What happened on the first day of Cop27
On a jam-packed first day, we heard from António Guterres, the UN secretary general, who dramatically proclaimed that we are on the “highway to climate hell”. We also heard an enthusiastic and bombastic speech from the former prime minister Boris Johnson – and a rather tepid and uninspiring one from the current prime minister, Rishi Sunak. Climate reparations and financing for loss and damage was a main theme of the day, and is likely to be so for the fortnight to come, as those from the countries most affected by climate change ask for the help of carbon-spewing richer nations. Here’s a short summary of what happened.
Johnson made a dramatic entrance, speaking to the New York Times and seeming to make political hay out of the fact Sunak did not originally plan on coming to Cop. He said we were failing on our commitments made at Glasgow, such as reversing deforestation, and that at the current rate we would not meet climate targets.
My colleague Damian Carrington reported on an interesting row over gas. In short, some African countries want to use fossil fuels to power development and bring electricity to the many people who lack it. But many countries oppose this, seeing the “gas bridge” as a false solution, at a time when the climate cannot afford new fossil fuel emissions.
Guterres made typically strong comments. He said: “We are in the fight of our lives. And we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”
Al Gore said we continue the “culture of death” by continuing to dig up fossil fuels, and cited vast floods in Pakistan, heatwaves and “rain bombs” in China, and a million displaced in Nigeria.
There was brief excitement that King Charles might make an appearance. While looking at the online agenda for the opening ceremony, we spotted that King Charles was listed as speaking. Could he be making a surprise video appearance, like that by the late Queen at Cop26 last year? We asked the palace, and they said he was listed in error. A spokesperson said: “I’m afraid that information is incorrect, he will not be making an appearance or statement in any shape or form, virtual or otherwise.”
But he did then appear in a video Sunak showed at an event on forests.
Barbados’s prime minister, Mia Mottley, said that the global south needed more access to technology in order to tackle the climate crisis and have better growth. She said: “What is needed to make [green technology] is already located and extracted in the global south and sent to the north. And then we have to be at the mercy of those who want to export to us.”
The Pakistani envoy, Nabeel Munir, pushed for climate justice. “Loss and damage is not charity, it’s climate justice,” she said.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, agreed, saying that wealthier countries less affected by climate breakdown should pay up, and vowing that the Ukraine war would not stop French progress on climate targets.
Sunak chose to spend his bilateral discussions with Macron and the Italian president, Giorgia Meloni, talking about boats in the channel, and made an impassioned speech to broadcasters about tackling migration.
He then made a speech criticised as “tepid” about the climate emergency, saying acting was the “right thing to do”. Following speeches by presidents of countries that are suffering horrendous damage due to the climate crisis, this statement did indeed sound rather uncontroversial.
The social justice campaign group Global Justice was not impressed by Sunak’s speech.
It said: “Rishi Sunak’s tepid words today have failed to address the scale of the climate emergency. His underwhelming funding pledge falls a long way short of the UK’s fair share of climate finance. The UK needs to start taking the escalating cost of climate disasters in lower-income countries seriously – and introduce a polluter’s tax on the fossil fuel industry to pay for it.
“Rich countries taking responsibility for their role in causing the climate crisis is key to unlocking the global emissions reductions that can solve it. The prime minister must recognise that the UK owes the countries facing the first and worst impacts of climate change a heavy debt. Otherwise, it will be yet more bluster and no action.”
Sunak: acting on climate is the 'right thing to do' and the UK is supporting clean growth
Rishi Sunak took to the main stage at Cop27, to praise the Cop26 president, Alok Sharma, and highlight the commitments made in Glasgow.
He pointed out that the UK was the first economy in the world to commit to reach net zero, and said “there is no solution to climate change without protecting and supporting nature”. He reminded the room that at Glasgow commitments were made to protect more than 90% of the world’s forests.
However, Sunak alluded to the difficult economic conditions which are being used by some as an excuse to delay climate action. He said “the pandemic almost broke the global economy” and that he is fighting for economic stability in the UK.
He said he believed in climate action because “I profoundly believe it is the right thing to do”, showering praise on Mia Mottley, the president of Barbados, and highlighting the devastating floods in Pakistan.
The risk of “the extinction of humankind” is the startling warning on climate change with which Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego, president of Colombia, begins his speech. He goes on to give a bracingly leftwing perspective: “It is time for humanity, not for markets. The markets have produced this crisis, it will never get us out of it.” He specifically calls out oil and gas companies.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is unsurprisingly the main concern of Latvia’s president, Egils Levits. It is another wake-up call that we need to speed up the switch to green energy and get off fossil fuels, he says.
Our video team has pulled together this brilliant, and alarming, video about the climate carnage we have faced this year since the last Cop.
Barbadian prime minister Mia Mottley has said there needs to be a transfer of climate technology to the global south to help countries meet net zero commitments.
Speaking at an event hosted at the Scottish pavilion with Nicola Sturgeon, the economist Mariana Mazzucato and WTO head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mottley said Barbados wanted to partner with Scotland and other countries to harness their “technical expertise” to turn the north Atlantic trade winds into energy. She said other countries in the global south must be empowered to do so.
“We are the most easterly island in the Caribbean. We believe we can produce green hydrogen and there’s no cap on the export of this resource,” she said.
“We need to have an industrial plan that allows for greater production of goods within the global south. We are not going to get access to many of the goods in order to make the transition to next zero.
“I give you the example of Covid: we could not access vaccines. We could not access ventilators. Even when we bought ventilators, the United States of America used rules to prevent their export to us. This is our reality.
