The 27th Conference of Parties of the Climate Convention—COP 27—started this Sunday in Sharm El-Sheik, on the shores of the Red Sea. The Egyptian Presidency wants it to be an “implementation COP” of the Paris Agreement. With over 40,000 estimated attendees, the summit is expected to host one of the largest number of participants of the annual global climate summits, in a difficult economic and geopolitical situation. Sciences Po became an accredited observer organisation in 2021, and can now send its own delegation. Three Sciences Po members (one scholar, two students) are on site to attend the COP. They will share their impressions on this website regularly. Carola Klöck, assistant professor at Sciences Po CERI, follows small (island) states in the negotiations, to understand how these states—highly affected but with limited resources and capacities—engage in negotiations and make their voices heard in the process. Elsa Bouly and Charlotte Desmasures are both second-year master students in International Relations at Sciences Po’s School of Research. They are interested in studying international climate negotiations. Elsa and Charlotte attend the COP27 during the first week of negotiations, focusing on Kyrgyzstan in environmental and climate negotiations (Charlotte) and on Russia’s diplomatic practices in international multilateral negotiations (Elsa).
Day One, Sunday 6 November 2022: Opening Meetings
by Elsa Bouly and Charlotte Desmasures
This is our first COP, and more generally, our first field research abroad. While we have prepared for several weeks, identified the different issues at stake, the many actors and coalitions, once we arrived at the COP venue on Sunday, we were lost. The venue is gigantic—more than 150,000 square metres of venue announced. There are several buildings, five areas and a great many people coming and going all over the place—more than 40,000 expected participants.
To get to know the venue, we started by visiting the numerous pavilions. These have become an important part of the COPs. Different countries and organisations are represented, such as Water, Ocean and Cryosphere Pavilions, a French and a World Health Organization Pavilion. In these pavilions, the hosts display their work and organise a lot of events, roundtable discussions and presentations throughout the two weeks.
In the afternoon, we attended the opening meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). The SBSTA is one of the subsidiary bodies of the climate convention and is a more technical part of the process. During the session, Chair Tosi Mpanu Mpanu (and the assembly) set the agenda for the SBSTA week of negotiations. All the parties to the Convention were represented by one or two delegates, and there were also constituency organisations (IGOs, NGOs, RINGOs, YOUNGOs, etc.)
The meeting was highly formal: the Chair announced the items to be adopted during the first week of the negotiations, and appointed different co-facilitators for each informal meetings and contact groups. It was a bit tedious to listen because the Chair read a very long list of items, and the following discussions between the Parties were highly formal. Each delegate was reading the text of his/her intervention and it lacked spontaneity.
Day Two, Monday 7 November 2022: Discovering different negotiation sessions
By Elsa Bouly and Charlotte Desmasures
Compared to our first day on site, Monday 7 November was easier and less stressful because we had become more familiar with the venue of the COP and its different areas: the area where press briefings are held, the area where pavilions and exhibits are located, and the area where negotiations actually take place.
We spent the day attending a variety of different meetings, which shows just how large the event is, and how much occurs at the same time.
Among other events during the day, we attended a coordination meeting of the Research and Independent Non-Governmental Organizations (RINGO) constituency; press briefings; actual negotiations; and a pavilion event.
We spent part of the morning in a press conference room. We attended two conferences from 11am to 12am. One was dedicated to the “Center for Biological Diversity” thematic, and the other was led by members of the Climate Action Network. Both conferences were mainly centred on the use of fossil fuel, with emotional pledges from different climate activists. The interlacing of climate rights and social rights was also at the heart of some speeches. Our impression was that these meetings resembled less press conference meetings than a platform for civil society to speak out against the climate inaction of some states and companies.
We could attend our first negotiation session, with an Informal Meeting on Gender and Climate Change. “Informal meeting” only refers to a level of confidentiality, determining who can enter the room of the negotiation (Parties only, Parties and Observers, or open meetings). The room was packed, some of the observers could sit behind the delegates but most of them were standing. Countries could sit wherever and next to whom they wanted. The delegates were almost exclusively women on this particular issue, and many African countries took the floor. But we were quite disappointed as the negotiation was mainly about whether the countries should meet at another time without closed doors to discuss finance concerning gender initiatives. Anyway, it has only been two days and we quickly understood that finance is everything in these negotiations.
Later, we attended a second negotiation session, with an Informal Meeting on Matters relating to the Standing Committee on Finance. At the sixteenth session of the Conference of Parties (COP), Parties decided to establish a Standing Committee on Finance to assist the COP in exercising its functions in relation to the Financial Mechanism of the Convention. This negotiation took place in a very large room, so we could sit behind the delegates. To be honest, we found the meeting really hard to follow as it was centred on a previous report published in October, relating to climate finance mechanisms, and which we had not had the opportunity to examine. However, delegates were not so much discussing the content of the report, but mainly what appeared to us as unsubstantial matters and details.
