COP27 will make the world wonder what it means to fight climate change fairly

For only the second time since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as the “Cop”, will return to the Global South. The start of Cop27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, next month will also mark the return of the conference to the Mena region, one of the regions on the planet most vulnerable to a relentless rise in global temperatures. The momentum created there will be capitalized on when Cop28 is held in the United Arab Emirates the following year.

It is often the vulnerable and poorest countries that have done the least damage to the global climate, but will nevertheless suffer the greatest consequences. The Egyptian government has promised to prioritize discussions on justice and equity in the global response to climate change at COP27.

While previous climate summits have focused more intensely on mitigation (i.e. reducing emissions) and adaptation (making the world more resilient to future impacts), Egypt includes “loss and damage” on the agenda of this year’s conference. For many countries in the developing world, this is a euphemism for some form of compensation for the costs they have borne during decades of heavily polluting industrialization among their wealthier counterparts. The catastrophic floods in Pakistan this year are just one example of what ‘loss and damage’ looks like. But for developed countries, many of which are squeezed by a web of economic tensions stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, such a discussion cannot be held easily.

The Egyptian government has promised to prioritize discussions on justice and fairness at COP27

“We need to find a workable solution that addresses the various concerns and it is up to us as the incoming Cop presidency to navigate and fine-tune this process,” Cop27 special representative Wael Aboulmagd said last month. in Egypt.

There are more creative ways to share the burden that might help move the conversation forward. Debt swaps, a mechanism by which financial creditor countries could cancel loans to indebted countries in exchange for the latter’s commitment to invest in climate projects, is one of them. When it comes to reducing emissions, these financially indebted countries can often be called ‘creditors’. The “swap” method has already been tested in nearly 40 countries over the past decades, although the sums of debt canceled or exchanged have been small – rarely reaching more than 30 million dollars. COP27, however, could give new impetus to such agreements, if negotiations over other forms of compensation become strained.

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Another path is to boost foreign direct investment in renewable energy and other climate-related projects. Countries with advanced economies already have a wealth of experience in investing in such projects – with safe and stable societies and a highly skilled labor force, they have become market leaders in the development of wind projects, solar and nuclear. Some have entered the fray through their capital-rich sovereign wealth funds. Five years ago, Masdar, the clean energy subsidiary of Mubadala, one of the UAE’s sovereign wealth funds, backed the world’s first commercial floating wind farm in Scotland. On Thursday, the One Planet Sovereign Wealth Funds Network – a group of 45 of the world’s largest institutional investors, controlling more than $37 trillion in assets – met in Abu Dhabi to discuss ways to mobilize its considerable resources towards a more sustainable future. One of the main topics of discussion was renewable investing in emerging and developing markets.

The developing world, and the Middle East in particular, needs the world to find a better balance in its climate response. But the region is not meant to be a passive recipient – ​​it has the potential to lead the conversation, as Cop27 is sure to show. At ‘Countdown to Cop27’, another event held in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates addressed the audience, highlighting the chronic underinvestment that plagues research and development on climate issues . “The Middle East,” he said, “can be part of the solution.”

Published: 07 October 2022, 03:00

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