

The partnership and its members will be unveiled at 5pm local time. Check out our website for the full story then.

UN to lay out early warning system plan

At 4pm Egyptian time, UN secretary-general António Guterres will outline the plan to get every person on earth covered by a multi-hazard early warning system by 2027.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) reckons it will cost something like $3 billion to fill in the gaps, which are mostly in the world’s poorest and smallest countries.

The WMO’s lead on this, Cyrille Honoré, told Climate Home that an early-warning system involves four elements: preparing for disaster, weather-watching, disseminating information and responding.

The multi-hazard element means recognising that one disaster often leads to another. A cyclone brings high winds but also rain, which can lead to flash floods and landslides. “You don’t want to evacuate people to a place where they could be swept away by a landslide,” he said.

The WMO relies on self-reporting of its members to judge whether they have a good early warning system in place. Lots of members – China, Brazil, Canada, Spain – have a good one but don’t respond. So it’s not clear from WMO data where the real gaps are.

Honoré pointed to small islands in the Pacific, in the Caribbean and countries in Africa. Lot of these countries have a meteorological service of less than 20 people “so it is not easy for them to deliver what they are expected to”, he said. Even countries like Germany with advanced forecasting systems have sometimes failed to communicate the severity of extreme weather to citizens.

Money for training will come from a variety of sources including through the Climate Risks and Early Warning Systems Initiative (Crews) and the World Bank.

The Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF), Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Adaptation Fund are also potential vehicles, the WMO has said.

Fact check of the day

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a climate-denying British lawmaker who was briefly energy minister under Liz Truss, tweeted that prime minister Rishi Sunak should not go to Cop27. His reason? “The cost of living won’t be solved in Sharm el Sheikh where each hotel room for the conference is £2,000 a night.”

It’s true that hoteliers are cashing in on a captive market. The Egyptian Hotel Association set a floor price of $500 a night for a five-star hotel and $120 a night for a two-star institution. It says the government ordered it to do so with 25% of the revenues going towards the costs of the summit. The government denies this.

Delegates report last-minute cancellations are rife. Hotels are arbitrarily charging extra on arrival, even on reservations made months ago at lower rates. But £2,000 a night ($2,300) is an exaggeration – and falsely implies that this reflects the luxury of the accommodation, rather than price gouging.

More to the point, the cost of living crisis is inseparable from the climate crisis. The UK is suffering more than European neighbours from high energy bills in part because of its heavy dependence on gas, a fossil fuel. Global cooperation to accelerate clean energy can help with that.

And climate action is insurance against weather disasters, not least for Rees-Mogg’s flood-prone constituency.

In brief…

Hot place to be – More than 38,000 delegates have registered to attend the blue zone at Cop27, according to UN Climate Change data. This has made things tricky at lunchtime on Sunday when the few “grab and go” cafés quickly ran out of food. More hot food options should be available from today. Warning, a sandwich is $11.

Food security in peril – Organisations representing more than 350 million small-scale farmers have written an open letter to world leaders, warning that global food security is at risk if governments fail to boost adaptation finance and promote more resilient forms of agriculture. Just 1.7% of climate finance went to small-scale producers in 2018.

Toothless – The supervisory body overseeing the establishment of a new global carbon market under the Paris Agreement has finalised eligibility recommendations for what type of “carbon removals” to trade on the new market. It relies on the host country enforcing social and environmental safeguards. Campaigners say this makes safeguards “toothless”.

Pass the popcorn – The New York Times is interviewing disgraced former UK prime minister Boris Johnson live from 10:45am local time. Johnson was in office when the UK hosted the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow but resigned after a series of scandals. Watch him try to rehabilitate his reputation.

Read more on: COP27