At the same time, the heads of states were gathering for the World Leader Summit, but observers were not allowed in the room, which was quite disappointing for us.
We attended a conference given by the French minister of Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher and OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann, concerning the IPAC Climate Action Monitor (International Programme for Action on Climate). This programme aims at producing data-based analysis and indicators to help countries coordinate and strengthen their action on climate change.
We also spent some time in the Children and Youth Pavilion. The atmosphere was joyful and cheerful, there were some songs and music played by young climate activists. The organisers of the pavilion have installed a climate fresco at the centre of the booth.
Day Three, Tuesday 8 November 2022: Negotiations on Loss and Damage, and Big day at the Cryosphere Pavilion
By Elsa Bouly and Charlotte Desmasures
One of today’s negotiation sessions was about the Santiago Network, which was launched during the COP25 as part of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change (or Loss and Damage Mechanism) that aims to facilitate and support the actions of developing countries in their efforts to address loss and damages associated with the adverse impacts of climate change. The Santiago Network is a multi-stakeholder organisation. It was initially meant to be inaugurated these days, at COP27, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Indeed, countries have not agreed on a shared vision, nor on which country should host it, or what its outcome ought to be. The room was fuller than for any of the previous negotiations we attended, highlighting the importance of the loss and damage subject to this COP.
We also spent some time at the Cryosphere pavilion, where different mountain-related organisations run a series of side events, for two days, focusing on the issue of the climate crisis from the perspective of mountainous countries. We attended the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) High-Level event, entitled “Moving mountains: Prioritising investment needs for a climate-resilient HKH”. This event brought together members of the HKH High-level Task Force members and representatives from the eight Hindu Kush Himalaya countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan) to insist on the centrality of finance in climate adaptation, especially in mountainous regions. Representatives of the HKH reminded us that mountainous regions are not isolated entities, as they share common challenges with other regions like the small and low islands. This allowed them to emphasise the importance of joining forces with countries with other physical and geographical specificities.
Later during the day, we had the opportunity to attend another side event organised by the Cryosphere Pavilion, entitled “Mountains connect: Collaboration and partnerships across mountain ranges”. This event insisted on the need for regional and interregional cooperation and collaboration for climate change adaptation between mountain areas across the world. Several mountain-related regional organisations were represented at this side event and gathered for a panel, such as the Carpathian Convention, the Andean Mountain Initiative, the Alpine Climate Board of the Alpine Convention, and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). The meeting was interesting and engaging because all the representatives of the different organisations reached similar conclusions regarding the need for mountainous countries to be better represented in climate negotiations, and considered that COP27 represented an opportunity to put the spotlight on mountainous regions and their specific vulnerabilities.
More information may be found on the ICIMOD website: https://www.icimod.org/cop27
Day Four, Wednesday 9 November 2022: Finance Day
By Elsa Bouly and Charlotte Desmasures
The morning was all about negotiations.
First, an informal consultation of SBSTA/SBI on the “Koronivia joint work on agriculture,” which refers to a decision adopted at COP23 (2017), demanding the subsidiary bodies to address agricultural issues. The room was one of the largest at disposal, thus it seemed very empty, as there were not so many observers present. Almost 90 parties were represented, however, and they discussed an informal document the two co-facilitators had issued in the morning (probably after a very short night). It was interesting to note that in addition to the states, there were also observer delegates from the constituencies acknowledged by the Convention: ENGOs (Environmental NGOs) and Farmers. The session was very short, as they agreed to gather in the afternoon in informal meetings (for parties only). The ENGO delegate delivered a strong and concrete speech, reminding his interlocutors that there needed to be space for innovative participation of civil society, including small-scale farmers, and advocated for the recognition of agroecology.
The co-facilitator reminded the parties that progress needed to be made, and quickly, because it is already the middle of the week (Wednesday), and that the outputs of the negotiations will have to be presented in SBSTA/SBI plenaries on Saturday 12 November. We had the opportunity to talk with one of the co-facilitators—a Polish diplomat—after the session. She kindly answered some of our questions concerning the role of co-facilitators. They are named by the Subsidiary Body’s Chairs at the opening session and their role is to moderate and guide the other parties through the different negotiations. Co-facilitators are of course asked to endorse a neutral position.
