Live updates | UN Climate Summit
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) —
— Treaty against fossil fuels floated at UN climate summit
— UN experts urge stringent rules to stop net zero greenwash
— Clock ticking for jailed Egypt activist on hunger strike
— Their lagoons languishing, precious Spanish wetlands go dry
U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry had an encounter with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at the COP27 conference in Egypt Tuesday. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Venezuelan president interrupted a meeting that was underway and that Kerry had been caught by surprise.
“This was very much an unplanned interaction, just in the same way that other world leaders have been presented with unplanned interactions from Nicolas Maduro,” Price said in a statement.
“Maduro has unfortunately, as it pertains to COP, overseen a period of significant environmental degradation, the destruction of the Amazon through deforestation, through oil spills and illegal mining. And we believe it’s in the interest of the entire region that such activities come to an end. But as far as that conversation goes, it was unplanned. It was non-substantive as well,” the State Department spokesman said.
Human Rights Watch says Egyptian authorities have lifted a ban on its website, in a positive step that comes as Egypt hosts the United Nations conference on climate change.
The global rights group said the Egyptian government has reversed a ban that has been in effect for five years, following the release of a report on allegations of abuses against dissidents.
“While unblocking Human Rights Watch’s website is a positive move, many other news and human rights websites expressing criticism remain blocked and inaccessible,” said Adam Coogle, the group’s deputy regional director.
Coogle called for the government to end “censorship of all media and civil society groups.”
Users have now been able to access the Human Rights Watch website without using a tool to avoid government restrictions.
Activists chanted in support of jailed rights activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah at an event late Tuesday, where Abdel-Fattah’s youngest sister Sanaa Seif was taking part in a panel on Egypt’s human rights situation.
The group, wearing white T-shirts with “#FREEALAA,” also shouted “Free Alaa,” before voices were heard from the crowd shouting in Arabic: “Alaa is a terrorist,” “Alaa is a killer.”
Abdel-Fattah is on a hunger and water strike in prison, prompting fears he has just days to live.
At the event, leading rights defender Hossam Bahgat spoke out against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s policies and the continued crackdown on dissent. He also condemned the continued detention of Abdel-Fattah.
His harsh criticism prompted some pro-government attendees to shout at him. Some were seen holding a signboard with slogans accusing Abdel-Fattah of being a criminal and a killed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy used a video address to the U.N. climate talks Tuesday to accuse Russia of hampering international efforts against global warming with its invasion of Ukraine.
Zelenskyy cited the damage caused by Russia’s attack to the Ukraine’s environment, claiming it has led to the destruction of five million acres of forest, and blamed the war for sending fossil fuel prices skyrocketing worldwide.
“That has forced dozens of countries to resume coal-fired power generation in order to lower energy prices for their people,” he said.
Referring to concerns about the Russian-occupied nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Zelenskyy asked fellow leaders: “Who will care, for example, about the amount of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere if part of Europe or the Middle East and possibly Northern Africa, God forbid, are covered by radiation cloud after an accident in Zaporizhzhia?”
Zelenskyy appealed to other governments to help “stop those who, with their insane and illegal war, are destroying the world’s ability to work united for a common goal.”
“There can be no effective climate policy without peace on Earth,” he said.
A leading Egyptian rights defender called for all participants at the United Nations climate conference in Egypt to highlight what he described “a full-scale human rights crisis” under the rule of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
Hossam Bahgat, the executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said crackdown was underway amid calls for protests on Friday over the deteriorated economic conditions.
He said security forces rounded dozens from the streets, jailing many “on political grounds like spreading false information or membership of illegal organizations.”
Egypt’s human rights record has once again come under the international spotlight at the summit, known as COP27.
Bahgat is taking part in the conference as an observer. He met with western leaders and rights defenders to raise attention to the human rights situation in Egypt.
He urged participants at the summit to join “our demands for the Egyptian government to accelerate the release of political prisoners and save the life of Alaa Abdel-Fattah and release him.”
Abdel-Fattah is a pro-democracy activist on hunger and water strike in an Egyptian prison.
The Holy See’s secretary of state, who hitched a ride to Egypt with a leading Muslim imam, told the climate conference that the Vatican was committed to reducing net emissions to zero in the tiny city state before 2050.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin also recalled that the Vatican was addressing the conference for the first time since it became a party to the Paris Accord as well as the U.N. framework convention on climate change.
Parolin arrived in Egypt on Sunday from Bahrain courtesy of Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the imam of Al-Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning in Cairo, who had also been in Bahrain to attend an interfaith summit with Pope Francis. Al-Tayeb offered to give Parolin a ride on the private plane he was using to get back to Cairo and Parolin agreed, taking then a commercial flight to Sharm El Sheik.
