Activists, experts, and leaders have flocked to the beaches of Egyptian resort town Sharm el Sheikh for the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP27). Over the two-week convening, global leaders will discuss topics ranging from ways to finance their emissions-reduction goals to new ambitions to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Dubbed the “African COP,” this year’s conference is expected to see Global South countries rally together to press rich countries on their role in driving climate change. For the first time, global leaders will weigh the possibility of setting up a “loss and damage” reparations fund, paid for by wealthy countries, to help low-income countries pay for the consequences of the climate crisis.
COP27 takes place after a season of extreme weather events and natural disasters that saw catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, droughts across Africa, and more. And as the conference unfolds, leaders will be keeping their eyes on the global energy crisis spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has pushed energy security to the fore—sometimes at the expense of the climate.
Will countries heed this year’s wake-up calls with bold commitments at COP27? Our experts—many of whom are in Sharm el Sheikh—will dispatch their insights and recommendations for world leaders throughout the course of this critical conference. This post will be continuously updated as their reactions stream in.
The latest analysis from Sharm el Sheikh
NOVEMBER 7, 2022 | 12:36 PM WASHINGTON | 7:36 PM SHARM EL SHEIKH
The private sector holds a lot of the cards at COP27
By Lama El Hatow
As COP27 gets underway, various platforms of engagement are taking place.
In the blue zone, countries’ official delegations are coming together to meet and negotiate on the agenda items put forth and agreed upon with the support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Glasgow, the COP26 host. These agenda items include increasing ambition on pledges for greenhouse gas emission reductions by all countries to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, making progress on climate adaptation and ways to propel it forward, boosting climate finance and pushing developed countries to meet their financing commitments of $100 billion per year, and discussing a mechanism for loss and damage payments. The delegations agreed on Saturday to include the loss and damage fund as part of the agenda; it’s considered a huge win for the Global South that is most vulnerable to and at risk from climate change impacts.
Meanwhile, the green zone is designated for civil-society pavilions, where various ministries from Egypt elsewhere can showcase their work; it is also a culture and arts hub for participants to network and have side events outside the negotiation rooms.
Additionally, there is a third zone this year: The Climate Action Innovation Zone, which has been set up as a private-sector hub for companies and corporations from around the world to showcase their work through exhibitions, side events, and networking sessions. Many of the region’s largest players including Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power and Neom, the United Arab Emirates’ IRENA, and Egypt’s TAQA Arabia are all present on the sidelines of COP27 to discuss technology and innovation that sets the stage for a smoother green transition. Adjacent to the climate innovation zone is the Saudi Green Initiative, which also has its own designated area to showcase its work.
While the world focuses on the blue zone with government pledges and commitments, it appears the private sector holds a lot of the cards in this convening. As UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP27, Mahmoud Mohieldin reiterated that nonstate actors need to lead the way with regard to climate finance. It appears the role of the private sector and the deals happening on the outskirts of the COP may help set the stage for advancement in climate technology, innovation, and even financing.
—Lama El Hatow is a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative.
NOVEMBER 7, 2022 | 11:23 AM WASHINGTON | 6:23 PM SHARM EL SHEIKH
Dispatch from the Singapore Pavilion: How to build cities resilient to heat
Kurt Shickman, director of Extreme Heat Initiatives at our Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, shared his readout from an event with the Mayor of Monterrey, Mexico, Luis Donaldo Colosio and Athens Chief Heat Officer Eleni Myrivili about the best solutions for managing extreme heat in cities.