Later, we attended an informal consultation held under the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), entitled “Matter relating to the LDCs” (Least Developed Countries). The room appeared less full than other negotiations we attended, as only 30 Parties were at the negotiation table, and only a few observers were present. The session consisted of the presentation and comment of the draft text on “COP decision on matters relating to the least developed countries”. The draft was mainly about the details of the rules of procedures of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (established in 2001), which is currently mandated to provide technical guidance and support to the LDCs on how to formulate and implement national adaptation plans (NAPs), among other things. The session was easy to follow, as the UN staff distributed a copy of the draft text to the observers, which we appreciated. The session began with a long moment of reading by all parties, followed by informal discussions between the representatives of each party. Then, the co-Facilitators allowed the parties to express their views on the draft text, and to share any modifications needed to the document.
We spent the afternoon discussing with about ten representatives from various pavilions, such as the West Africa Pavilion, the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion, and the Children and Youth Pavilion. We had the opportunity to talk with a young climate activist, who presented us her collaborative project consisting of a participative wall displayed at the Children and Youth Pavilion. She explains to us that everyone could draw or write his/her feelings and visions about climate change in the language they want and stick it to the wall. She was very inspiring.
Today, we noted some problems and difficulties relating to the status of observers. For example, in the afternoon, we tried to enter a room of negotiation that was supposed to be open to observers. However, a UN staff member quickly came to us and other observers nearby, asking us to exit the room, as observers were suddenly not allowed anymore. This is a recurrent problem here: in some rooms, observers can sit on second-row chairs, behind the delegates, sometimes they must stand, and some other times they are simply asked to go out, without any motive. Therefore, it is sometimes easier to follow online, which is disappointing because some people—like us—come from far abroad.
Day Five, Thursday 10 November: Science, Youth and Future Generations Day
By Elsa Bouly and Charlotte Desmasures
Negotiations about the Koronivia joint work on agriculture started again in the morning, and we attended the meeting again. We have noticed that it is all the easier to follow negotiations now that a few days have passed, that we know what the delegates are talking about, and what the main stances are on the different issues. Moreover, we can feel that the negotiations are accelerating: the submissions’ day is approaching. Indeed, on Saturday, the SBs’ negotiation week is supposed to come to an end, even if in most of the COPs, it is often extended.
On agricultural matters, Kenya mostly spoke on behalf of the G77+China group. The representative often took the floor as the G77 had issued a new draft following yesterday’s session. The EU delegate had also a tendency to intervene to suggest some changes in the document. For us, what was very interesting were the moments when the co-facilitators gave some time to the delegates for them to read the document—if they had not done so before—and discuss between the members of coalitions to coordinate on the best stance to adopt. It’s always surprising though, to see that the stances we are talking about concern what could appear as technical details to many observers. Indeed, parties took the floor to ask for the removal or the modification of only one word, or the reformulation of a sentence.
At the end of the day, we also attended an informal session on the complex issue of “Common metrics to calculate the carbon dioxide equivalence of greenhouse gases”. The issue was at the beginning as obscure as its title suggests. We finally understood that it was a matter of countries agreeing on the methods for calculating greenhouse gas emissions. Tension arose mainly between the EU and the US on the one hand, and Brazil on the other. The G77, represented by Mozambique, tried to call for more flexibility from the Western representatives. Negotiations were delayed as many pauses were granted to allow coalitions to regroup and coordinate, only to end in an adjournment. This was a way for us to realise that on some issues, one-hour meetings are not enough. This is also one of the reasons why there are “informal-informal” meetings: such gatherings are not initially scheduled, but they are organised according to the outcome of the day’s negotiations. They also allow delegates, who are not filmed, to express themselves more freely.
In addition, today we decided to discover more about the Pavilion of Tajikistan and its side events. We attended a first conference entitled “Adaptive and resilient communities in urban and rural areas.” The climate diplomacy of Tajikistan is really focused on water, glaciers and mountains, as nearly 93% of Tajikistan’s land mass is constituted by mountains, with glaciers making up 6% of the territory. Several institutions working with Tajikistan on disasters prevention and management took the floor during the conference. A representative of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat argued that mitigation and adaptation to climate change are crucial matters for Tajikistan as its population lives at the forefront of climate change due to the coutries’ geographical and geomorphological specificities. The Aga Khan foundation supports Tajikistan with a partnership to help the country respond to disasters, such as lake outbursts, or mudflows. A Tadjik representative also explained that Tajikistan uses COP27 as an opportunity to show the importance of water in the climate negotiations, and to push for further action regarding this issue.
