The 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) opened on Sunday in Egypt’s coastal city of Sharm El-Sheikh in hopes to turn global climate finance pledges into action.
The UN Climate Change Conference should shift the world towards implementation of previously agreed plans to tackle humanity’s greatest challenge, Simon Stiell, the new Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Convention (UNFCCC), said on Sunday at the opening of COP27.
Developing countries face irreversible damage from climate change but have done little to cause the crisis. And they are demanding compensation from the parties they see as responsible: wealthier nations that have emitted half of all heat-trapping gases since 1850 and created pollution that is dangerously heating the planet.
“Today a new era begins – and we begin to do things differently. Paris gave us the agreement. Katowice and Glasgow gave us the plan. Sharm el-Sheik shifts us to implementation. No one can be a mere passenger on this journey. This is the signal that times have changed,” Mr. Stiell told delegates gathered in the main plenary room of the Tonino Lamborghini International Convention Centre.
The UN climate chief said leaders –be they Presidents, Prime Ministers or CEOs – would be held to account for promises they made last year in Glasgow.
“Because our policies, our businesses, our infrastructure, our actions, be they personal or public, must be aligned with the Paris Agreement and with the [UN Climate] Convention”, he underscored.
The UNFCCC convention entered into force on 21 March 1994 to prevent “dangerous” human interference with the climate system. Today, ratified by 198 countries, it has near-universal membership. The Paris Agreement, agreed in 2016, works as an extension of that convention.
During his speech at the opening ceremony, Egyptian Foreign Minister and COP27 President Sameh Shoukry stressed the need to confront the negative effects of climate change during the two-week conference, where more than 120 world leaders will seek possible solutions to climate change challenges.
“Climate change threatens human life, and the development pattern in the industrial field which is no longer sustainable must be changed because this will lead to dire consequences,” Shoukry warned.
“We have witnessed during this year painful events in Pakistan, the African continent and various parts of Europe and America. All these events and the destruction and impact represent a lesson to be learned and alarm all over the planet … to more precaution, and to act quickly to take all necessary measures as per our commitments and pledges,” he said.
The COP27 president also underscored the importance of the participation of non-state actors, including the private sector, banks, international finance institutions, civil society, youth associations and indigenous associations, for the sake of an efficient implementation of pledges and commitments.
“Climate change-related efforts over the past decades were remarkably polarized, which has slowed down the progress of the negotiations,” Shoukry said, adding the pledge to mobilize 100 billion U.S. dollars per year has not yet been honoured.
Meanwhile, Alok Sharma, president of COP26 hosted in Glasgow, Scotland, urged unity to keep the 1.5-degree-Celsius goal within reach, highlighting the important role finance will play in this conference.
“We know that we have reached a point where finance makes or breaks the progress of the program ahead of us,” he noted.
“This summit must be about concrete actions and I hope when the world leaders join us today, they will explain what their countries achieved during the last year and how they will go further,” the British politician said.