“And yet we say that if we have access to technology, if we have access to capital, if we follow a proper industrial plan, we can start making provision for manufacturing electric cars and so we don’t have to depend on exports from North America and Europe. We can start making photovoltaic panels, we can start making batteries. And often what is needed to make this is already located and extracted in the global south and sent to the north. And then we have to be at the mercy of those who want to export to us.”
More from the world leaders – who are discussing the horrendous impacts climate breakdown is already having on food and water supply.
William Ruto, the president of Kenya and chair of the Africa group of nations at Cop27, lays bare the impact of the climate crisis on Africa – a “living nightmare”. The horn of Africa is suffering the worst drought in 40 years, he says, inflicting misery on millions and the deaths of 1.5 million livestock animals. Due to drought many children have dropped out of school, he says, and carcasses of elephants litter our wildlife parks.
“Stalling and delaying tactics are simply cruel and unjust,” he warns delegates. “Further delay will make us spectators as we wipe out lives and livelihoods.” In contrast, Africa could, given the right financial support, roll out green energy and sustainable farming to help beat global heating. He also says Kenya will grow $15bn trees.
Low-lying island states face simply disappearing beneath the fast-rising oceans and Taneti Maamau, president of Kiribati, says it has been 30 years since the first UN climate treaty was signed and, despite the science, some countries are still blocking action. The nation this year declared a state of emergency due to severe lack of fresh water, as ocean waves washed over their land.
Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, the president of Mozambique, makes a serious speech. But he also thanks Egypt for the excellent facilities at Cop27. He obviously hasn’t had to go out himself in search of one of the very scarce and expensive sandwiches.
While world leaders convened to discuss the habitable future of the planet, Rishi Sunak found time to discuss the issue of asylum seekers reaching England’s shores from across the Channel.
The UK prime minister said there was “lots” to talk about when he met Macron, including the issue of Channel migrants. He also had a conversation about it when he met the new Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni.
He told broadcasters:
It was great to meet President Macron to talk about not just tackling illegal migration but the range of other areas in which we want to cooperate closely with the French on.
But also let’s remember, this is an issue that affects many countries. And actually I’ve been talking to other European leaders as well about our shared challenge of tackling illegal migration.
By working together with our European partners, we can make a difference, grip this challenge of illegal migration and stop people coming illegally.
Macron: We will not sacrifice climate targets because of the Ukraine war
Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, gives a detailed speech to Cop27 – no three-minute time limit for him, it seems, though he apologises at the end.
It will largely be welcomed by developing nations and he begins by saying many states are being affected by the unravelling of the climate. He says we will not sacrifice our climate commitments to the energy crisis caused by the aggression of Russia in Ukraine. He talks of the need for “energy sobriety”, to transition away from fossil fuels.
On climate justice, Macron says confidence between global north and south is frittering away: “We must come to terms with the idea of financial solidarity.” That means rich, polluting nations handing over money to poorer, vulnerable nations.
The Guardian reported earlier today that France had already delivered more than its “fair share” of climate finance, whilst the US and Australia had not. Macron also backs calls for major reform of the World Bank and IMF to deliver much more climate funding, from Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados and others.
Wavel Ramkalawan, president of the island-nation of the Seychelles, says: “Our contribution is minimal, but we suffer the most.” Our mangroves soak up more than the emissions of the Seychelles, making us a zero contributor to the destruction of the planet, but our islands are disappearing, he says.
Finance is again the highest priority for this leader. He says nations like Seychelles need the concessional funds to fight climate change. Many developing nations are already heavily indebted and cannot support further high-interest loans. Seychelles has swapped some debt in return for establishing huge ocean protection parks, in a world-first deal in 2018.
The UK prime minister’s first speech at Cop27 was about forests and biodiversity. PA has the report:
Rishi Sunak has said the launch of a new partnership to conserve the world’s forests at Cop27 marked a “moment of great hope”.
The prime minister was addressing a forest and climate leaders’ event at the UN gathering in Egypt aimed at building on the commitment made by over 140 countries at last year’s Cop26 summit in Glasgow to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation.
Sunak said the partnership “is going to make nature and protecting nature a permanent feature of these Cop meetings and ensure that historical Glasgow promise is delivered.
“This is a moment of great hope for the world’s forests.
“So let’s build on what we have achieved and together let’s secure this wondrous legacy for our children and many generations to come.”
And back in the main hall, we’ve had some more speeches.
Water, or the lack of it, is top of mind for the king of Jordan, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein. He tells Cop27 average rainfall in his arid country has fallen by half in 50 years.
“Destructive climate change does not have to define our future – the opportunities are immense if we grasp them,” he says, with the nation aiming to hit 50% renewable power by 2030. “In the fight for life on earth, no one is a bystander.”
Ali Bongo Ondimba, president of the forest-rich country of Gabon, addresses finance, which is the critical issue at Cop27. He notes it is 13 years since rich nations promised $100bn a year, from 2020, but this has yet to be delivered. It is high time that changes, he says. Ondimba also says the forests of Gabon are absorbing huge amounts of carbon emissions and says these should be commercialised as carbon credits.
Rishi Sunak, David Attenborough and the king make an appearance!
Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister, is currently hosting a forest event. Though I was told earlier by the palace that King Charles would not be appearing “in any shape or form at Cop27”, the monarch has in fact shown up – in a pre-recorded video. The event started with a film about the importance of trees narrated by David Attenborough and featuring clips of the king and Joe Biden. Alok Sharma, the president of Cop26, looked absorbed on his phone in his second row seat. My colleague Fiona Harvey caught the scene on camera.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have had what looks like a rather jovial meeting on the sidelines of Cop.
