The world is “on a highway to climate hell, with its foot on the gas pedal”. During his speech on Monday, November 7, at the opening of the leaders' summit that was supposed to give impetus to the two weeks of negotiations of the COP27 held in Sharm El-Sheikh, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, multiplied the warnings with shocking formulas, calling for more action to fight against global warming.
"Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish. It is either a pact of climate solidarity or a pact of collective suicide," he launched in front of the heads of state and government, urging more commitments in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. "The good news is that we know what needs to be done, and that we have the financial and technological tools" to do it, said the fervent climate advocate, in a slightly more optimistic tone.
While the indicators are in the red to limit warming to 1.5°C, there is a widespread fear that other priorities of the moment, such as the war in Ukraine, are taking precedence over climate commitments. Several European countries have pointed the finger at Russia - whose president, Vladimir Putin, did not make the trip - as the cause of the current energy and food crises. The conflict has global repercussions, from energy in Europe to grain in Africa and the Middle East. This summit of leaders is also marked by the absence of the presidents of the two main world polluters, China, and the United States, who arrived later.
Southern countries want financial reparations
Yet, there were no major announcements on the first days of the summit. The need to maintain the gains of COP26 in Glasgow - such as the phase-out of coal - was recalled by several speakers. But the speeches mainly illustrated the division between representatives of rich countries striving to present themselves as good students of climate and developing countries demanding more funding, in the name of the damage suffered.
Among the announcements, promises to increase contributions and the presentation of upcoming meetings dominated. Thus, the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, who had hesitated to come to COP27, indicated that his country would triple the funds allocated for adaptation projects by 2025, reaching an amount of 1.7 billion dollars (about 1.7 billion euros).
Tackling the "delaying tactics and procrastination" during the "long discussions at the COPs", the Kenyan president, William Ruto, announced, as chairman of the group of African negotiators, the organization in 2023 of a "continental summit on climate action".
The issue of justice has returned in the speeches of representatives of Southern countries. Posing as an arbitrator, Antonio Guterres, said at the opening that the subject of loss and damage can no longer be swept under the carpet. It is a moral imperative, a fundamental question of international solidarity. This point was included in the official agenda of COP27, as Egypt and, behind it, many emerging countries wanted. The countries of the South want to obtain financial reparations from the industrialized countries because of the damage caused by climate change, for which they are least responsible. "We need to be helped to repair the damage you have inflicted on us," pleaded Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan.
However, if the subject is discussed, the chairman of the Sharm El-Sheikh conference and head of Egyptian diplomacy, Sameh Shukri, had indicated that a horizon of 2024 has been set to make a final decision. This is a thorny issue, as rich countries are reluctant to go down the road of reparations. Among Western leaders, President Emmanuel Macron caused a stir by praising the "courage" of Caribbean, Latin American, African, and Pacific countries in championing the issue. "The debate is fair," he said. Paris is not, however, in favor of the creation of a fund dedicated to loss and damage, which is a request from the South.
Joe Biden at COP27: his plan to reduce CO₂ emissions deemed ambitious
Mr. Biden defended his climate policy, praising his long-standing personal commitment and detailing the colossal plan adopted this summer, which finances, among other things, renewable energy, and research, to the tune of 370 billion dollars. This is enough to "change the paradigm" and allow the United States to reach its emission reduction targets in 2030, he assured. Posing mitigation as a global priority, he presented a new U.S. regulatory proposal to reduce methane emissions, including strict standards for producers. Methane, which actively contributes to global warming, is particularly linked to the oil and gas industry, as well as to agriculture. The U.S. president has made mitigation a priority but has ducked the subject of financial reparations for disasters caused by global warming.
To conclude, we can say that the world is facing an extraordinary challenge: the entire economic system must be rethought to respond to the climate emergency.