We also followed another meeting organised by the Pavilion, tackling the issue of the role of youth in combating climate change in Central Asia. This event was entitled “Young leaders of Central Asia on the way to carbon neutrality - implementing decisions on the UNFCCC COP26.” The organisers of the side event were the five Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), with the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation Program (CAREC), the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS), and youth networks and UN/multilateral agencies. It was nice to see an event organised by the five Central Asian countries, as there is no Central Asian Pavilion at COP27, as there was in Glasgow last year. Tajikistan is the only one of the five Central Asian countries to have a flag at this COP27 edition. The goal of this side event was mainly about promoting the initiatives of Central Asian youth on climate change and water-related issues, and transition to carbon neutrality. Several young climate activists explained that without regional cooperation in Central Asia, it would not be possible to imagine effective and efficient measures regarding adaptation to climate change. They also insisted on the fact that it is very important for young people to speak up at this climate conference, a determination shared by the Children and Youth Pavilion as we have shown earlier in this chronicle.
Day Six, Friday 11 November: Decarbonisation Day
By Elsa Bouly and Charlotte Desmasures
Our morning was most certainly a productive one: we attended three sessions of negotiations.
The first one was an Informal Session about “Matters relating to LDCs” (Least Developed Countries). In this session, the Parties tried to finalise the draft text on “COP decision on matters relating to the least developed countries.” The session consisted mainly of discussing and debating the choice of certain options, and trying to reword passages of the text. The meeting seemed long because the states were discussing small drafting points, which sometimes seem to be of no major importance, as in previous meetings we attended. The United States suggested to spend the entire session on three options to write paragraph 8bis of the draft text, dedicated to the Green Climate Fund issue. Indeed, at COP 16 held in Cancun, Parties established the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism of the Convention. Among other things, Paragraph 8bis invites the least developed countries to continue to engage with the Green Climate Fund on finding ways to address challenges and issues related to access to funding experienced by the least developed countries. The U.S. explained that it was important to have reflections on the Green Climate Fund because finance is crucial for the LDCs, and that they (the U.S.) would be happy to help on this. They reiterated their support to the LDCs. The discussion revolved around the choice between the three different phrasing options for the paragraph 8bis. Lesotho, on behalf of the Least Developed Countries group, asked to keep the three different options in the final draft text. However, the US considered that option 2 of the text should be removed, and this request was adopted. At the end of the session, the co-facilitator agreed to a final “informal-informal” discussion in order to have the finance negotiators present at a future session to discuss the remaining points of disagreement. We noticed during our week that there are a lot of negotiation sessions going on simultaneously, on various topics, which means that it is sometimes difficult to have several negotiators present at the same session.
The second meeting we attended focused on gender and climate change. They started the discussions talking about a provisional document issued by the two co-facilitators in the morning. They first agreed on the paragraph they wanted to discuss, then Zimbabwe’s representative, on behalf of the G77 and China, made a proposal he read out loud. They just suggested changing two phrases in the whole paragraph, but after that, the EU delegate asked for the co-facilitators’ authorisation to have some time to discuss it with its advisers, who were sitting just behind her. It was rather surprising, because, even though the EU delegate was back to her seat, the other countries’ representatives continued discussing between one another in huddles, like Guatemala, Peru, Chile, Columbia, or just chatting with their neighbour. We had already seen such huddles during negotiations, but it had never lasted that long: this time, they talked informally for about 30 minutes, until the end of the session. As observers, it was difficult to presume what was going on, but they finally agreed to continue the discussions during their next meeting, later the same day. It is always remarkable to observe how the discussions can be about proposals with very little difference from one another, and yet spark off long debates between the parties, and within the coalitions. We observed the same phenomenon during the third negotiation we attended, about National Adaptation Plans. Indeed, since the Cancun Agreement, countries can formulate and implement national adaptation plans (or NAPs in the UNFCCC jargon) to identify medium- and long-term adaptation needs, and to develop and implement strategies to address those specific needs. Adaptation is thought to be complementary to Mitigation, and is about minimising the negative effects of climate change.
In the afternoon, we had some trouble getting into the negotiations we wanted to attend. Indeed, on ‘major’ issues, like loss and damage, negotiation rooms are quickly full. Sometimes even parties have trouble finding a seat, and we heard delegates complaining about this very often. In such cases, observers obviously do not have priority, therefore few of them can enter the rooms. What is very frustrating is when you are authorised to enter the room, and five minutes later, security staff come to you because you are standing or sitting on the floor, and ask you to either find a seat (which is impossible at that stage) or leave the room.