🔴Live from #COP27 ! @ArshtRock‘s Global #ChiefHeatOfficer @LenioMyrivili & City Champion for Heat Action Mayor @colosioriojas joined @RCitiesNetwork to share climate resilience lessons from cities. Our Director for Extreme Heat @KurtShickman shares his key takeaways. Watch now➡️ pic.twitter.com/XPw0lsEtvT
— Arsht-Rock Resilience Center (@ArshtRock) November 7, 2022
NOVEMBER 4, 2022 | 3:30 PM WASHINGTON | 10:30 PM SHARM EL SHEIKH
The new partnership financing a just energy transition in emerging economies
By Christopher Cassidy, Rainer Quitzow, and Maia Sparkman
As the global community convenes for COP27, Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs) are poised to play an expanded role in financing the energy transitions of emerging economies. Conceived as multi-donor agreements to accelerate the phase-out of coal-fired power plants, JETPs first gained attention at COP26 with the announcement of the Just Energy Transition Partnership with South Africa, an $8.5-billion venture between the governments of South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the European Union. Since then, several other countries have expressed interest in their own JETPs, presenting an opportunity to drastically reduce global coal emissions. Nonetheless, while JETPs may represent an avenue for increased climate engagement with high-emitting emerging economies, they also face several key challenges moving forward.
Despite those challenges, JETPs bear the potential to represent a turning point in the climate finance agenda. By combining funding from several major Group of Seven (G7) donor countries, they not only offer substantial financial support to partner countries, but they also send an important political signal. To be sure, the sums under discussion only represent a fraction of the capital needed to reach the needed scale of investment to place these countries on a pathway that is compatible with the 1.5 degree Celsius target. Nevertheless, the hope is that they can lend additional momentum to ongoing reform efforts.
NOVEMBER 4, 2022 | 9:30 AM WASHINGTON | 4:30 PM SHARM EL SHEIKH
The West must rethink its development strategy to help electrify the African continent
By William Tobin and Maia Sparkman
Electricity access in Africa is in a dire state, and progress is being reversed. Outside of North Africa, around half of the population is electrified, and the electrification rate has decreased by 4 percent since 2019.
This problem is self-perpetuating. When energy infrastructure is weak, there is less signal to invest as individual projects are less viable and are deemed riskier, particularly by the private sector, which has historically provided around 10 percent of infrastructure funding across the continent. Infrastructure, in this sense, should be expanded beyond the state of electricity grids or gas pipelines to include public services such as trained utility workers, water resources, public safety and security forces, and much more.
It is becoming clearer that the paradigm of “aid,” which has underpinned Western countries’ development strategies in the African continent, is increasingly insufficient. Providing aid alone to African nations will not provide the tools and enablers of self-sustaining, endogenous growth. For that, the continent needs investment, not just aid.
NOVEMBER 3, 2022 | 9:00 AM WASHINGTON | 4:00 PM SHARM EL SHEIKH
What leaders at COP27 should take away from the World Energy Outlook
By Emily Burlinghaus
The International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook (WEO), released last week, is historic in its first-ever presentation of a scenario where fossil fuels peak or plateau based on prevailing policy settings. But despite the cause to celebrate, the global transition to net-zero carbon emissions remains precarious. Developing countries are most vulnerable to the effects of both climate change and capital and resource restrictions. Meanwhile, global conflict and supply chain disruptions threaten national efforts to ensure food security, meet energy demand, and deploy resilience and adaptation measures. The WEO serves as a roadmap for where and how countries can allocate money at COP27 to maximize impact and ensure that no country is left behind.
NOVEMBER 1, 2022 | 10:04 AM WASHINGTON | 5:04 PM SHARM EL SHEIKH
How Europe can reclaim international climate leadership at COP27
By Michał Kurtyka and Paddy Ryan
COP27 will be uncomfortable for Europe. The continent’s energy crisis following the Russian invasion of Ukraine has upended the lofty objectives set at COP26. In Glasgow, the European Investment Bank and over a dozen European states pledged to cease financing fossil fuel projects abroad. Now, Europe is scouring the globe for new gas supply, pricing out poorer nations while maintaining opposition towards their development of reserves for domestic use. Europeans stand accused of climate hypocrisy, charges likely to be echoed at a COP notable for taking place in Africa.
Europe needs gas, and will for some time. The continent must reconcile short-term efforts to source new imports with long-term climate ambitions. Through more constructive gas diplomacy with the developing world and by accelerating domestic decarbonization, Europe can begin to repair its damaged climate credibility in Sharm el Sheikh. Doing so, Europe can reclaim international climate leadership by advancing low-carbon, energy-secure growth with partners in Africa and the developing world.