The more than 100 world leaders at Cop27 have begun making statements. We can expect Rishi Sunak later on. Stay tuned for what representatives from each country have to say.
They were preceded by the UN’s chief climate official, Simon Stiell, who implored them to act fast. Time is short to prevent the terrible dangers of runaway climate change, he said. “As soon as you touch down at home, send an email to your cabinet asking: ‘How are we strengthening our climate plans this year?’”
Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of the Republic of the Congo, is first up. Cop27 must be a Cop for action, he says. After so many promises unkept the time has come to move to tangible acts, he says – at stake is our credibility and the crucial survival of humanity.
Sassou Nguesso says preserving the huge forests in Congo is vital and adds that for 40 years everyone in Congo has been urged to plant a tree every year on 6 November, the day Cop27 began.
Pakistani envoy pushes for climate justice
After a weekend of back and forth between the polluting industrialised countries most responsible for global heating and the developing countries most affected by their fossil fuel addiction, loss and damage is on the Cop agenda for the first time. Pushing hard for this was Pakistani envoy Nabeel Munir, chief negotiator for the G77 plus China negotiating block, and it’s one of the principle demands for almost all developing and climate vulnerable nations.
“This is the beginning of what will be a slow and painful process, for developed and developing countries, and it wasn’t easy to get it on the agenda, but it’s there and it’s a beginning, and we wanted that to happen at a Cop hosted by a developing country,” said Munir. “It’s a big achievement that the other side is beginning to accept that what we’re saying is fair. Loss and damage is not charity, it’s climate justice.”
It will come way too late to help Pakistan rebuild after a catastrophic climate year that included drought and extreme heat events followed by unprecedented heavy rains that led to a third of the country under water. “Pakistan is a resilient country, we of course want and expect help from developing countries, but realistically we know that this won’t come from loss and damage, that fund is for the future when climate disasters hit Pakistan and other countries.
Some island nations have been pushing for loss and damage funding for 30 years, and face being wiped out by rising sea levels, yet there’s no timeline on when - or if - a loss and damage funding mechanism will be established. “It’s hard to say what an acceptable timeline is, but we must have something clear and tangible on loss and damage for Cop27 to be a success … and a final decision by Cop29 (2024) at the latest. And a recommitment from developed countries to fulfil the commitments they’ve made on climate finance.
The 2015 Paris agreement by wealthy countries to provide $100bn annually in climate finance for adaptation and mitigation for poorer nationals by 2020 has not been met, which Munir says is “technically a default” – even though no single country had agreed a particular amount. Apart from the UK, which has come under particular criticism for failing to deliver the full $300m to the e Green Climate Fund (GCF) by its September deadline. “Britain was unable to come up with that money, so that’s clearly a default,” said Munir.
UN secretary general, António Guterres, has said the international community has a duty to provide more support to Pakistan after flooding devastated the country in July and August, likely made worse by the climate crisis.
Speaking at a joint event in Pakistan’s pavilion along side the country’s prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, - the words “What goes on in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan” behind them - Guterres said countries had “a duty to massively support Pakistan in this moment”.
“There are moments in our life that are unforgettable and that mark you deeply. My last visit to Pakistan was one of these moments. To see an area flooded that is three times the size of my country Portugal, to see the loss of life, the loss of crops, livelihoods, to see the dramatic impact in the lives of people all over the country … And at the same time, to see the courage and resilience and generosity of the Pakistani people [stuck with me].
“Women and men, that have decided to leave their property, their essence, to go and rescue other people in the neighbourhood instead of protecting their own… These examples of generosity are examples that should be imitated by the international community,” he said.
Sharif said that the world must “not let helplessness become a death sentence in this race against time. What goes on in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan. Let’s stand up and say no to this before it’s too late.”.
Huge lakes of stagnant water have transformed the landscape of the south of Pakistan, where crops would have fed millions and livestock would have saved families from destitution. We are picking up the pieces as we speak.
The latest estimates have calculated the loss and damage at $30bn. Our journey to recovery will be held back by increasing public debt, rising global energy prices and no real access to adaptation finance.
We have mobilised every available resource.
At the broader level, we see to add loss and damage to the climate agenda. We hope that all countries come to Cop27 in the spirit [addressing Guterres] you champion of climate justice for all.
While politicians, diplomats and activists from around the world meet in Egypt, the UK government’s net zero tsar is holding a strange summit of his own back on home turf.
Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, who is leading the government’s net zero review, has revealed that he has been meeting with the Net Zero Scrutiny Group; a selection of MPs who believe the country is acting too far and too fast when it comes to climate targets.
Craig Mackinlay, the MP for Thanet, leads the controversial group of around 20 MPs, and told the BBC that he and Skidmore had already “got agreement on some things” related to net zero, such as the need for better home insulation. He said a meeting with Skidmore was in the works.
Opposition MPs have reacted with disgust. Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, said “climate delayers should be nowhere near government policy”, and Lib Dem Wera Hobhouse said the meeting was “worrying” and “sends completely the wrong signal” in the month of Cop27.
Rishi Sunak must come clean on the UK’s climate finance shortfall, the Green party has said ahead of his speech this afternoon.
At Cop26, former prime minister Boris Johnson pledged to boost spending on supporting the nations most at risk from the impacts of the climate emergency. However, figures suggest the UK has only paid £1.3bn of the £2.3bn a year pledged, and the Greens say the “government has refused to reveal exactly how much it has short-changed the countries in greatest need”.
