Envoys from around the globe gathered Sunday in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm El-Sheikh for talks on tackling climate change as the world grapples with multiple crises, including the war in Ukraine, high inflation, food shortages and an energy crunch.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned last week that the planet was heading toward irreversible “climate chaos”.
Guterres implored all countries to find a way to put the world back on track to cut emissions and help poor ones cope with the impacts of global warming.
More than 40,000 participants have been registered for this year’s talks, reflecting the sense of urgency as major weather events around the world impact many people and cost billions of dollars in repairs.
Egypt said over 120 world leaders would attend, many speaking at a high-level event on Nov. 7-8.
While US President Joe Biden
was expected at the summit, many top figures, including China’s President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were not planning to come.
This has cast doubt on whether the talks in Egypt could result in any major deals to cut emissions without two of the world’s biggest polluters.
Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said the talks were being overshadowed by Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which has triggered political and economic upheaval around the world.
“2022 must not become a lost year for climate protection,” Baerbock said in a statement.
“For many states, it’s about the survival of their population and their culture. For them, the climate crisis remains the most important security issue, not Russia’s war in Europe.”
Baerbock said Germany was willing to show solidarity with poor countries, including on the thorny issue of compensation for losses resulting from climate change caused by rich countries’ emissions.
Rights groups criticized Egypt on Sunday for restricting protests and stepping up surveillance during the summit.
New York-based Human Rights Watch, citing Egyptian media, said authorities had also arrested dozens of people for calling for protests.
Human Rights Watch said it had joined about 1,400 groups from around the world urging Egypt to lift the restrictions on civil society groups.
COP27 president, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, urged leaders to not let food and energy crises related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine get in the way of action on climate change.
"It is inherent on us all in Sharm El-Sheikh to demonstrate our recognition of the magnitude of the challenges we face and our steadfast resolve to overcome it."
The need for action was laid bare in the latest report from the UN's World Meteorological Organization.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres sent a video message to the conference in which he called the State of the Global Climate Report 2022 a "chronicle of climate chaos".
In it, scientists estimate that global temperatures have now risen by 1.15C since pre-industrial times and said the latest eight years were on track to be the warmest on record.
The report also warned of the other wide-ranging impacts of climate change, including the acceleration of sea level rise, record glacier mass losses and record breaking heatwaves.
Guterres said that in light of these findings, COP27 must be the place for urgent and credible climate action.
COP27 will really begin in earnest on Monday with a World Leaders' Summit, when heads of state and government leaders deliver five-minute addresses outlining what they want from the meeting.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to urge world leaders to move "further and faster" in transitioning to renewable energy.
He will also tell leaders not to "backslide" on commitments made at last year's COP26 summit in Glasgow.
World leaders will speak on Monday and Tuesday, and once they depart, conference delegates get down to the business of negotiation.
As well as all the formal negotiations there will be hundreds of events over the two weeks with exhibitions, workshops and cultural performances from youth, business groups, indigenous societies, academia, artists and fashion communities from all over the world.