NOVEMBER 1, 2022 | 4:00 PM WASHINGTON | 11:00 PM SHARM EL SHEIKH
Will the West’s competition with China get in the way of a clean-energy future?
By Joseph Webster and William Tobin
China uneasily straddles both sides of the energy transition. On the one hand, China is indisputably a world leader in numerous clean energy technologies, including electric vehicles, renewable generation, and supply chains. On the other hand, it is also the world’s largest carbon emitter and coal producer, and is constructing over half of the world’s new coal-powered electricity plants. With Western-China tensions rising and Beijing increasingly focused on energy security, there is a shrinking scope for climate cooperation. Perversely, however, US-China political competition could deliver climate benefits, as both sides will face pressure to provide clean energy leadership at COP27 and beyond.
At COP27, Western leaders will need to grapple with the emerging reality that two competing climate camps may be forming, one led by the West and another by China.
Not only will this dynamic unfold as a competition between economies in China and the West, but as a paradigm of global engagement and investment on climate mitigation and adaptation, particularly with respect to engagement with the developing world. For instance, in Africa, China’s trade volumes exceeded the United States’ by a factor of four. Moreover, China has not shied away from financing fossil fuel projects that rank high on the priority list of less developed countries with limited energy access. This has been welcomed by many African nations, as 43 percent of all people on the continent do not have access to modern energy services.
As the developing and developed world seek to resolve key issues on the agenda at COP27 such as loss and damages, closing the climate finance gap, and financing for natural gas projects in Africa, Western leaders will need to keep in mind that competition with China is likely to become a more prominent feature of climate negotiations.
OCTOBER 13, 2022 | 8:28 AM WASHINGTON | 3:28 PM SHARM EL SHEIKH
Cairo’s next steps forward on climate adaptation and human rights at COP27
By Shahira Amin
Skeptics are questioning Egypt’s leadership of COP27, citing human rights concerns and unideal environmental policies. Others are doubtful about the choice of Sharm el Sheikh as the host city. They argue that the holiday resort may not be the most suitable venue for a global conference of this magnitude and scale, given the logistical, organizational, and managerial challenges of hosting such a gathering.
Nevertheless, the opportunity to host COP27 has incentivized Cairo to take steps forward in regard to climate adaptation and human rights, even if a lot more needs to be done to show that authorities are serious about political and environmental reforms. Meanwhile, continued financial and moral support from the United States and other development partners—and further scrutiny of human rights violations committed—would ensure there’s no backtracking on the country’s progress in the past year.
Cairo needs to keep the momentum going and show that it is actually committed to continuing the progress made so far. To do this, it needs to speed up its green transition, taking steady and concrete steps to lower its emissions and shift towards renewables. Moreover, Cairo needs to free all political detainees, many of whom are imprisoned for nothing more than exercising their right to free speech and free expression. By doing so, it can expect to reap the rewards of its serious efforts: greater support from the international community and prosperity and stability for Egypt and all Egyptians.
SEPTEMBER 22, 2022 | 8:28 AM WASHINGTON | 3:28 PM SHARM EL SHEIKH
What Egypt’s COP presidency means for how this conference may play out
By Lama El Hatow
Egypt has a huge role to play during its presidency of COP27, as all eyes will be geared towards how the country can lead by example. To put things in perspective, with 1.3 percent of the world’s population, Egypt accounts for only 0.6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and ranks twenty-eighth on the global list of polluters. This number appears to be relatively small from a global perspective. Regionally, however, Egypt contributes 31 percent of the overall GHG emissions from North Africa and 13 percent of the overall GHG emissions from the entire African continent. Thus, Egypt has a great responsibility to establish a pathway towards a green energy transition.
This year, Egypt’s presidency for COP27 is very important as a middle-income, African, and Middle Eastern country hosting this event. Egypt may, therefore, be able to influence the agenda items and bring more focus to Africa’s increasing needs for adaptation and mitigation financing.
There are four main items at the top of the agenda: climate finance, adaptation, loss and damage, and increased ambition. Egypt has a significant role to play in all of them.