Green party co-leader Adrian Ramsay said:
Ahead of Rishi Sunak’s speech to Cop27 this afternoon, we call on the government to come clean and reveal exactly how far short the UK has fallen in its contributions towards climate finance – a crucial fund to support those poorer countries on the front line of the climate crisis but which have done little to contribute to the problem.
It is suggested that the UK may have short-changed the fund by a whopping billion pounds. But let’s see the figures. What we do know is that collectively the rich nations have consistently failed to meet a $100bn annual target on climate finance, and that the UK government is party to this failure. We also know the government has raided the overseas aid budget to pay for climate finance when it pledged that it would be additional money. And the aid budget itself has already been cut from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP.
The prime minister must use his speech today to pledge he will deliver the UK’s overdue climate finance. The whole Cop process risks failure unless richer countries deliver climate justice by paying their fair share. Any claims of global leadership by Rishi Sunak will sound hollow when we are failing to meet our own promises to the countries most affected by the climate crisis.
Some cafes and restaurants have run out of food and water at the Cop27, according to delegates, with long queues across the site in Sharm El-Sheikh.
“Everyone is asking where to get food. It’s really hard to find vegetarian food especially. Yesterday there was only meat options,” said one delegate from a European country.
The lack of sustenance is understood to be affecting negotiations, with no food left for delegates on Saturday during overnight talks.
“In the grab and go places, they told us there is no food left. It’s better organised than Glasgow - the queues were terrible in Scotland - but food here is a problem. It really matters!” said a delegate from an NGO waiting in a queue.
Long queues could be seen across the site, with some saying they had been waiting 45 minutes to get a snack.
“This is the third time I’ve tried to queue for food. In some places, the water has run out. I’ve still not got food,” said a woman waiting in a queue. “I’m hoping for something to keep me going for the day but there’s only croissants.”
The Cop27 presidency has been contacted for comment.
King Charles ‘not attending in any shape or form’
Hello! I’m Helena Horton, an environment reporter at the Guardian, and I’ll be taking you through Cop27 for the rest of the day.
While looking at the online agenda for the opening ceremony, my colleague Damian Carrington spotted that King Charles was listed as speaking. Could he be making a surprise video appearance, like that by the late Queen at Cop26 last year?
We asked the Palace, and they said he was listed in error. A spokesperson said: “I’m afraid that information is incorrect, he will not be making an appearance or statement in any shape or form, virtual or otherwise.”
The monarch was earlier advised by Rishi Sunak not to attend the climate event, despite his decades of campaigning on the subject. But the fact he was listed perhaps suggests his attendance was expected.
The king last week hosted a Cop27 event at Buckingham Palace, attended by important figures from around the world, to start off the summit.
The leaders are taking a break, and I will be handing over to my colleague Helena Horton.
A summary of the morning:
The Cop27 high level segment for heads of states and government was officially declared open by the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
Before the session opened, Boris Johnson told an audience this is “not the moment to go weak on net zero” or to let Putin get away with his war in Ukraine.
UN secretary general, Antònio Guterres, called for a climate solidarity pact, and warned that we are on the “highway to climate hell”.
Al Gore, the US politician who did so much to raise awareness of this issue, pleaded for leaders to end what he calls “this culture of death” and argued that “Africa can be a renewable energy superpower”.
And the row about oil and gas exploitation in Africa – which will undoubtedly be one of the key themes of this year’s Cop – is under way. The African Energy Chamber believes that natural gas will be vital for a just energy transition, but NGO leaders such as Mohamed Adow argue that Africa must not be turned into “Europe’s gas station”.
Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados, made a deep impression a year ago at Cop26 with her clarity, vision and passion. She’s brought the same game to Cop27.
“We need to understand why we are not moving any further,” she tells the world leaders. She says we know what it is to remove slavery from our civilisation, to get a vaccine for a pandemic, to put a man on the moon.
“But the simple political will needed to make a definable difference still seems not to be able to be produced,” she says.
Mottley says the world’s system of political and economic power leaves small nations like hers unable to fulfil their high ambition on climate action. The south remains at the mercy of the global north, she says.
“This world still looks too much like it did when it was part of a colonialist empire,” Mottley says. Firmly in her sights are the so-called Bretton Woods institutions, the World Bank, IMF and multilateral development banks, set up after the second world war.
“Many countries in this room today did not exist when these institutions were set up,” she says. Mottley’s Bridgetown agenda proposes deep reforms that she says could help mobilise $5tn. Separate, but similar, reforms are being backed by 10 major economies including all of the G7. There is more on that in my story from earlier: Money talks.
Mottley says delivering money for climate loss and damage is critical – “the talking must end” – but that it can’t just come from states. “How do oil and gas companies make $200bn in last three months and not expect to contribute?” She says they should pay 10% into a loss and damage fund.
She ends with a stark question: “Our people on this Earth deserves better and our leaders know better. I ask the people of the world to hold us accountable. The choice is ours – what will [we] choose to save?”
The west's dash for African gas is a 'colonial agenda' and 'false narrative', say NGOs
The west’s dash for African gas has emboldened fossil fuel executives and political leaders to push false solutions that will tie the continent – and the planet – into new extractive polluting projects and greenhouse gas emissions, with devastating consequences for communities already reeling from climate disasters. That was the stark warning from environmentalists and climate activists speaking at the first major NGO press conferences of Cop27, where fossil fuel lobbyists are out in force while activists and affected communities struggle to gain access.