At the end of the day however, we managed to attend a last negotiation meeting, about “Matters relating to Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE)” (SBI22). This was one of the most interesting negotiations we have had the opportunity to attend, because we were able to see a text adopted by the Parties. This negotiation was very surprising from the start, as there were no co-facilitators present to lead the session. Japan took over the task of distributing the floor. The discussion revolved around the inclusion of the notion of human rights in paragraph A.2 about “Strengthening ACE into the development action of national climate strategies and action.” To this matter, the representative of Gambia, on behalf of the Africa Group, declared that the last instructions given on this matter were to not include human rights into this paragraph. Gambia’s arguments were that there are so many treaties, conventions and agreements, protocols about human rights in the world, and that the African communities could not understand why there is sometimes cherry-picking on the human rights issue at the international level. Then, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Australia’s representatives called for a human rights’ language in the text to highlight the importance of ACE, and because a lot of Parties complained that the human rights issue was poorly recognised.
As there was a strong disagreement between the Parties, Japan allowed for a moment of discussion between the negotiators. This was a fascinating moment from an observer’s point of view, as almost half of the parties in the room gathered in what are called “huddles”, as people rushed to talk privately to other parties in various spaces of the room. Those huddles lasted for about 50 minutes. Negotiators spoke really loudly between them. Then the co-facilitators arrived, and one of them proposed a compromise text with a reference to the 11th paragraph of the Paris Agreement preamble in the paragraph, but with no reference to human rights directly. The US, Mexico, Canada, and the UK strongly disagreed with this proposal. About 5 minutes before the end of the session, Gambia, represented by another negotiator, came up with a proposition of paragraph which included the human rights issue. The proposition was then adopted by every party. At this very moment, everyone in the room started to applaud, some shouted for joy, others cried for joy too. Different negotiators hugged each other, and even took photos together. It was a very warm moment, and it was good to see that parties with very different positions at the beginning of the session can come to an agreement, through discussion.
Day Seven, Saturday 12 November: Agriculture and Adaptation Day
By Elsa Bouly and Charlotte Desmasures
In the morning, we attended an informal consultation about “Funding Arrangements for Loss and Damage”. It took place in the biggest plenary room, called ‘Plenary Nefertiti’ (this COP does not take place in Egypt for nothing!). It was in this room that in the beginning of the week the World Leader Summit occurred.
You cannot but be impressed when you enter such a room: it is gigantic. The co-facilitators were sitting on a platform, but they seemed so far away and small that we could barely see their faces.
Plenaries are usually organized in this type of setting, however this was not a plenary, only an informal consultation. The main difference, as we understood during the session, is that during plenaries, delegates cannot choose their seats: the so-called flags (the tags on which each country’s name is written) are fixed, in alphabetical order. In informal consultations however, the delegates can choose next to whom they wish to sit, which is always interesting and relevant to observe. It also confused the co-facilitators a bit, as twice during the sessions, they were mistaken and got two countries mixed up as their delegates had chosen not to sit following the alphabetical order. Also, there is no simultaneous interpretation during informal consultations: all the delegates speak in English.
A call for new financial support had already been made at COP26 in Glasgow, but it had been rejected amid opposition from most of the developed countries (the United States, the European Union, Australia and others). This agenda item about funding to address “loss and damage” could make it to the table at COP27 because of the pressure from small island states, and some vulnerable nations like Pakistan, who suffered important natural disasters during the last few years. As a boost for those countries, the 2022 IPCC report also spotlighted loss and damage, despite opposition by the U.S.. Most of the developing countries took the floor during that session, through the voice of G77 or AOSIS, underlining the urgency of the situation and the need to establish a dedicated fund, which would correspond to the specific needs of the developing countries.
“Given the urgency, this COP must make a clear decision in establishing a dedicated fund,
which corresponds to the needs of developing states” (Pakistan delegate).
Among the issues addressed in this meeting, there was the question of the timeline for deciding the creation of such a fund, but most importantly, implementing it. Developing countries all supported the idea that this dedicated fund could not be implemented later than COP29 (2024). They all emphasised the importance of taking concrete actions, leaving aside further discussions, workshops, and talks. Their main concern was about the efficiency of the response to the countries’ needs. They all keep referring to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) established in 2010, which aims at allocating resources to low-emission and climate-resilient projects and programmes in developing countries. It seems that one of the options that has been envisaged is that the GCF could provide emergency funding to address loss and damage. However, the COP does not have the authority to request the GCF to do so. Indeed, it is the GCF 24members Board that decides for resource allocations. They all tend to agree that they will need to create another body, and some of the parties were here advocating for the creation of an ad-hoc expert committee that will be tasked to formulate concrete suggestions and recommendations by the next COP.
Another interesting point that was raised and that we already heard about at this COP is the request that this fund does not provide loans but grants. The Indian delegate recalled it in his intervention. Most of the developing countries are in favour of grants, to reduce the loan burden most of them are already struggling with. Indeed, the idea is to enable them to tackle negative climate change effects, without increasing their debt burden.