The pope, who has made environmental stewardship a hallmark of his papacy, praised the flight-sharing initiative as evidence of Catholic-Muslim “brotherhood.”
The prime minister of Pakistan told fellow leaders at this year’s U.N. climate meeting that it “rings an alarm bell for humanity” in a world being hit faster and harder by the impacts of global warming.
Shahbaz Sharif recounted how his country was struck by catastrophic floods in recent months that affected 33 million people and caused more than 30 billion dollars in economic damage.
“This all happened despite our very low carbon footprints,” Sharif said, insisting: “of course it was a manmade disaster.”
Sharif called for additional financial support for his country and others suffering from the effects of climate change, saying any money to help Pakistan rebuild after the floods should be on top of other aid and not come in the form of loans. Further debts, he said “would be a financial death trap.”
He urged countries gathered in Egypt to boost their efforts to tackle climate change or risk more devastation in future.
“It is now or never,” Sharif said. “For us there is indeed no Planet B.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he raised the fate of imprisoned activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who has gone on hunger strike, in a meeting Tuesday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.
“It is very depressing to see that a human life is in danger here and that the hunger strike has now reached a stage where we must all fear that this will have really terrible consequences,” the German leader told reporters on the sidelines of the U.N. climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Scholz said the case had also been raised with Egypt explicitly by “many other heads of state and government” who he said felt that “something needs to happen to make a release possible, so that the hunger striker doesn’t die.”
Scholz said he came to the start of the two-week conference to make clear that Germany is committed to stepping up action against climate change.
But he dismissed calls for fossil fuel companies that are currently reaping massive profits to be forced to pay vulnerable nations for the damage their emissions have caused.
“I think this is not the place now to develop tax rules, but rather to jointly develop measures to protect against the consequences of climate change,” he said.
A group of U.N. high level experts called for stricter rules and standards for companies and local governments for net zero pledges at the climate summit in Egypt on Tuesday.
They called it a roadmap to prevent net zero from being “undermined by false claims, ambiguity and “greenwash.”
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed the group exactly a year ago at last year’s U.N. climate summit to draw up principles and recommendations aimed at clarifying the confusion around the growing number of net zero claims made by businesses and organizations.
But there’s been little transparency or uniform standards when it comes to net zero pledges, resulting in a boom in the number of hard to verify claims, the U.N. experts and environmental groups say.
Germany’s climate envoy Jennifer Morgan says the talks in Egypt “have kicked off quite well” after a potential fight over the agenda was averted when countries agreed to formally debate the issue of financial support to poor nations for the loss and damage they suffer due to global warming.
Morgan said Tuesday that she hopes there will be a “meaningful outcome” on the issue at the two-week talks as well as countries setting out more ambitious targets for cutting emissions and agreeing ways to ensure money flowing toward combating global warming is in line with the targets of the 2015 Paris accord.
“The most vulnerable nations (should) know that we stand side by side with them and that there will be more support just there for them when these damages occur,” she told The Associated Press. “How that will look exactly, that’s the negotiation here.”
Asked about the possible impact of the U.S. midterm election on the talks, Morgan said that individual votes “can’t change the fact that we’re in a climate emergency.”
The Biden administration’s recent climate law had given the United States “a higher level of standing” internationally, she said.
In a departure from the criticism that rich countries have so far endured from many developing nations’ leaders at this year’s international climate meeting, the president of Malawi praised leaders present in Egypt for simply showing up.
“The temptation to abstain from COP this year was great,” President Lazarus Chakwera said, referring to the talks by their U.N. acronym.
“It was also tempting for each of you to abstain from this COP because of the great and unprecedented economic hardships your citizens are suffering in your own nation,” he said. “But you resisted this temptation and chose the path of courage.”
Still, Chakwera said that courage would also be tested by leaders’ ability to deliver “climate justice for the most vulnerable nations.”
“It is a test of our capacity to work together as a global community that is sailing into the same storm in the same boat,” he said.
Chakwerea said any agreements forged at the two-week meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh should recognize the different abilities of developed countries like the United States and high-productivity nations such as China on the one hand, and developing countries like his own on the other.
Speaking on behalf of his and other small island nations, Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, targeted fossil fuel companies that make $3 billion a day in profits and demanded that some of that money be used as reparations for poor vulnerable nations hit by floods, droughts, storms and other climate disasters.
“While they are profiting the planet is burning,” Browne said.
“It is about time that these companies are made to pay a global carbon tax on their profits,” Browne said. “Profligate producers of fossil fuels have benefited from extortionate profits at the expense of human civilization.”
And if the small islands can’t get a global tax on fossil fuel profits, Browne suggested going to international courts to get polluters to pay for what they’ve done. A group of scientists from Dartmouth College calculated specific damages for all the world’s countries and how much was caused by other nations, saying it would work well in international court cases.