“This false narrative is a colonial agenda that will lock Africans into decades of fossil fuel extraction, which will increase debt burdens without helping the 600 million people in energy poverty,” said Lorraine Chiponda, from the Don’t Gas Africa campaign “We cannot allow Europe’s gas crisis to distract from discussion about loss and damage.”
Loss and damage has been included in the agenda for the first time at Cop as developing nations, which have contributed little to global heating, push for the rich polluting countries such as the US, UK, EU members, Australia and Canada to pay up for the irreversible economic, cultural and social losses already suffered – in addition to raising the so-far inadequate loan centred financing for climate adaptation and mitigation. It should be funded by the “grotesque profits of fossil fuel companies”, which have enjoyed record profits thanks to Russia’s war in Ukraine, said Catherine Abreu, of Destination Zero.
But Mohamed Adow, the director of Power Shift Africa, warned that the polluting nations were pushing to relegate loss and damage to another two years of talks, while money was flowing to fund the “dash for gas”. “Our message to the leaders is this: We will not let you turn Africa into Europe’s gas station. The days of colonialism are over.”
Western governments are blaming Russia as they break promises made just a year ago to stop new investments in fossil fuels, but Dominika Lasota, a Dutch youth climate activist from Fridays for Future, spoke emotionally about how unimaginable brutalities have become the daily reality for Ukrainians as a result of a “fossil fuel war which has revealed European hypocrisy”.
“World leaders are more interested in drinking champagne with fossil fuel executives and making deals with fossil fuel dictators that maintain the status quo and will cost the lives of millions of people on the frontline of the climate crisis. We have no time left. We cannot put out this fire with more fire,” Lasota said.
George Monbiot has been going through the reasons why he has chosen not to attend Cop27 this year.
His third reason is: “Most of the time, I can just about keep despair at bay. The only times I’ve failed to do so are during and after climate summits. I know not to raise my hopes, but when governments say “it’s now or never”, then decide in favour of never, it knocks the bottom out of me.”
It’s an interesting contrast to Boris Johnson, who earlier described Cop26 in Glasgow as a moment at which the “clouds of despair” momentarily parted. However, even the ever-ebullient Johnson conceded that that, on the current path, “we are failing”.
Al Gore has pleaded for leaders to end what he calls 'this culture of death'
The former US vice-president Al Gore is on fist-waving, passionate form in front of world leaders at Cop27.
“We continue to use the thin blue atmosphere as an open sewer,” he says. “It is getting steadily worse. We have a credibility problem – all of us – we are not doing enough.”
Gore says we can continue the “culture of death” by continuing to dig up fossil fuels, and cites vast floods in Pakistan, heatwaves and “rain bombs” in China, and a million displaced in Nigeria.
“The current areas of the world considered uninhabitable by doctors are small today but due to expand,” he says, with 1 billion migrants potentially crossing international borders this century, with all the colossal difficulties that would bring. If we stop subsidising the culture of death and back renewable energy instead we can survive, Gore says, and no new fossil fuel projects are acceptable.
He says the dash for gas in Africa, a contentious issue at COP27, is a new form of colonisation, with the fuel to be sent to rich nations. He quotes the late archbishop Desmond Tutu as saying climate change is the apartheid of our time. He also warns about stranded assets of billions, especially in Africa, if climate action closes oil and gas plants early.
Instead, Gore says, “Africa can be a renewable energy superpower”. He says 40% of world potential is in Africa.
Gore joins rich and poor nations in calling for a complete reform of the World Bank system to get money to developing nations.
“It is a time for moral clarity, not reckless indifference,” he finishes. We have hope, Gore says, with the people of Brazil, Australia and US electing leaders who will take climate action. “There is a path to a future with hope.”
My colleague Ruth Michaelson has written about blocked websites at the summit.
Attendees at the Cop27 climate meeting have found that the conference internet connection blocks access to the global rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) as well as other key news websites needed for information during the talks.
HRW is due to lead a panel discussion at Cop27 along with Amnesty International, whose website is accessible on the conference wifi. The list of blocked sites also includes the blogging platform Medium, Egypt’s lone independent news outlet, Mada Masr, and the Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera.
Egyptian telecoms providers temporarily lifted a ban on voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calls at Cop27, such as WhatsApp calling. Yet the authorities left in place a sophisticated and broad system for blocking websites deemed critical of the Egyptian authorities, including independent media and human rights organisations. Internet freedom groups including Qurium and Citizen Lab have documented how deep packet inspection technology provided by the Canadian company Sandvine permits the Egyptian authorities to block websites at will.
“Egyptian authorities have blocked access to about 700 websites, including independent news media and civil society groups. This severely restricts access to information that needs to be discussed, including environmental and human rights issues. Effective climate action requires more people voicing opinions, not fewer,” said the HRW environment director, Richard Pearshouse.
Leah Numugerwa, a youth activist from Uganda, addresses the world leaders at Cop27.
“We have been faced to think as adults, as our future is shut,” she tells them. “Everyone has a role to play.”
She continues, angrily: “It is not justice when the big polluters are untouchable … We must face some real truth - the world is in a state of emergency due to fossil fuels”
Young people are despairing, she says. “We are not sure we are heard when we speak, or are ignored.” To the leaders, she says: “Speak like there is an emergency … Do you want to be remembered as someone who did nothing in power?”
Guardian film maker Nikhita Chulani, who is out in Egypt with our team, has been speaking to some young activists.