Later, we attended a side event entitled “From Cop27 to the UN 2023 Water Conference: accelerating action on water and adaptation”, organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), the Netherlands, and Tajikistan. These two countries co-hosted the event, preparing for the first UN conference on water since 1977 they are co-hosting on 22-24 March 2023, and encourage stakeholders from all sectors to announce voluntary commitments as part of the Water Action Agenda (WAA). This side event was a way of preparing for this event next March, and of recalling the importance of water at the heart of the negotiations. There were many people in the room, as there were several members of the Tajik and Dutch delegations attending the event. Indeed, as an introduction, both High Excellency Ms. Liesje Schreinemacher, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands and High Excellency Jamshed Shoimzoda, First Deputy Minister of Energy and Water Resources of the Republic of Tajikistan made a short speech about the importance of the water issue in the climate change negotiations, and the cooperation of both countries regarding this theme. Then, two panels of discussion took place. The first was centred on “Water Resilience: Adaptation & Nature-based Solutions,” while the second focussed on “Water for Ecosystems: from Source to Sea & Disaster Risk Reduction.” The objectives of the two panels were to inspire other Parties and organisations in the run-up to the UN 2023 Water Conference to present commitments for the Water Action Agenda, and also to encourage parties and stakeholders to establish inclusive partnerships and enhance cooperation on water and climate. By way of conclusion, Mina Gulli, an ultra-marathon runner and CEO of Thirst Foundation, made the concluding remarks. Her intervention was thought provoking because alongside her speech on the importance of taking action against climate change and the growing inequality in access to water, photos of her runs and marathons in various countries where water is becoming scarcer were shown. We could see the desertification of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan for example, and many other places affected by water scarcity. At the end, she invited everyone in the room to stand up and hold hands as a symbolic gesture.
Day Eight, Monday 14 November: Week Two, Day One
By Carola Klöck
It’s the first day of week 2, after a much-needed rest on Sunday. A new group of delegates just arrived, replacing those delegates that were here only for week 1, like Elsa and Charlotte. Nevertheless, the energy levels are markedly lower than a week ago. Much work remains to be done, and time is short.
Late on Saturday, the two subsidiary bodies had their joint closing plenary and closed a few agenda items, but on many issues, in particular the different agenda items dealing with finance, an agreement could not yet be found. Consultations thus continue today. While negotiations started to first collect general viewpoints, they now focus on actual decision texts, prepared on the basis of written submissions as well as interventions on the floor. These negotiations are rather difficult to follow, as the texts are not always available to observers, and as rooms often are too small, so observers can only follow online or in overflow rooms. While the overflow rooms afford the benefit of a chair and table, the sound quality is not always good enough to properly follow discussions.
Alongside some negotiation sessions, I hence also focused on side events, in particular on events around climate finance and small islands. In the morning, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Pavilion organised an event highlighting the difficulties of many Caribbean countries to access funding. Many Caribbean countries are relatively rich per capita, which makes them ineligible for certain climate finance flows—yet as representatives stressed, they still require support to deal with hurricanes that are ever more frequent and intense. Atoll nations are perhaps even more vulnerable, being extremely low-level. At the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion, the Coalition of Atoll Nations on Climate Change (CAN-CC) shared stories of how they experience the impacts of climate change on their islands and affirmed their strong desire to remain on their islands, and to fight for keeping warming to below 1.5°C, and obtain support for adaptation, as well as loss and damage already incurred. This is, as atoll leaders stressed, a “matter of life and death.” Another event at the IPCC pavilion similarly highlighted the dire circumstances on small islands, presenting the findings of the chapter dedicated to small islands in the latest (sixth) Assessment Report that came out earlier this year.
Day Nine, Tuesday 15 November: Tenuous negotiations as time is running out
By Carola Klöck
Time is running out: COP27 should formally conclude its work this Friday 18 November—which means negotiators have only three days left to come to an agreement. Yet, on many issues, there are deep divides between countries’ positions. In particular, finance negotiations still go on in informal consultations that have been given additional time slots. These extra meeting sometimes occurred twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon. This was the case for the new goal on finance for the period after 2025. At the same time, and behind closed doors, the COP Presidency is consulting bilaterally with parties and party groups. It seems however really difficult to find a compromise that would be acceptable to all.