Browne also quoted William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ in sharing his frustration with lack of action.
“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death,” Browne said.
Despite 27 climate summits “tomorrow has not come. Governments and corporations come to the COP each year delivering grand statements with lofty commitments. But these commitments are only partially honored.”
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa urged leaders at the U.N. climate summit on Tuesday to lift “the albatross of illegal economic sanctions” to help the country achieve their climate goals.
“We demanded the immediate lifting of these unwarranted and punitive sanctions,” he said.
Sanctions by the U.S., the European Union, the United Kingdom and others target top Zimbabwean officials and prevent the country from getting support from the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.
The sanctions call for the government to respect human rights, democratic rights and have accountable government financial management.
GENEVA — The head of the U.N. human rights office is calling for the immediate release of a prominent jailed activist who is leading a hunger and water strike in Egypt amid concerns about his health.
Volker Türk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said the activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, “is in great danger. His dry hunger strike puts his life at acute risk.”
Rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani relayed Türk’s comments at a U.N. briefing on Tuesday and said that all activists and others affected by climate change should “have a seat at the table” at the U.N. climate conference that opened a day earlier in the Egyptian seaside resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh.
“We are very concerned for his health,” Shamdasani said, insisting on the need for Abdel-Fattah “to be urgently, immediately released.”
The U.N. rights office last raised its concerns about his health with Egyptian authorities on Friday, she said.
The rights office said Abdel-Fattah was repeatedly arrested over more than a decade for his activism against alleged human rights violations by Egyptian security forces and the use of military courts to try civilians.
LONDON — Environmental activists blocked traffic on England’s busiest highway on Tuesday, demanding an end to fossil fuel use as world leaders confront the growing threat from climate change at a UN-sponsored summit in Egypt.
National Highways says there are currently delays of 60 minutes on the M25, with congestion causing traffic jams that stretch for five miles in some parts of the highway that circles greater London.
Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said protesters from the campaign group Just Stop Oil have a point in the sense that society must “bear down on the use of fossil fuels.”
But he said protests shouldn’t block streets and roadways as it disrupts traffic, delays emergency vehicles and forces police to get involved.
The family of a prominent jailed activist on a hunger and water strike has become increasingly concerned about his health.
Alaa Abdel-Fattah’s mother, Laila Soueif, called for world leaders, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to pressure the Egyptian government to release her son.
“The Egyptian authorities are your friends and proteges not your adversaries. If Alaa dies you too will have blood on your hands,” she said in a video message on Facebook.
Sunak said he raised Abdel-Fattah’s case in his meeting Monday with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt. Sunak said he would continue to “press for progress” in Abdel-Fattah’s case, according to Downing Street.
Soueif, a university professor, said she waited Monday outside the prison where Abdel-Fattah is being held for a letter, but received nothing. She planned to go to the prison Tuesday to receive proof that her son is alive.
Meanwhile Abdel-Fattah’s sister, Sanaa Seif, is in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh to raise the case of her brother and other jailed activists. She is scheduled to speak about Egypt’s human rights record in an event on Tuesday along with the Secretary General of Amnesty International Agnes Callamard.
___ More than 55,000 people fleeing drought and conflict in Somalia arrived in Kenya in the past two months, straining the humanitarian needs in Africa’s largest refugee camp, a global charity said Monday.
The International Rescue Committee warned more refugees are expected to arrive at the Dadaab refugee camp, in eastern Kenya near Somalia borders by early 2023, as Somalia was hit by the driest drought in decades, driven by climate change.
IRC’s director in Kenya, Mohamed El Montassir Hussein, called for the international community to scale up and accelerate support and funding to the camp to avoid a serious hunger crisis.
“Hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees will struggle to find life-saving assistance by fleeing to Kenya this year unless urgent steps are taken,” he said.
Some Somali refugees have been living in Dadaab in eastern Kenya for more than 20 years, since Somalia descended into chaos following the 1991 ouster of longtime dictator Siad Barre by warlords who then turned on each other.
Thousands of others have fled drought and conflict in recent months, with the IRC expected a total of 120,000 refugees to arrive in Dadaab in the next few months.
The United Nations warned in September that “famine is at the door” in Somalia with “concrete indications” famine will occur later this year in the southern Bay region.
World leaders are making the case for tougher action to tackle global warming Tuesday, as this year’s international climate talks in Egypt heard growing calls for fossil fuel companies to help pay for the damage they have helped cause to the planet. The U.S. mid-term election were hanging over the talks Tuesday, with many environmental campaigners worried that defeat for the Democrats could make it harder for President Joe Biden to pursue his ambitious climate agenda.
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