Alab Mirasol Ayroso, 22, from the Philippines, told her: “For us, as activists being here, we want to bring our demands and hold them accountable with what they’re saying. And we want to bring the campaigns that are on the ground, to hear where we are now. And hopefully, we want our leaders to listen and to be pressured to actually do what they’re saying.”
Line Niedeggen, 25, a climate activist from Germany, says: “To me success at Cop looks like people coming together, especially the climate justice movement coming together and pulling on the same strings, fighting for the same demands, and making it really really clear to governments what we are not negotiating. We are not negotiating human rights. We are not negotiating 1.5 degrees… We are negotiating the lives of millions of people.”
World leaders have watched a film showing a series of climate disasters, narrated in part by climate change itself: “I am the clicking clock, the time you don’t have.” Then the narration switches to being hope, over scenes of climate action: “I am the roof that protects you.”
Macky Sall, president of Senegal and president of the African Union, emphasises the continent’s vulnerability. “Africa contributes just 4% of greenhouse emissions but is fighting to cope with climate change.” He says that Africa hosts one of the rare green lungs of the planet, the Congo rainforest. Sall says finance for adaptation should be as grants. Those who pollute the most, should pay the most.
Cop27 offers the chance to make history or be a victim of history, he finishes. “We have come here to save our planet.”
Later this week, the Guardian will host a conversation about Cop27, featuring our environment editor Damian Carrington with the shadow secretaryfor climate change, Ed Miliband, activist Tamra Gilbertson, and Tess Khan, head of campaign organisation Uplift.
Cop27: How can we save humanity from climate catastrophe?
On Wednesday 9 November, 8pm-9pm GMT. Book tickets at theguardian.com/guardianlive.
Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates, which will host Cop28 in Dubai in 2024, is next to address the Cop27 world leader plenary session.
He starts by talking up oil and gas from the UAE. He says the UAE is known as a responsible supplier of energy and will continue to be so while the world needs oil and gas.
Nahyan says oil and gas from the UEA is among the lowest carbon fossil fuels in the world – though that refers only to the emissions produced in getting the fuels out of the ground, not burning them.
He says climate change is serious and that the future of our children will hinge on the steps taken now.
Guterres is particularly strong on the subject of loss and damage, which is certainly one of the dominant topics at this Cop.
Guterres tells the conference: “Loss and damage can no longer be swept under the rug. It is a moral imperative. It is a fundamental question of international solidarity -and climate justice.
“Those who contributed least to the climate crisis are reaping the whirlwind sown by others.”
The good news, he says, “is that we know what to do and we have the financial and technological tools to get the job done”.
“The global climate fight will be won or lost in this crucial decade – on our watch. One thing is certain: those that give up are sure to lose. So let’s fight together– and let’s win. For the 8 billion members of our human family – and for generations to come.”
UN secretary general calls for climate solidarity pact
Guterres argues that the “1.5C degree goal is on life support – and the machines are rattling. We are getting dangerously close to the point of no return”.
And so, he says, “At the beginning of Cop27, I am calling for a historic pact between developed and emerging economies – a climate solidarity pact.” This pact will be one “in which all countries make an extra effort to reduce emissions this decade in line with the 1.5-degree goal. The two largest economies – the United States and China – have a particular responsibility to join efforts to make this pact a reality.”
He believes this is our only hope of meeting our climate goals. “Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish. It is either a climate solidarity pact – or a collective suicide pact.”
'We are on a highway to climate hell,' António Guterres tells Cop27
António Guterres, the UN secretary general, is now addressing the conference. He says: “In just days, our planet’s population will cross a new threshold. The eight billionth member of our human family will be born.”
What will we tell that child when they ask what we did for the planet?
“We are in the fight of our lives. And we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible.”
Guterres tells the conference: “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”
Sisi is now calling for the war in Ukraine to end. “My country is not one of the strongest economically. We suffered greatly from Covid-19 and today we are suffering once again due to this unnecessary war.”
“I would like to appeal to you, this war must stop. This war and the suffering it has caused, must finish. This is a sincere appeal.”
The war has caused huge economic problems in Egypt, which depends on grain from the Black Sea region. Annual inflation climbed to 15.3% in August, compared with just over 6% in the same month last year. The Egyptian pound recently hit a record low against a strengthening US dollar, selling at 19.5 pounds to $1.
Sisi, the Egyptian president, tells the summit that people do still cherish hope. “Humanity can surely be just to those who are not responsible for producing so much suffering. Every government knows what it must do.”
He says Egypt has established ambitious goals and is determined to accelerate its adaption to a green, low-carbon economy.
Developed countries must do more to ensure to help other countries face the consequences. He thanks leaders for attending – it shows how seriously world leaders take it (is that a little dig at Rishi Sunak for his dithering over coming?)
He asks them to clarify how they will reduce emissions – Egypt will making a number of announcements over the next few days of their own new policies.
Egypt's president welcomes world leaders to Cop27
Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, is now urging leaders and the international community at Cop27 to work together on one of the most urgent issues of our time, climate change.
Sharm el-Sheikh, he says, is the first city in Egypt that has gone through the beginnings of a green revolution. Now everyone is watching us and and hoping for a healthier, cleaner environment, he says.
“People around the world have thorny difficult questions, and we must address these questions … Have we faced our responsibilities, as leaders, to address climate change and protect the vulnerable? Can we achieve our goals? Can we all work together? Do we have any other choice?”
