COP27 kicks off in Egypt's Sharm El-Sheikh with money set to be key focus

COP27 kicks off in Egypt's Sharm El-Sheikh with money set to be key focus
Just in the past few months, climate-induced catastrophes have killed thousands, displaced millions and cost billions in damages across the world.
12 min read
06 November, 2022

The UN's COP27 climate summit kicked off today in Egypt's Sharm El-Sheikh after a year of extreme weather disasters that have fuelled calls for wealthy industrialised nations to compensate poorer countries.

Just in the past few months, climate-induced catastrophes have killed thousands, displaced millions and cost billions in damages across the world.

Massive floods devastated swaths of Pakistan and Nigeria, droughts worsened in Africa and the western United States, cyclones whipped the Caribbean, and unprecedented heatwaves seared three continents.

The COP27 summit will focus like never before on money – a major sticking point that has soured relations between countries that got rich burning fossil fuels and the poorer ones suffering from the worst consequences of climate change.

A view of the venue hosting COP27 in Egypt
The UN's COP27 climate summit kicked off Sunday in Egypt's Sharm El-Sheikh [Mohamed Abdel Hamid/Anadolu Agency/Getty]

Developing nations have "high expectations" for the creation of a dedicated funding facility to cover "loss and damage", UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said on Friday.

"The most vulnerable countries are tired, they are frustrated," Stiell said. "The time to have an open and honest discussion on loss and damage is now."

The United States and the European Union – fearful of creating an open-ended reparations framework – have dragged their feet and challenged the need for a separate funding stream.

UN chief António Guterres has called for a "historic pact" to bridge the North-South divide.

"Our planet is on course for reaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible and forever bake in catastrophic temperature rise," Guterres said recently.

"We need to move from tipping points to turning points for hope."

6:47 PM
The New Arab Staff

This concludes The New Arab's live coverage of COP27 for today. Follow The New Arab on TwitterFacebook and Instagram for the latest news and developments on the UN climate conference and Alaa Abdel-Fattah.

6:33 PM
The New Arab Staff

Alaa Abdel-Fattah: Background

Here are some stories from The New Arab that will give readers background on British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah.

Abdel-Fattah is currently jailed in Egypt and is on a total hunger and water strike.

COP27 and the Middle East

Here are two additional articles which look at COP27 and the Middle East.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah in 2014 [Mohamed Hossam/Anadolu Agency/Getty-archive]
5:52 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Germany urges Egypt to release Alaa Abdel-Fattah

Germany accuses Egypt of not living up to its human rights obligations, urging the COP27 host to release Alaa Abdel-Fattah as well as his lawyer Mohamed Al-Baqer.

Rights groups estimate that some 60,000 political prisoners are behind bars in Egypt, many of them in brutal conditions and overcrowded cells, accusations Cairo rejects.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says authorities have "arrested dozens of people calling for protests" ahead of the UN summit.

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Indian climate activist Ajit Rajagopal was briefly detained on Monday while marching from Cairo to the summit's site in Sharm El-Sheikh.

HRW also says that COP27 attendees may be subjected to "massive surveillance".

Egypt's official app for the summit "requires access to the phone's camera, microphone [and]  location", the watchdog says, citing local rights groups.

"All information gathered by the application can be shared with third parties," it added.

5:02 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Macron, Sunak to meet on Monday on sidelines of COP27

French President Emmanuel Macron and Rishi Sunak will meet Monday on the sidelines of COP27 for the first time since the British premier took office, Macron's office says.

Macron and Sunak spoke over the phone late last month, with Downing Street saying that they had agreed on greater cooperation to prevent migrant crossings across the Channel.

The British prime minister stressed the "importance for both nations to make the Channel route completely unviable for people traffickers", according to Downing Street.

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In an article published for British newspaper The Mail on Sunday published yesterday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she had been working with her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin "to build greater cooperation, and make better use of UK surveillance technology".

This year, a record 37,570 people have crossed the Channel to England in small boats.

4:55 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Last eight years on track to be hottest on record, UN says

Each of the last eight years, if projections for 2022 hold, will be hotter than any prior to 2015, the UN says, detailing a dramatic increase in the rate of global warming.

Sea level rise, glacier melt, torrential rains, heat waves – and the deadly disasters they cause – have all accelerated, the World Meteorological Organization says in a report today.

"As COP27 gets underway, our planet is sending a distress signal," says UN chief António Guterres, describing the report as "a chronicle of climate chaos".

