Opinion| The COP27, geopolitical challenges, and the demands of developing countries

Marwa El- Shinawy
6 Min Read

In just a few days, the UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP27) will kick off in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

The conference is part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change — an international treaty signed by most countries in the world to limit the impact of human activity on the climate.

Evidently, this is the 27th edition of the conference since the agreement came into force on 21 March 1994.

Nevertheless, there are two focal points in this particular edition that the global community is following with great attention.

The first point is that this particular edition of the conference will be a real test of the credibility of Western countries and their commitment to fulfilling their pledges to developing countries to confront the dangers of climate change. This is especially so since Western countries had the greatest impact in creating this climate crisis.

The second point is the geopolitical context of the conference, which constitutes a real challenge for this year’s version of the conference.

Concerning the pledges of developed countries to their developing counterparts, studies have shown that most of the greenhouse gas emissions came from major Western countries since the Industrial Revolution.

However, the greatest damage from climate change fell on developing countries due to their geographical nature and their financial and technological inability to face such a crisis.

Accordingly, developed countries have a historical responsibility towards less developed countries.

Although major countries do not deny this fact, they always evade fulfilling their promises when it comes to financing developing countries and the projects they need to establish a green economy and rely on clean energy.

Indeed, the reason for the great anger among developing countries at the COP26 was the failure of major countries to provide regular funding to help them in their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to current climate changes through projects based on clean energy.

This anger is especially justified given the reports confirming that limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C cannot be achieved without relying on clean energy projects.

Recently, Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Amor said: “Central banks in the richest countries participated in $25 trillion of quantitative easing in 13 years, if we had used this to buy the bonds that financed the energy transition, we would be in the 1.5°C range today.”

Therefore, the COP27 is expected to be a push to deliver on historical promises, such as the $100bn in annual climate finance that developed countries were supposed to provide every year from 2020 to 2025 that remains to be fulfilled.

Also, about five hundred global financial services companies had promised to allocate $130 trillion dollars in investments to fulfil the goals stipulated in the Paris Agreement, however, developing countries are yet to see a penny from these promises.

Also, one of the pending matters that await a decision at the COP27 is a project to establish a fund to compensate for the losses incurred by developing countries based on the historical responsibility of the developed countries in causing this global damage.

This is because developing countries insisted at the COP26 on setting up a fund to compensate for these damages alongside with the Climate Aid Fund.

Developing countries agreed to a settlement based on their acceptance of reducing carbon emissions following the Glasgow decisions in exchange for a promise from richer countries to study the issue of establishing a compensatory fund and to present it to in the COP27. 

There have already been pledges of £2m and €1m, respectively, from Scotland and Wallonia — a region of Belgium — to address losses and damages. Denmark has also allocated 100m Danish kroner ($13m) to break the taboo on the issue among wealthy nations.

As for the geopolitical context, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting political tensions between several countries may hinder cooperation at the COP27.

Also, the tension between the US and China may constitute an obstacle to their cooperation on climate, especially since one of the important outcomes of the COP26 — the US-China Climate Agreement — has already been undone after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan.

Most importantly, the far-reaching effects of the Russian-Ukrainian War, which has led to food and energy insecurity and skyrocketing prices, pushed climate change down domestic political agendas around the world, and reignited demand for new fossil fuel projects to reduce dependence on Russian gas. 

Undoubtedly, all countries of the world are facing unprecedented challenges, but the issue of climate has become a life-threatening issue for this planet, necessitating the suspension of political conflicts in these difficult times.

More importantly, rich countries should not take the geopolitical climate as an excuse to shirk their responsibilities towards developing countries.

* Marwa Al-Shinawy is an Assistant Professor at the International American University for Specialised Studies (IAUS).

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