Sisi says people round the world are suffering more than ever the consequences of climate change. “We have seen one catastrophe after another. As soon as we tackle one, another arises. Wave after wave of suffering.”
He says the planet has become a world of suffering. “What does the world need to overcome the climate crisis?”
Meanwhile, students are planning to occupy 20 universities and colleges across Germany to demand an end to the fossil fuel era.
They will join students already occupying universities in Barcelona and Madrid as part of a broader global wave of occupations with @Endfossil. That includes Penn State University in the USA.
And in the UK, Just Stop Oil activists have blocked parts of the M25.
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has said the world cannot afford to allow the climate crisis to become a culture war issue. She argued that likeminded leaders must resist attempts to weaponise decarbonisation.
Speaking to the Guardian at Cop27, she said that she was concerned about the rise of far right and authoritarian governments around the world, and said liberal democracies must stick together and defend their values, including action on the environment.
“You see it with Trump and others of that ilk trying to treat the climate emergency as part of a broader culture war and using it as a weapon. All of us that know how damaging that is have a duty to stand up against that, not just in the words we use but in the policies we pursue,” she said.
“It does feel like in the world, there is a drift to authoritarianism. The far right has certainly had strength in recent times that I would never want to see it have. I believe is really important at a time like this is that countries and governments stand up for values for democracy and freedom, and not cower away.
“Here in Egypt, for example, I think it is really important that human rights are raised and there is not a sense of diplomatic shyness around that.”
He is pressed on the tricky subject of reparations and says: “I think that whole concept is tough. Let’s look to the future.
“Conceptually, I’d much rather look at what we can help countries to do going forward.
What should a country like Britain which has such a huge economic influence over the world be doing?
Johnson admits: “We started it all. Per capita, people in the UK have put a lot of carbon into the air. But we simply do not have the financial resources for reparations.” He returns again to the partnership with South Africa, where the UK acts as “a midwife, a convenor” to bring together private resources and then use it to encourage others to come in.
Row over oil and gas exploitation is under way
Meanwhile the row at COP27 over oil and gas exploitation is under way, with strong comments from NJ Ayuk, executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber (http://www.EnergyChamber.org). In short, some African countries want to use fossil fuels to power development and bring electricity to the many people who lack it. But many countries oppose this, seeing the “gas bridge” as a false solution, at a time when the climate cannot afford new fossil fuel emissions.
Ayuk said: “Rich Western forces, especially in Europe, have been pushing for an immediate shift away from fossil fuels, and their pressure is impacting Africa’s oil and gas industry. We’re already seeing investments in new oil and gas projects dwindle and one announcement after another about majors divesting African oil and gas assets.
”What western proponents for a rapid energy transition are ignoring is the role fossil fuels can play in bringing reliable energy to the hundreds of millions of Africans who now go without it, not to mention fossil fuel’s potential to pave the way for industrialization, economic growth, and greater stability for our people. At the same time, Western activists conveniently forget that they have used – and continue to use – fossil fuels to expand their own wealth and energy security.
”In fact, as the war in Ukraine and subsequent cut-off of Russian energy supplies to the EU has shown, in the coin toss between energy security and environmental causes, even for Europeans, energy security wins. We feel for Europe. We know what it’s like to lack access to reliable and affordable energy. We also know we’re every bit as deserving as it is of a just energy transition that factors in our unique needs.
”Natural gas is a crucial fuel choice for any decarbonisation pathway for the continent. It can get us closer to energy independence and environmental sustainability in pursuit of global climate goals. Don’t misunderstand: I’m a big proponent of renewable energy. But I’m an even bigger proponent of Africa and her people.”
Boris Johnson says he is attending Cop27 in 'purely supportive role' ahead of Rishi Sunak's appearance
“I’m here in a purely supportive, foot soldier role,” says that well-known shrinking violet Boris Johnson. He just wants to celebrate the achievements of Glasgow.
“Were you worried when you heard that the current PM was not planning to attend?” asks Bearak, referring to Rishi Sunak’s initial decision not to come to Cop27.
Johnson slightly waves it off, says it’s all good, and manages to get Bearak talking about his ancestors.
Bearak is still curious about this “Glasgow spirit of optimism” that Johnson is discussing. “Do you lie in bed worrying that we’re failing?”
“We are,” says Johnson. “Be in no doubt, at the current rate we are.” He says that there were great promises made at Glasgow but they are not being kept. He has not seen, for example, the promised slowing in deforestation. Twenty per cent of CO2 comes from deforestation: “What are we going to do about that?”
How do we promote these things? It’s the market. Offshore wind is now the cheapest form of energy in the UK, says Johnson. No one would have believed that ten years ago. Stick with it and help other people to get with it.
How do we get through the period coming up of high energy bills, wonders Bearak?
“The answer is not to renew our addiction to hydrocarbons, the answer is to accelerate the adoption of green solutions,” says Johnson.
In the short term we need to abate the cost, he agrees.
But in the meantime the UK is issuing new gas licences, says Bearak. “We should not be lurching back into a dependence on oil and gas, and I think the sector understands that,” says Johnson.
Not time to go weak on net zero, Boris Johnson tells climate summit
“The reason I’m here is because the discussion about Ukraine is having all kinds of negative effects … this is not the moment to go weak on net zero, this is the time to double down,” says Boris Johnson.
He thinks the Ukraine war is causing huge problems but that we must not back away from it. “I think this is a Manichean struggle between good and evil … I think Putin is evil and if he gets away with it the consequences for the world will be disastrous.” He pays tribute to the amount of support that the US in particular has given the Ukrainians.