Environment and Climate
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3:55 PM
The New Arab Staff

Alaa Abdel-Fattah's cousin: 'It's absolutely terrifying that it's going down to the wire like this'

Alaa Abdel-Fattah's cousin Omar Hamilton speaks about the jailed British-Egyptian activist's decision to start a water strike from today.

"It's absolutely terrifying that it's going down to the wire like this – that he's been forced to take this step," Hamilton tells The New Arab.

"But Alaa is leading a wave of global outrage and attention on Egypt, and he's still doing it from his prison cell."

3:50 PM
The New Arab Staff

Mona Seif on recent call from UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly

Imprisoned British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah's family received a call from UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly this week.

Watch what his sister Mona Seif had to say when she spoke to The New Arab on Thursday.

3:04 PM
The New Arab Staff

Sanaa Seif asks whether Rishi Sunak 'will confirm' brother Alaa Abdel-Fattah 'still alive each day'

Jailed British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah's sister Sanaa Seif is travelling to COP27 as her brother starts a water strike, she tweets on Sunday.

"He may only last a few days," she adds, saying her family "needs proof of life by noon every day".

Seif says she's "relieved" UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is "working to #FreeAlaa" from imprisonment in Egypt but asks whether, until then, he will "confirm that Alaa is still alive each day".

In response to a request for comment from The New Arab, a spokesperson for the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office says: "We are deeply concerned about the continued detention of Alaa Abd el-Fattah, a British citizen and human rights defender.

"The Government is working hard to secure his release and continues to raise his case at the highest levels of the Egyptian Government.

"We recognise how difficult this is for both Alaa and his family. The Foreign Secretary [James Cleverly] has spoken to the family this week to assure them we are doing everything we can, and the Prime Minister intends to push for progress when he visits Egypt for COP27."

2:53 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

COP27 puts climate compensation on agenda for first time

Delegates at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt agreed after late-night talks to put the delicate issue of whether rich nations should compensate poor countries most vulnerable to climate change on the formal agenda for the first time.

For more than a decade, wealthy nations have rejected official discussions on what is referred to as loss and damage, or funds they provide to help poor countries cope with the consequences of global warming.

COP27 President Sameh Shoukry, Egypt's foreign minister, told the plenary that opens this year's two-week United Nations conference attended by more than 190 countries the decision created "an institutionally stable space" for discussion of "the pressing issue of funding arrangements".

At COP26 last year in Glasgow, high-income nations blocked a proposal for a loss and damage financing body, instead supporting a three-year dialogue for funding discussions.

The loss and damage discussions now on the COP27 agenda will not guarantee compensation or necessarily acknowledge liability, but are intended to lead to a conclusive decision "no later than 2024", Shoukry said.

The issue could generate even more tension than at previous conferences this year as the Ukraine war, a surge in energy prices and the risk of economic recession have at once added to governments' reluctance to promise funds and poor nations' need for them.


COP27 President Sameh Shoukry is Egypt's foreign minister [JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty]
2:41 PM
The New Arab Staff

A photo from the first plenary session today at COP27 in Egypt's Sharm El-Sheikh.

A photo from the first plenary session today at COP27 in Egypt [Sean Gallup/Getty]
1:34 PM
The New Arab Staff

Alaa Abdel-Fattah's situation now 'gravely urgent', says David Lammy

Jailed British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah's situation is now "gravely urgent", the UK Labour Party's shadow foreign secretary says.

David Lammy, also the member of parliament for Abdel-Fattah's sister Mona Seif, tweets: "For months, Labour have pressed the government to do more to secure his release.

"[Prime Minister] Rishi Sunak must use his visit to #COP27 in Egypt to bring Alaa home."

In a letter addressed to Abdel-Fattah's sister Sanaa Seif on Saturday, Sunak said: "We are totally committed to resolving your brother's case; he remains a priority for the British government, both as a human rights defender as a British national."

Sunak added: "The UK's attendance at COP27 is another opportunity to raise your brother's case with the Egyptian leadership.

"I will ensure [Middle East and North Africa Minister] Lord Ahmad updates you on our engagement there following COP27."

Sanaa Seif told British broadcaster Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: "It's good that we have a commitment from the prime minister's office, but what worried me is that he said that we will get information after the conference.

"I feel like the prime minister needs to understand the urgency. After the conference it could be too late.

"I know it's not the prime minister's mistake but the Foreign Office, the embassy, they've been working on this for very long and I feel like they've been setting the prime minister to fail in this trip."

12:13 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

UK's Sunak to urge world leaders to go 'further, faster' on climate emergency

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will urge world leaders to move "further and faster" in transitioning away from damaging fossil fuels in a speech Monday to the COP27 climate change summit in Egypt, his office said.

