COP27 Cables: Reality Bites and the Gobbledygook of Nonbinding Goals

After three decades of existential this and that, the climate-change campaigners may have finally found a bridge too far.

Photo Credit: Getty

As was the case for the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, I’m filing cables on the annual United Nations–led climate-change confab. This year, COP27, or the 27th Conference of Parties, is hosted by Egypt, in Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea.


Oh, how things have changed since only one year ago. Reality has begun to bite. A European war that involves a major energy producer against an agricultural powerhouse, a global economy teetering on recession, and ballooning debts have all made wealthier nations think twice about the promises they have been making about climate change. Everyone but President Joe Biden seems to think twice about the domestic implications of promises that take the form of gobbledygook and nonbinding global goals. Meanwhile, developing nations are tired of unfulfilled promises and want to see cash on the barrelhead instead of promises for funds in the future.

Once again, the United Nations has gathered tens of thousands of people for a meeting to demonstrate fidelity to the goal of limiting global warming. Fealty to climate alarmism is the coin of the realm, but there is plenty of talk, too. Not all the hot air is coming off the Egyptian desert as delegates, observers, and diplomats expostulate, remonstrate, and mingle.

COP27, formally the 27th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), began on November 6 in Sharm el-Sheikh and is scheduled to conclude on November 18. Last year the COP26 meetings concluded with publication of the “Glasgow Climate Pact,” in which nations committed to phasing down the use of coal and recommitted to provide at least $100 billion to developing nations each year for “sustainable development.”

Big themes at COP27 include reparations, loss and damage, the totemic goal of limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, and the future of all fossil fuels (not just coal). These themes will be explored throughout the week.

Monday’s Headline

The first week of the conference is delivering big headlines for world leaders. For his part, President Biden pledged a quarter-billion dollars for climate resilience and adaptation, the bulk of which will go to African nations. He also announced new domestic regulation of methane, which will significantly limit oil production, especially shale oil, and raise the price of gasoline. Biden memorably told attendees that the United States is “racing forward to do our part to avert the ‘climate hell’” described by U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres in his opening address.

On Monday, the conversation shifted from direct grants to insurance. Led by Germany, the G-7 nations were joined by what are called the V-20 nations — a group most vulnerable to climate-change risks — announcing a new insurance fund called the Shield. This Shield fund would provide relief after major disasters and extreme weather events.

As reported by the Globe and Mail, the new program

brings together and expands initiatives — from subsidized insurance coverage to stronger social protection schemes and pre-approved disaster financing — aimed at ensuring international help arrives swiftly to support disaster-hit poorer countries’ own contingency plans.

But an insurance policy requires the insured to pay premiums for the term of the coverage. Many likely beneficiaries of the program grumbled, if not balked, at the notion of paying now for hurricane relief they may or may not receive in the future. As for why this didn’t go down well, your trusty correspondent believes it is not just the data suggesting that hurricanes have been neither more frequent nor stronger in the past 100 years, but the very notion of paying for anything.

What You Won’t Read in Tuesday’s Papers

Protests have been as much a part of previous COP meetings as celebrity sightings, heads of state, and the communiqués that formalize the proceedings. Here in Egypt, protests exist but are muted; though not illegal, they are rare. The COP requires protesters to register to enter the “protest zone,” which is separated from the main proceedings and difficult to reach on foot.

Last week, four Americans stood up from where they were seated and shouted briefly during Biden’s speech. They were detained by U.N. security and have been denied reentry to the meetings.

A few days ago, a sanctioned march featuring hundreds of protesters moved among the temporary structures housing the meetings, unlike in years past when thousands of protesters jammed the host cities’ streets or central plazas. The Egyptians would not allow public roads to be used for protest.

Popular Swedish climate-change-protest ingénue Greta Thunberg decided not to attend COP27. She’s promoting a new book.

The idea behind “Loss and Damage” has been a part of COP discussions since before there was even a COP. Tiny Vanuatu raised the issue in 1991 before the governing treaty for the U.N. meetings, the UNFCCC, was adopted in 1992.

Formally, Loss and Damage was incorporated into the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2015. It was then, explicitly, as it was in 1991, a framework under which wealthy industrialized nations could send money to poorer nations to create infrastructure that is more resilient to climate-change effects. Through the years, various funds and pledges have been created or made. Now the ground is shifting. Led by Pakistan, a group of the poorest nations are calling for the nations that have emitted the most carbon during the past century to pay reparations to those that have barely contributed anything to our current atmospheric situation.

Vulnerable and ill-prepared countries want wealthy countries to pay for climate damages or losses, as well as to make efforts to adapt their economies to a zero-carbon future. The Americans and other Westerners have agreed to talk about it, and so it is on the agenda for COP27. But none of them are willing to accept blame or liability in a legal sense. U.S. special envoy John Kerry says that anything from the COP that is “legally, statutorily required with some sort of legal process” is off the table.

Read the full article at National Review.