How should the climate funding gap be closed, asks Bearak?
Johnson says that the UK and countries around the world have given a lot, but “the tax payer in the developed world can’t do everything and especially not now”. The best way forward, he believes, is programmes like the deal with South Africa which use government support to trigger the private sector to come in.
“The answer to this problem is going to be found in a partnership between activist international community and the private sector.”
They are now discussing the case of the jailed writer Alaa Abd El-Fattah. Johnson says very that he should be let out and he should have consular access. Johnson discussed it with the Egyptian president, and says they have a good relationship. He hopes they can get on with it and release him as quickly as possible.
“We can see the scale of the problem, but we have the tools to fix this problem … We have to end Putin’s energy blackmail and keep up our campaign to end hydro-carbons.” He’s now concluded his opening remarks, and is sitting down for a conversation with the New York Times climate reporter Max Bearak.
We need to help other countries to leapfrog hydrocarbons, he argues.
The UK is investing in renewables and building a nuclear reactor every year. Johnson says we need to accelerate those investments, and even argues that we should have made those investments sooner. (Am not sure who he is blaming for this, given his party was in power for the last 12 years.)
The US and China are showing the ‘can-do promethean’ spirit that can get us to net zero. We need to “put the electric throttle to the floor”.
Glasgow was a high point, a moment at which the ‘clouds of despair’ momentarily parted. But then Putin invaded Ukraine and the fight against climate change was one of the most important collateral damages.
“Some people have drawn the conclusion that the whole project of net zero needs to be delayed and we need to reopen coal fields and frack the hell out of the countryside,” said Johnson. He said he is not one of them.
“This is not the moment to abandon the campaign for net zero and turn our backs on renewables.”
If wind power is medieval, he argues, burning oil is positively paleolithic.
He is talking of the fundamental unfairness of the way in which the pain of climate change will fall on developing countries. “The whole of Africa, including the country in which we are standing, is still only responsible for 4% of greenhouse gases.”
He pays tribute to the last Cop president, Alok Sharma, and to all the achievements of Cop, such as taking 6bn gigatonnes of carbon out of the air, and moving to protect forests.
“I’m the spirit of Glasgow,” says Boris.
“It’s incredible to think how much has changed and how much damage has been done to our great common purpose of tacking climate change.”
Boris Johnson, the UK’s last PM but one, is now in conversation with the New York Times on the topic of Cop27.
Johnson was, of course, a fairly controversial PM, but most agreed that he was pro-environment.
As the conference begins, my colleague Damian Carrington has been working with Carbon Brief on an analysis of climate finance which reveals that the US, UK, Canada and Australia have fallen billions of dollars short of their “fair share” of climate funding for developing countries.
The assessment, by Carbon Brief, compares the share of international climate finance provided by rich countries with their share of carbon emissions to date, a measure of their responsibility for the climate crisis.
Carrington points out: “The issue of climate finance will be critical to progress at the Cop27 summit, which began on Sunday in Egypt. Developing countries did little to cause the climate emergency, making funding from rich countries vital to create the trust needed for combined global action. The rich countries accept vulnerable countries face a “life or death situation” and need far more than $100bn but delivery of the money has been contentious and slow.”
The new analysis covers the 24 “Annex II” countries that account for 40% of historical emissions and are obliged to give climate finance under the UN climate treaty, including all of the G7 large economies. It shows some countries gave more than the share of the $100bn indicated by their past emissions.
Switzerland’s funding was more than four times higher, and France and Norway’s was more than three times the amount. Japan, one of the largest providers of funding, supplied $13bn, more than double the amount indicated. However, the funding from Japan and France was largely in loans, whereas that from the US, Canada, Australia and the UK were mostly grants. Grants are strongly preferred by developing countries, which often already carry high levels of debt.
The opening ceremony will take place at 12.15pm EET (10.15am GMT) today, kicked off with a speech from Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the president of Egypt.
Beside him will be António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, who spoke to the Guardian last week about this conference and climate change, saying: “At the present level [of emissions], we will be doomed. We are approaching tipping points, and tipping points that will make [climate change] irreversible. The damage that would not allow us to recover.”
Guterres has become well-known for his outspoken speeches on climate change. Last summer, he gave a meeting of world leaders a simple warning.
“We have a choice – collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”
Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, will be with them.
I’m Bibi van der Zee and I’ll be following events this morning. If you’ve got any stories or thoughts on Cop27 that you’d like to share with us all, I’m on email@example.com or @bibivanderzee on Twitter.
Boris Johnson to speak on climate change as Cop27 begins
Good morning! The 27th Conference of the Parties – or Cop27 as you probably know it – is under way at last in the Sharm-el-Sheikh resort in Egypt.
Today and tomorrow, world leaders will address Cop, with the British PM, Rishi Sunak due to speak at 4pm.
This morning, however, the UK’s last but one prime minister, Boris Johnson, will be making a speech. My colleague, Fiona Harvey, writes:
Boris Johnson will attack the “corrosive cynicism” on net zero that is hampering UK, and global, efforts to tackle the climate crisis, in a speech at the UN Cop27 climate summit on Monday.
In a swipe at members of his own Conservative party, the former UK prime minister will contrast the success and spirit of optimism at Cop26 in Glasgow last November with the failures of governments – including the UK – to follow through on promises since.
“Because the spike in oil and gas prices – and the consequent global inflation, the hikes in the cost of fertiliser and food, have had an impact here and everywhere, they have led some naysayers to a corrosive cynicism about net zero,” he will warn.