Month before COP27, host Egypt faces heat over rights and climate protection

A month before Egypt hosts the UN climate conference, Cairo finalizes the list of world leaders arriving as it weathers criticism of its human rights and environmental records.

Cairo expressed disappointment that King Charles III, a longtime advocate for the environment, had canceled a plan to attend and speak at COP27 after British Prime Minister Liss Truss reportedly objected.

“We hope this is not a sign that Britain is retreating from the global movement on climate change,” after chairing the COP in Glasgow last year, a COP spokesman was quoted as saying by the Guardian.

Egypt will host the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh starting November 6.

Critics have questioned the choice of venue, citing Egypt’s mixed record on the environment and civil rights, with thousands of dissidents in prison including Egyptian-British activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, who has been on hunger strike for months.

Human Rights Watch warned that Egypt “might seek to use its role as COP27 presidency to promote an image of openness and tolerance, even as political repression under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government is one of the country’s worst human rights crises.” country has caused for decades”. .

Protests of the kind that have tried to spur action at previous climate summits are expected to be muted, and civil society groups have been relegated to a building away from the main venue.

“We have already been told that only registered protests are allowed,” said Patience Nabukalu of the Uganda branch of activist group Fridays For Future.

High hotel room rates in the resort town will keep many activists away, particularly from Africa, she said, adding: “Where are the casualties at this COP?”

– ‘Far too little, far too late’ –

The conference will once again seek to increase global efforts to curb the climate crisis that is exacerbating natural disasters, from wildfires to severe storms like Hurricane Ian, which just hit Florida.

Egypt itself faces major threats, from rising temperatures in its vast desert expanses to rising seas flooding its Nile Delta breadbasket.

But the summit comes as global attention focuses on other turmoil, from Russia’s war in Ukraine sending food and energy prices skyrocketing to crises from Iran to Taiwan to North Korea.

UN chief Antonio Guterres accused the Group of 20 nations in his recent warning that their collective commitments on climate change are “far too little and far too late”.

Last year’s COP26 ended with a pledge to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – a target the world is expected to miss given current emissions trends.

Egypt has said it will address the plight of poorer countries in Africa and beyond, who are least to blame for climate change but are suffering its worst effects.

Poor countries are now demanding funding to compensate them for the “losses and damages” of climate change, an issue expected to be hotly debated.

The debate is taking place in a climate of suspicion as rich countries have yet to meet their commitment to give poorer countries $100 billion a year for emissions reductions and adaptation.

– Disappearing green spaces –

Questions have also been raised about Egypt’s own climate and other environmental policies.

Egypt’s Environment Minister Yasmina Fouad told AFP that caring for the environment was until recently considered a “luxury” in the country of 104 million, the most populous in the Arab world.

Their goal is now to produce 42 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2035, including through the construction of large solar systems.

But Egypt is also Africa’s second largest gas producer and is actively increasing oil and gas production and exports, particularly LNG.

The Climate Action Tracker group rates Egypt’s overall climate policy as “highly inadequate”.

Egyptians also criticize the destruction of green spaces, especially in the sprawling metropolis of Cairo.

In recent months, Happyland Parks in the Nile Delta and much of Merryland in Cairo have disappeared, while the International Garden in Nasr City has been converted into a car park.

Greenpeace, meanwhile, has slammed Egypt’s “appalling” choice of Coca-Cola as official sponsor of COP27, blaming the soft drink giant for much of the “world’s plastic pollution”.