Takeaways: Bold proposals and critiques of “net zero” at COP27

By PETER PRENGAMAN
Associated press

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — Bold proposals to address climate change have been floated and ignored or rejected. The often false “net zero” claims of companies and countries have been exposed. And the plight of a striking water and hunger activist has continued to draw attention, even as the Egyptian government has shown no signs of backing down.

These are some of the main storylines Tuesday at the UN climate summit being held in the Red Sea city of Sharm el-Sheikh. Known as COP27, the gathering of world leaders comes at a time of contrasts, competing needs and competition for attention.

Extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change, are becoming more frequent and destructive. At the same time, the war in Ukraine has upended the green energy policies of many countries. And add in any competing news events, such as the US midterm elections. All of these realities were palpable in the arguments advanced by the leaders.

FOSSIL FUEL TREATY

While the science of climate change is well established and leaders have been debating how to deal with it for decades – this is the 27th summit, after all – greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. At the same time, many people, from climatologists to the Secretary General of the United Nations, have repeatedly said that the world should not undertake new projects to produce fossil fuels. Instead, the world must move towards cleaner forms of energy, such as wind, solar and nuclear, on a larger scale.

In this context, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Kausea Natano, had a proposal: a non-proliferation treaty to stop future production of fossil fuels.

“We all know that the main cause of the climate crisis is fossil fuels,” Natano said, adding, “It’s too hot and there’s very (little) time left to slow down and reverse the temperature rise.”

Nations like Tuvalu, a Pacific island nation affected by climate change, have moral authority in climate talks. But the chances of getting such a proposal to gain ground are slim. Indeed, the idea did not generate much engagement.

TAX ON CARBON PROFITS

A bold proposal that has sparked vigorous interaction centered on the idea of ​​taxing global corporations that are making big profits amid rising energy prices since Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year.

“Debauched producers of fossil fuels have enjoyed exorbitant profits at the expense of human civilization,” said Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda.

Browne then quoted a bit from William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” to underscore his frustration with the lack of action by developed countries who are most responsible for the emissions that are warming the planet.

“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow slip into this little day-by-day rhythm to the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools on the dusty way to death,” Browne said.

Other leaders made it clear that they weren’t interested in talking about taxes.

“I think now is not the place to develop tax rules, but rather to jointly develop protective measures against the consequences of climate change,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters.

GREENWASHING CALLED

Businesses and local governments have made bold promises to reduce emissions and reach “net zero” by a certain date.

There are potential problems with these claims, however, starting with the reality that zeroing emissions doesn’t necessarily mean a certain company’s pollution is going down. After all, a company can pollute and then buy carbon credits to offset and bring its emissions net to zero.

This dynamic is one of many reasons a UN group released a report on Tuesday with recommendations so that net zero pledges don’t end up “undermined by misrepresentation, ambiguity and greenwash.”

Among several recommendations: Companies cannot claim to be net zero if they continue to invest in or build new fossil fuel supplies, are responsible for deforestation or other environmentally destructive projects, or purchase offset credits. cheap carbon.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who never minces his words, certainly did not when he spoke of the need for reform.

“It is reprehensible to use false promises of ‘net zero’ to cover up the massive expansion of fossil fuels. It’s a trick,” said António Guterres. “This toxic cover-up could push our world over the climate cliff. The fraud must stop.

EGYPTIAN ACTIVIST

The sister of imprisoned pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah warned reporters on Tuesday that she fears the Egyptian government may force-feed her brother to avoid the embarrassment of his death as the spotlight shone on the country.

Abdel-Fattah, jailed for much of the past decade, added a water strike to his ongoing hunger strike to coincide with the start of the summit.

“Feeding is torture. Nothing should happen against his will as long as he is able to say it,” his sister Sanaa Seif told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the conference.

Seif, who was also imprisoned in Egypt for her activism in the past and now lives in Britain, came to Sharm el-Sheikh to raise her brother’s case, speaking to international media and others militants. Amnesty International has warned he could die within days if he is not released.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz raised the activist’s case during talks with the Egyptian leader, their offices said.

However, the government does not seem ready to budge.

Speaking to US news channel CNBC on Monday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry said Abdel-Fattah would receive “health care available to all detainees”. He said the hunger and water strike was “a matter of personal choice” and suggested it might not be real.

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