What’s on the climate agenda as COP27 enters its final week

For 27 years, the United Nations has held annual gatherings of world leaders to discuss how to combat climate change. Yet progress towards the goal of stopping global warming has been elusive, and this year’s summit is happening against the backdrop of host country Egypt's record of human rights abuses. Sarah Kaplan, climate reporter for the Washington Post, joins Ali Rogin to discuss.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    For almost three decades now, the United Nations has held annual gatherings to discuss how to combat climate change. The major goal of stopping global temperature rise has remained elusive. And this year, there are other critical items on the agenda. This is all happening against the backdrop of host country Egypt's record of human rights abuses. Ali Rogin has more.

  • Ali Rogin:

    The 27th UN Climate Summit COP27 is entering its final week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, at the top of the agenda, figuring out who pays for the effects of climate change. Developing nations want major industrialized countries to foot the bill as they bear the brunt of manmade climate change. This year's conference is also being held in the shadow of the host country's controversial human rights record.

    Egypt has restricted protests during the conference, and human rights groups have criticized President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for his continued imprisonment of activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah. Abd El-Fattah was a leader of the country's 2011 revolution. And he has been on a month long hunger strike.

    Joining us now from Egypt is Sarah Kaplan, climate reporter for The Washington Post. I want to pick up on that last point about human rights. What is the status right now of Allah Abdel Fattah, who's in prison? And what can you tell us about the wider presence of protesters at this summit?

  • Sarah Kaplan, Climate Reporter, The Washington Post:

    Yes, so he had been on a hunger strike. And at the start of the cop conference, he actually stopped drinking water. He believed that COP27 in the eyes of the world was on Egypt, what's his best shot at getting released, and he has said that he wants freedom either through getting out of jail or through death.

    On Thursday, the Egyptian government medically intervened with his strike. So as forcibly providing influence, and it's definitely you know, cast a pall over the whole climate conference. Egypt has such tight restrictions on public demonstrations and public gatherings. There can be small protests inside the official conference venue. But there's none of the mass gatherings and mass demonstrations outside that we're used to seeing at a cop conference.

  • Ali Rogin:

    What were the expectations going into this year's cop? And how would those expectations borne out during the first week of it?

  • Sarah Kaplan:

    At last year's cop in Glasgow, nations agreed to take another crack at their climate pledges and try to increase their ambition. And coming into this year's conference, most countries have not done that. But then there was a sort of interesting development right at the very beginning of this cop when a coalition of developing nations successfully pushed to have a new item added to the agenda on what's known as loss of damage. So that's the irreversible harms of climate change that are disproportionately affecting developing nations, and they want to fund, a dedicated fund that will be you know, money from industrialized countries, wealthy countries that are responsible for the bulk of historical emissions.

    And it would help pay for see, you know, some of the cost of natural disasters and sea level rise and prolonged droughts that lead to famine and these other escalating crises that we're seeing.

    Addition of loss and damage to the agenda was historic has always been that resistance from wealthy countries and the U.S. in particular, because there's this fear that loss and damage could lead to, you know, high emitters being held legally liable for the trillions of dollars of damage that climate change is expected to cause. And I think, in part because climate disasters have just been so catastrophic this year, it's kind of pushed the issue to the point where wealthy countries like just can't ignore it.

  • Ali Rogin:

    President Biden just recently said he's announcing millions of dollars in initiatives related to loss and damages. And earlier this week, the U.S. climate envoy John Kerry announced a program in which private companies and foundations are going to support developing nations through carbon offsets. How have those efforts been received?

  • Sarah Kaplan:

    I think the voluntary carbon market that Secretary Kerry announced earlier this week in particular, has raised some eyebrows.

    I spoke with Munir Akram who's the lead Pakistani negotiator and one thing he pointed out is that this whole market is about providing carbon offsets to companies to help developing nations switch from coal fired power plants to renewable energy. And Akram pointed out that a lot of these hard hit developing nations don't have a huge power sector to begin with. So they're not going to be able to access that program because they don't have coal fired power plants to switch over.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Sarah Kaplan, climate reporter for The Washington Post joining us from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt at COP 27. Thank you so much for your time.

  • Sarah Kaplan:

    Thanks.

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