COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh: goals and controversies of the global climate conference

Elizabeth Smith

Every year, world leaders gather at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) to take action against climate change. This year, the meeting takes place in the Egyptian coastal resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh from 6 to 18 November.

The environmental issues and the resulting humanitarian crises will hold sway until the closing ceremony on 18 November. The challenge is to translate good intentions on environmental protection into concrete commitments.

A challenge complicated by the intricate geopolitical situation. With a world economy still suffering from the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, a war in full swing between Ukraine and Russia, the consequent food and energy crisis and growing tensions between the US and China.

An appointment that cannot be postponed, however, given the slow and steady rise in temperatures in recent years.

What are the themes discussed at COP27

Among experts on environmental issues, more than one voice agrees that the world is on the point of no return.

This year, with the Sharm El Sheikh meeting in Egypt, COP returns to Africa (after COP7 in Marrakech, COP12 in Nairobi, COP17 in Durban and COP22 again in Marrakech).

The hope of the African countries is that the rich and industrialised nations will show greater sensitivity towards the populations that first suffer from climate change. And that they translate this sensitivity into concrete acts.

COP27: the World Economic Forum’s vademecum

The World Economic Forum has defined a vademecum of five fundamental points that it considers indispensable:

  • nature, i.e. land use, deforestation, protection of terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems;
  • food, i.e. commodity prices, food crises and land productivity;
  • water, i.e. floods and droughts;
  • decarbonisation, i.e. reducing carbon emissions in both transport and low-emission cities and production systems;
  • climate adaptation, i.e. recognising that, according to the WEF estimate, 3.3 billion people now live in contexts vulnerable to climate change and that millions of people are currently living as displaced persons following natural disasters, which are happening more frequently.

Greta Thunberg will not go to COP27

Barring any unlikely last-minute twists and turns, Swedish eco-activist Greta Thunberg will not be at COP27. Greta Thunberg’s criticism of the international summit is essentially twofold. Firstly, that it takes place in a country that represses civil rights, and secondly, that it is a mere window-dressing operation.

This is news because the activist has been to the COP24 conference in Poland, COP25 in Chile and COP26 in Glasgow.

“I am not going to COP27 for many reasons, but the space for civil society this year is very limited,” Greta Thunberg recently said.

And again: ‘These events are mainly used by political leaders and people in power as an opportunity to get attention and engage in many different types of greenwashing‘. COP conferences, Thunberg added, ‘are not really meant to change the whole system‘.

Greta Thumberg is among the signatories of a petition that intends to use the global attention for COP27 to demand that the Egyptian government release political dissidents.

COP27: protests for Coca Cola being an official sponsor

Further fuelling the controversy surrounding COP27 is the Coca Cola case. The American multinational is the official sponsor of COP27. The Egyptian government emphasised the efforts supported by The Coca-Cola Company to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But environmentalists went on the attack accusing Coca Cola of being one of the world’s biggest plastic polluters. Among the many environmentalist voices against this sponsorship is that of Greenpeace.

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