I followed some of these thorny negotiations today, although unfortunately only in overflow rooms. The actual negotiation rooms are too small to accommodate observers. While the finance negotiations I attended in the morning were already working on a draft text, the negotiations on the cover decisions that I attended in the afternoon only had a bullet list. Parties noted that while this is a start, with three days to go before the official end of the COP, they need a real text to negotiate. But this will be extremely tricky to formulate. The cover decision provides the overarching message of the COP. Some parties like the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), or the European Union, want to use last year’s decision—the Glasgow Climate Pact—as a basis. Others insist that it is the Convention and the Paris Agreement that are the reference for any future decision. This distinction is critical: while the Paris Agreement talks about limiting global warming to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels,” the Glasgow Climate Pact focuses on 1.5°C. Referencing the Paris Agreement thus could potentially mean backsliding, which would be a blow to global climate action.
How the Presidency deals with such fundamental disagreement is unclear. What is clear is that the negotiators and Presidency won’t get much sleep for the rest of the week!
Day Ten, Wednesday 16 November: Some General Observations
By Carola Klöck
As explained yesterday, the negotiations are still very much ongoing, but they are increasingly happening behind closed doors. So far, discussions have been mainly between technical negotiators. Now, we are moving to the political track. Ministers and senior negotiators are currently meeting in smaller groups or bilaterally with the Presidency to identify common ground on the outstanding contentious issues—of which there are quite a many. For observers, it is thus increasingly difficult to actually follow the negotiations, although some technical informal negotiations are still taking place. I will thus offer some more general observations and reflections on the COP.
As has hopefully become clear in these daily chronicles, COPs are extremely complex and large. COP27 is one of the largest COPs ever, and many of the tens of thousands of delegates are not here for the negotiations, but for everything happening on the side. Here I will highlight two of these aspects: pavilions and actions.
The pavilions occupy a large share of the COP venue. There are over 140 pavilions at this COP! A (not comprehensive) list can be found on the UNFCCC website. Many are governmental pavilions. France has a pavilion, so does for example Germany, Australia, and the United States. There are also many African countries, such as Namibia, Mauritania, Togo and Nigeria. Some of these are co-sponsored by companies within these countries, such as the Swedish pavilion (“Business Sweden”) or the Japanese one. Others are by organisations. The IPCC has a pavilion, and so does the WHO, IETA, and WWF. Pavilions allow organisers to showcase what they are doing about climate change, to network, and to promote certain areas or approaches to climate change, such as solar power, methane emissions, and water. As such, the COP provides a platform, and some are very good at using that platform for their own interests, including some business actors, such as the nuclear lobby (see pictures), and the fossil fuel lobby. This article provides thought-provoking information about this issue.
Alongside the strong presence of business and trade, there is also a strong presence of civil society. This is quite a diverse group, including (but not limited to) youth groups, environmental NGOs, and indigenous peoples’ associations. Their actions and protests are a key feature of COPs—including of COP27, despite resistance from the Egyptian government. The traditional demonstration held on Saturday was therefore—for the first time in COP history—confined to the COP venue, rather than really taking to the streets. We did our best to be loud and clear, but the demonstration can’t compare to the massive mobilisation seen last year in Glasgow. Beyond this collective action from almost all civil society groups, there are also many smaller protest actions from single groups or constituencies. They normally take place early in the morning right by the entrance (but within the COP venue), so you cannot but see and hear them when you arrive.
Let’s hope that delegates indeed hear these messages and take them into the negotiation rooms.
Day Eleven, Thursday 17 November: Cover decision
By Carola Klöck
This is formally the second to last day of the COP—but no one seriously expects the COP to finish on time on Friday evening or even Friday night. It is very likely that the COP will extend into the weekend, as has been the case for previous COPs. Bangladesh has repeatedly pointed out that this tendency to go beyond allocated time unfairly disadvantages poor and vulnerable countries, who had to make travel arrangements way in advance and cannot afford to stay longer in their (very expensive) hotels and rebook their flights. Final discussions that occur on Saturday would leave out many countries, which is of course unfair and against the spirit of UN negotiations.
In fact, I don’t even know how the Egyptian presidency will be able to come to a compromise decision within 48 hours. For the time being, it looks more like another full week of negotiations would be necessary. This is most clearly visible in the discussions on the cover decision, on which I reported two days ago. These negotiations resumed today. I had to follow discussions online from my hotel room, because I was unable to be at the venue on time due to zoom meetings. Anyhow, I would only have been able to follow in the overflow room on site, since the meeting room was too small to accommodate all parties.
