SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — A senior Human Rights Watch official has criticized the Egyptian government’s human rights and environmental record, saying the space for environmental activism in Egypt “is severely narrow.”
Richard Pearshouse, environment and human rights director at HRW, said environmental activists in Egypt had faced “constant harassment” from security forces, including travel restrictions, foreign funding and research permits.
He said such restrictions impede public debate and research on the harm caused by businesses, agro-industry, cement plants and other military-related activities.
“These are … the kinds of issues that can’t be talked about at a national level and have almost no presence” at the United Nations climate conference in Egypt, he said.
Pearshouse described Egypt as a “human rights black hole” and took issue with claims by Egyptian officials that raising human rights issues at COP27 was “a distraction” from climate change.
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The German foreign minister says further climate-related aid should particularly help those who suffer most from global warming and cannot pay for the impacts themselves.
But Annalena Baerbock told reporters on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Egypt on Wednesday that she was not confident a new “loss and damage” fund could be agreed at this year’s meeting, adding: “I don’t know if this is the right time now.
He also called for concrete plans for international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including for specific sectors.
Some developing countries and emerging economies, such as China, have resisted these efforts, arguing that their inclusion in the so-called mitigation work program under discussion at the meeting in Egypt would go beyond the requirements of the Paris climate accord. of 2015.
But Baerbock said failure to do so could mean that the overall goals of the Paris pact would be impossible to achieve.
“If we do nothing in the next ten years, we will reach 2030 and miss the goal by 1.5 degrees by such a margin that we probably can’t get back to it.”
“We know there are countries that see it differently, perhaps for their own sake,” he said, without elaborating.
The former Irish president has urged negotiators at the UN climate conference to make a “real decision” on climate finance for vulnerable countries.
Mary Robinson, who is also chair of the Elders group of global leaders who advocate for peace and justice, said progress at the start of the summit by putting the issue on the official agenda needs to be addressed with “a haven that brings money to the most vulnerable”.
Robinson called on global financial institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, to free up more funds to help vulnerable nations recover and be prepared for the impacts of climate change.
“They actually have ways to open their loans a lot more without losing their triple-A rating,” he said.
He also called on world leaders to keep alive the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate has criticized continued discussion and resistance by some countries to set up a loss and damage finance facility to compensate the poorest countries suffering the worst effects of climate change.
Nakate also called on governments around the world to phase out fossil fuels to maintain the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) warming limit set in the Paris Agreement.
“It’s important to not only address the loss and damage, but also address the root cause of the loss and damage,” he said.
Climate protesters on Wednesday pushed for the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) limit on global warming to remain part of the climate talks.
“Our demands on negotiators for the next 48 hours as people of the Pacific and on the front lines of climate change are simple. We cannot water down 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Fijian climate activist Vivania Tatawaqa told the Associated Press. Scientists agree that limiting warming to just 1.5 degrees will save the planet from the worst effects of climate change.
Several groups protested Wednesday inside the venue’s “Blue Zone,” where access is restricted to conference attendees. Earlier in the day, dozens of health workers demonstrated to highlight the impact that weather events exacerbated by climate change have on health.
“We are here to support the climate crisis and make sure everyone understands that it is also a health crisis,” said medical practitioner Poorvaprabha Patil. “Every time you have a flood and you control communities, you’re going to see an increase in infectious diseases.”
The European Union’s climate chief said there was still “a long way to go” in the negotiations taking place at this year’s United Nations climate change conference in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh.
Frans Timmermans said he remained “confident” that he could reach “good conclusions” at the conference, which concludes on Friday.
Asked about the issue of reparation for vulnerable nations suffering the impacts of climate change, known as loss and damage, which is a major theme of this year’s summit, Timmermans said: ‘We are all willing to find some steps forward substantial, but we are not there yet”.
A senior European Union official said they were still investigating the facts about a missile that fell into NATO member Poland, killing two people. It is unclear who fired him, although US President Joe Biden said it was “unlikely” that he was fired by Russia.
EU climate chief Frans Timmermans said on Wednesday that the bloc stands next to Poland, which is also an EU member.
“We are totally in solidarity with Poland and the Polish people. They are an important part of NATO and the European Union,” Timmermans told the Associated Press on the sidelines of the United Nations climate conference in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
“We are united in this, and I hope we can clarify what really happened very soon,” he said.
Climate envoy John Kerry said the US was “fully engaged” in talks with China at the ongoing UN climate summit in Egypt.
Kerry met with China’s top climate official, Xie Zhenhua, on Tuesday, a hint of improved relations seen as vital to substantive progress against global warming. Beijing suspended talks three months ago in retaliation for US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan.
When asked what the outcome of the summit might be, Kerry replied: “We’ll have to see, it’s a late start.”
Speaking at an event to mark the biodiversity conference’s theme day, Kerry confirmed that he also met with Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Tuesday.
Kerry said he “was really encouraged by the ways he talked about getting it right once and for all, bringing people together to preserve the Amazon.”
A lawmaker from Germany’s Green Party has called for establishing a legal framework to force polluters to pay for the destruction caused by climate change in vulnerable nations.
Speaking at an event at the United Nations climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, Michael Bloss highlighted the devastating floods that hit Pakistan this summer, which have swept a third of the country’s population underwater and caused damage for about 40 billion dollars.
The floods “are caused directly by the climate crisis,” he said, adding that the world’s largest emitters “are responsible for the losses and damages.”
Bloss criticized European governments for undermining efforts to set up a loss and damage fund which he said has “huge support” in the European parliament.
The issue of compensation was once considered taboo, because rich countries feared they would have to pay large sums. Intense pressure from developing countries has forced the issue of “losses and damages” on the formal agenda of the talks for the first time this year.
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