Water scarcity on agenda as Cop27 climate talks enter second week | Cop27

Water and the effects of the climate crisis on water scarcity will be scrutinized on Monday at the Cop27 UN climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, entering its second week.

Talks are expected to conclude on Friday, though they are likely to continue at least until Saturday, with new measures and commitments hoped for, from cutting greenhouse gas emissions to financial aid for the poorest countries.

In addition to the formal negotiations, the Egyptian hosts have organized a series of “themed days” during which discussions will take place on issues critical to the climate crisis, but which fall outside the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the 1992 convention under which the 27th conference is taking place.

Water is a particular concern for the hosts as the Nile is still the backbone of Egypt’s economy, agriculture and culture. Some wonder how the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where 45,000 delegates have gathered for the talks, will provide water in the future.

Gender also takes center stage on Monday, with discussions about how women face certain issues when it comes to the climate crisis. Research has shown that women and girls are experiencing increased violence in areas affected by climate-related disasters, and are disadvantaged when it comes to crucial issues such as land rights and receiving investment and aid.

Including women and girls is also essential to solving the problem. Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland and twice a UN climate envoy, who arrived at Cop27 on Saturday and who helped previous agents prepare a “gender plan” for the climate, has called the climate crisis “a man-made problem”. with a feminist solution”.

On Tuesday, the focus will shift to civil society. Egypt, an authoritarian state, has a dismal human rights record and its prisons are full of dissidents. Civil society activities and protests have been severely restricted at this agent, and the Guardian has been made aware of instances of harassment. Civil society groups will use this day to try to highlight the need for free speech as a means of putting pressure on governments regarding the climate crisis.

Energy is also in the spotlight on Tuesday, with a flurry of announcements expected about new clean energy deals and partnerships in several countries for a “just transition” away from fossil fuels. This means helping people with jobs in the fossil fuel industry transition into clean energy jobs.

Wednesday is Biodiversity Day. Protecting nature and ways it can be combined with tackling the climate crisis – such as preserving and regrowing forests, and restoring wetlands and peatlands as carbon sinks, or regrowing mangrove swamps as barriers against storm surges and higher sea levels – are called nature-based solutions in climate jargon.

Nature-based solutions received a lot of attention at Cop26, but in Sharm el-Sheikh it was more muted. The next major UN biodiversity meeting, Cop15, will take place in Canada in a few weeks, so expect to hear more on expectations for that conference on Wednesday.

The last theme day is the day of solutions on Thursday, where the private sector can present new technologies and ideas. There are plenty of green entrepreneurs at Cop27 eager to showcase their ideas; there are also more than 600 deputies known to be from the fossil fuel industry who are diligently courting governments to insist they provide the solution. Quarrels over whether carbon capture and storage is a viable technology, and whether hydrogen from fossil fuels is a “Trojan horse” for the oil and gas industry to greenwash its wares are likely.

Delegates listen to Cop27 climate summit chair Sameh Shoukry during an opening session at the summit.
Delegates listen to Cop27 climate summit chair Sameh Shoukry during an opening session at the summit. Photo: Peter Dejong/AP

Meanwhile, the negotiations themselves continue as usual, mainly in closed sessions where countries can work out their differences. Topics include reducing greenhouse gas emissions to meet the 1.5°C target and how to help countries adapt to the impacts of extreme weather, for example by restoring mangrove swamps and coral reefs, sea defenses building, regrowing forests or installing early warning systems. The financing of these efforts, from the rich to the poor world, will also be scrutinized.

Carlos Fuller, the ambassador of Belize, said: “I am very encouraged by the way all parties are working together constructively [on reducing emissions]. We ran out of time [in the first week] but I am convinced that an ambitious result will follow this week.”

But he added: “[I am] disappointed with involvement in finance, markets and response measures [to the climate crisis].”

The most contentious issue of all is loss and damage. The term refers to the consequences of extreme weather so severe that countries cannot adapt to it – recent examples include the devastating floods in Pakistan in August and September, which left 20 million people in need of humanitarian aid, and the ongoing drought in Africa , the worst in 40 years, threatening nearly 150 million people with extreme hunger.

The loss and damage negotiations revolve around providing financial aid to developing countries affected by such extreme weather, which is not only life-threatening, but can also destroy their infrastructure and tear apart their social fabric.

Discussions of loss and damage as “compensation” to developing countries of the rich world, or “liability” on the part of the countries responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, have been expressly excluded from the negotiations and have been since the Paris Agreement of been 2015.

Ineza Umuhoza Grace, the loss and damage negotiator for Rwanda, said: “Loss and damage financing is now on the agenda, but much needs to be done to ensure that the financial commitment becomes new, additional and accessible to the vulnerable communities, and especially that it will not increase developing country debt. We need a reformed structure, and developing countries are the ones with the solution.”

Omar Alcock, chief negotiator for Jamaica, said more financial aid is needed for poor countries. “Work programs and workshops are not good enough. To ignore the obvious is to deny the reality associated with climate change. Loss and damage financing is not a remedy, but a necessity,” he said. “Discussions about loss and damage have been weak and not much progress has been made [so far].”

Lyrics on all of these issues will likely be included in the cover text of the Cop, a document that lists where countries have come up on key issues; what resolutions they make, what actions need to be taken; and where the main disagreements are.

Negotiators are considering possible texts on all of these topics, but they are unlikely to come up with an official draft text before about Wednesday, according to sources within the talks. According to insiders, the negotiations have been relatively calm so far, but that is partly because most options within the decisions and texts have been left open at this stage.

In the text, these possible options are enclosed in square brackets, indicating that wording has yet to be agreed. As the week progresses, countries will be forced to choose which of the many options for each issue to continue and which to drop – they will aim to remove as many square brackets as possible, leaving only what all countries can agree on become.

Once a first draft has been agreed upon and released by the Egyptian Presidency, several more drafts will be worked through as each remaining set of square brackets is scrutinized so that the sentence in it can be freed from the brackets, changed or omitted .

Through this painstaking process, nearly 200 countries, represented by thousands of negotiators, will eventually arrive at a cover text that outlines where the world is heading in the climate crisis, with commitments and resolutions for rich and poor countries, and a work program that should help countries move forward. making progress in reducing emissions, collaborating on joint projects, and for those who have the resources to help those who don’t.

At least, that’s the plan. Things can and will go wrong right up to the last moments.

The official draft cover text for Cop26, which became the Glasgow Climate Pact when approved, was first released on the second Wednesday of those two weeks of talks. The seven-page document went through four major drafts over the course of the next three days, until early Saturday morning. It was still subject to change right up until the very last minute – just as Cop26 president, Alok Sharma, thought he was in complete agreement on Saturday afternoon, China and India stepped in to demand a “phasing out” of coal referred to in the text be weakened to a “phase-down”.

Those last minute trials brought Sharma to the brink of tears. Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian president of Cop27, will try to avoid the same fate.

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