This special COP27 briefing originally appeared on Nov. 16 in our flagship daily newsletter, Grid Today. Sign up for it here to get the context and consequences of the news in your inbox each day.
Here are just a few things that Wael Aboulmagd, an Egyptian ambassador and the special representative of the COP27 president, said during a press conference today as he provided an update on the negotiations:
- “We heard very, very conflicting views on a number of issues.”
- “I think we have a larger than normal number of lingering issues.”
- “We would have hoped, under the current circumstances, [for] more willingness to collaborate and cooperate than in the reports we’ve received from the various negotiating teams.”
- “Some delegations are holding back work in a number of rooms.”
In other words, things are going great – with just two more days left on the official schedule. In one bright spot from the negotiations, the U.S. will support India’s proposal to include a phase down of all fossil fuels, rather than just the “unabated coal” of last year’s agreement. There will still be plenty of opposition to this idea, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The only draft text of an agreement available so far is more of a wish list, a bullet-pointed document that does not mention fossil fuels anywhere — an eyebrow-raising development at a COP already somewhat overshadowed by an oil and gas presence. Aboulmagd said that negotiators were up most of the night, and that he hopes a more “mature” draft text will be available by late Wednesday evening, with the hope that Thursday and Friday would then be enough time to address issues and finalize an agreement.
“It’s not faster or slower, it’s a very broad process,” he said when asked about the pace relative to previous COPs. “All in all, I think it is typical, this pace that we’re seeing.” Typical, though, will likely mean negotiations bleed into the weekend — according to CarbonBrief, only six of the 26 previous COPs have finished on the scheduled closing day, and none have done so since Nairobi in 2006. Eight of the last 10 COPs have gone more than 24 hours past deadline. All that is why I have some buffer before my flight home.
Outside the back rooms, the noise around the 1.5 degree Celsius target (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) has only grown louder. Though the U.S. and the European Union, among other countries, support keeping that target in the official agreement, some big players — China — reportedly are still holding out. And the few protests going on inside the grounds have taken notice.
The loss and damage — or climate reparations, on the official COP agenda for the first time — discussions also seem to be at an impasse, but Aboulmagd seemed if not optimistic, then at least very engaged on the topic. “I can assure you we are paying utmost attention as presidency,” he said. “We would like to be proud of having delivered, not just the [agenda] item but meaningful progress.”
Lula arrives for biodiversity day
Fresh off his election victory over incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh on “Biodiversity Day” to signal that Brazil is back when it comes to climate change. His predecessor had been largely hostile to the issue and promoted policies leading to increased Amazon deforestation, and Lula is trying to quickly reverse course.
The early signature move from Lula was the announcement of an alliance with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia on rainforest conservation. The trio of countries accounts for 52 percent of all tropical rainforest remaining on the planet, a vast collection of biodiversity and carbon storage that very clearly needs saving. While the new agreement is a little short on details, Amazon deforestation was accelerating as Bolsonaro’s term came to a close, so any progress on that front is good news.
And since biodiversity was the theme of the day here, I wandered over to the World Wildlife Fund’s pavilion and asked what might be considered a “successful” COP27 from that perspective.
“An ideal outcome would see nature-based solutions formally recognized as an outcome of COP27 and concrete action and finance announced for biodiversity conservation,” said Gavin Edwards, director of the WWF Global Nature Positive Initiative. “If we are on a highway to climate hell, as [U.N. Secretary-General] António Guterres powerfully said last week, action on nature can help get us on the road to a climate-safe world, provided it is in addition to the rapid decarbonization needed.”