Pledging to make the UK a "clean energy superpower", Sunak will warn that tackling global warming is "fundamental" to future prosperity and security, it said in a statement on Saturday.

Sunak – who had originally not intended to attend the summit – will argue that the "shock" to the oil and gas markets caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine underlines the need to move to cheaper, cleaner and safer sources of energy.

The UK's new prime minister had argued that "pressing domestic commitments" would keep him away from COP27 after inheriting an economic crisis from predecessor Liz Truss.

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Sunak had originally not intended to attend COP27 [JONATHAN BRADY/POOL/AFP/Getty-archive]
11:02 AM
The New Arab Staff

Alaa Abdel-Fattah begins water strike as COP27 opens

Imprisoned British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah has begun a water strike as the COP27 climate summit opens in Egypt's Sharm El-Sheikh today, refusing all forms of sustenance while he remains imprisoned.

"When the lights come on on Sunday November 6, I shall drink my last glass of water. What will follow is unknown," said Abdel-Fattah, who is imprisoned in Egypt, in a letter to his family on Monday.

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After a seven-month hunger strike during which he consumed only "100 calories a day", he has also refused food altogether since Tuesday, his sister Sanaa Seif said in a statement reported on by AFP.

(The above tweet is from Sanaa Seif.)

On Thursday, Abdel-Fattah's sister Mona Seif told The New Arab: "You could see that he is going to these extreme measures, not for a death wish but rather because he wants to be with us. He wants to be with Khaled, his son.

"And he feels showered and surrounded with love and warmth, and so he feels like he is now ready to take on his battle to the next level."

Agencies contributed to this live blog entry.

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10:16 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

COP27 kicks off in Egypt after year of extreme weather disasters

The UN's COP27 climate summit has kicked off in Egypt after a year of extreme weather disasters that have fuelled calls for wealthy industrialised nations to compensate poorer countries.

The conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh also comes in a fraught year marked by Russia's war on Ukraine, an energy crunch, soaring inflation and the lingering effects from the Covid pandemic.

"Whilst I do understand that leaders around the world have faced competing priorities this year, we must be clear: as challenging as our current moment is, inaction is myopic and can only defer climate catastrophe," said Alok Sharma, British president of the previous COP26 as he handed over the chairmanship to Egypt.

"How many more wake-up calls does the world – and world leaders – actually need," he said at the opening ceremony.

The world must slash greenhouse emissions 45 percent by 2030 to cap global warming at 1.5C above late-19th-century levels.

But current trends would see carbon pollution increase 10 percent by the end of the decade and Earth's surface heat up 2.8C, according to findings unveiled last week.

Promises made under the 2015 Paris Agreement would, if kept, only shave off a few tenths of a degree.

Alok Sharma, the president of the previous COP26 [BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty-archive]
8:48 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Explainer: What is 'Loss and Damage' compensation?

In UN climate talks, the phrase "Loss and Damage" refers to costs already being incurred from climate-fuelled weather extremes or impacts, like rising sea levels.

Climate funding so far has focused on cutting carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to curb climate change, while about a third of it has gone toward projects to help communities adapt to future impacts.

Loss and damage funding would be different, in compensating costs that countries can't avoid or "adapt" to.

But there is no agreement yet over what should count as "loss and damage" in climate disasters – which can include damaged infrastructure and property, as well as harder-to-value natural ecosystems or cultural assets like burial grounds.

A June report by 55 vulnerable countries estimated their combined climate-linked losses over the last two decades totalled about $525 billion, or about 20 percent of their collective GDP.

Some research suggests that by 2030 such losses could reach $580 billion per year.

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8:40 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

COP27 to open in Egypt's Sharm El-Sheikh today

The UN climate summit, COP27, opens in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt today amid growing calls for rich countries to compensate poorer nations most vulnerable to climate change.

Much of the tension surrounding COP27 is expected to relate to loss and damage – compensation funds provided by wealthy nations to vulnerable lower-income countries that bear little responsibility for climate-warming emissions.

Delegates will begin the two-week negotiation process by approving the conference agenda during the opening plenary session, with all eyes on whether wealthier nations agree to have the compensation listed formally on the agenda.

Diplomats from more than 130 countries are expected to push for the creation of a dedicated loss and damage finance facility at COP27.

At COP26 last year in Glasgow, high-income nations blocked a proposal for a loss and damage financing body, instead supporting a new three-year dialogue for funding discussions.

Currently, a session to address loss and damage is on the provisional agenda, but policymakers will decide today whether to adopt it onto the official agenda.

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