Much to the regret of many parties, the Presidency has not yet produced a draft text. Rather, it has made a compilation of the many issues that parties mentioned during Tuesday’s consultations and also submitted in writing. This compilation text is now 20 pages long, but—as several Parties remarked—some critical elements are still lacking. There is too much to discuss and these notes from the field do not provide enough space for that. I will therefore pick only two examples. First, some parties, such as the EU, the United States, and the African Group, have emphasised the need to clearly reaffirm last year’s Glasgow Climate Pact and use this as the baseline. This means notably to focus on the 1.5 temperature limit, as I mentioned on Tuesday, but also to explicitly call on parties to “accelerat[e] efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.” This is already quite diluted (note for example the qualifiers “unabated” and “inefficient”), but now several parties, notably the Arab Group (including countries like Saudi-Arabia, Iran, and other Gulf countries) and the Like-Minded Developing Countries (including countries like China, Saudi-Arabia or Bolivia), want the text to focus on “emissions” and not single out specific “source of energy”, i.e., coal, oil, and gas. That coal and fossil fuels were explicitly mentioned in the Glasgow Climate Pact is one of the major breakthroughs of last year, despite the diluted formulation quoted above, so not mentioning fossil fuels this year would represent a step back. There are many more contested elements, e.g. whether to mention human rights, or refer to processes and initiatives outside the UNFCCC such as the biodiversity convention, and multilateral development banks. Much work remains to be done, and it remains to be seen how the Presidency will turn its long “shopping list” into an acceptable cover decision.
The Guardian provides a more detailed analysis of the cover decision and what it means in an interesting article.
Day Twelve, Friday 18 November: Last Day
By Carola Klöck
The COP was supposed to end today, and many people have already left. The bus to the venue, and the venue itself, have been markedly more quiet. Most pavilions had their last event yesterday, and were packing up.
On the negotiations side in contrast, things are still very busy. However, much of that happens through bilateral and ministerial consultations—that is, behind closed doors. Nevertheless, some negotiations on unresolved agenda items are still open to observers, including those that were scheduled yesterday night until 3:00 am, and resumed today at 8:00 am. I did not watch them, though.
A short stocktaking plenary took place at 1.30 pm, pushed back from the original slot at noon. The meeting was very short. The COP president explained that he would take ownership of all outstanding issues, that is, take them to the highest political level, and seek to finish tomorrow Saturday.
The Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group representing the countries most affected by climate change, took the floor. Instead of a diplomat or a minister, they had a 10-year-old girl and activist from Ghana —Nakeeyat Dramani Sam—speak on the group’s behalf. She passionately asked the negotiators to think of the children: “Have a heart, and do the math. Do what is needed to save your planet.” If only young people were negotiating, we would probably already have an ambitious agreement. Her intervention, which finished with a poem she wrote herself, in her own language, received standing ovations from everyone in the room.
Norway supported this statement, arguing that there are two messages that come clearly out of Nakeeyat’s plea, namely strongly re-affirming the 1.5°C temperature limit as agreed in Glasgow, and funding for loss and damage. Yet, no agreement has yet been reached on these two fundamental issues, as a new negotiation session on the Cover Decision made clear later in the afternoon. The Presidency has now come up with a ten-page draft text, and while parties admitted that this was an improvement over the 20-page compilation from yesterday, they still cannot agree on many aspects. In fact, much of the discussion resembled a déjà-vu, as parties reiterated their positions from Thursday afternoon.
Day Thirteen, Saturday 19 November: The End...
By Carola Klöck, Elsa Bouly and Charlotte Desmasures
As the Presidency announced, negotiations continued into Saturday. I did not go to the venue, as only one hour of open negotiations was announced at some point in the schedule, and as my flight back to Paris left. When we arrived late in Paris, the final plenary session had still not begun! In the end, the final session started in the middle of the night, at 4:00 am, and carried on until about 9:00 am (local time). Negotiators by then had not slept in days, and were completely exhausted. I did not watch the negotiations live—but these have been recorded and are publicly available on YouTube.
So what’s our overall conclusion after two intense weeks? I won’t comment on the final outcome; there are others who have already done so in a more comprehensive manner that I could have (e.g., https://www.theguardian.com/environment/live/2022/nov/19/cop27-fears-15c-target-danger-negotiations-overrun-live and https://enb.iisd.org/sharm-el-sheikh-climate-change-conference-cop27-19Nov2022). From our side, the two weeks have been long, frustrating at times, but also extremely interesting and insightful. We have had many enlightening conversations with people we would have never met otherwise, including delegates from Tajikistan, Ukraine, Kiribati or the Maldives. We have also met and exchanged with other students and researchers from across the globe, including Germany, Belgium or the United States, to name but a few. We have written dozens of pages of notes from our observations during negotiation sessions and side events. We have collected even more pages of draft decisions and submissions. Now it’s time to digest and analyse all those pages of text!
To be followed…