COP27: Tense and divisive geopolitics ‘is distracting’ governments from tackling climate crisis

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The UN’s climate change chief has told Sky News there has never been such a “tense” and “divisive” geopolitical environment before a UN climate change summit as there is right now.

Speaking just a few days before the COP27 summit begins in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh on Sunday, Simon Stiell said the situation is “distracting” governments from tackling the climate crisis.

He said: “If there is one defining crisis of our time, it is climate.

“All of the other things; interest rates, cost of living, even wars, come to an end – but climate change just marches on.

“We have seen distracted governments since we left Glasgow.”

Tires lie on the cracked ground of La Vinuela reservoir during a severe drought in La Vinuela, near Malaga, southern Spain August 8, 2022. A prolonged dry spell and extreme heat that made last July the hottest month in Spain since at least 1961, have left Spanish reservoirs at just 40% of capacity on average in early August, well below the ten-year average of around 60%, official data shows.REUTERS/Jon Nazca
La Vinuela reservoir near Malaga in southern Spain during extreme heat in the summer

Mr Stiell, whose formal title is executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told Sky News: “I don’t think there’s ever been a geopolitical environment as tense and as divisive as we have now as we enter this COP.

“Yes, the world is distracted… Sharm El-Sheikh gives us an opportunity to refocus.”

COP27 aims to increase action on reducing emissions and to increase finances for developing nations so they can adapt to the changes that are already here.

Read more: Rishi Sunak promises UK will lead on climate change fight – after COP27 U-turn

But the dominant issue is likely to be loss and damage, which refers to payments from rich to low-income countries in compensation for the damage inflicted by climate change.

It is something that wealthy countries like the US have been reluctant to consider, but negotiations have been ongoing behind the scenes to get the issue formally placed on the COP27 agenda for discussion.

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Mr Stiell, who was previously the climate envoy for Grenada, added: “I’m not sure if I’m wearing my old hat as the minister from a small island developing state or as executive secretary of the UNFCCC, but when you look at it from a practical point of view and you look at it from a moral point of view, those that are most vulnerable, those that are suffering the greatest impacts of climate change are the ones who have contributed the least to it.

“And it is the major industrialised developed countries that carry that responsibility and for finding a resolution.

“Climate change is not waiting. Those losses… the damage that is caused by climate impacts… are being felt every single day and only increasing.”

COP27 in Egypt runs from 6-18 November.

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