Climate Change

Egypt’s support to developing countries gives hope for COP27: Climate scientist Saleemul Huq

Part 1: The climate scientist talks about critical climate issues that can play a major role at the Sharm El-Sheikh summit

By Jayanta Basu
Published: Tuesday 08 November 2022

Photo: iStock

Photo: iStock

Globally acclaimed Bangladeshi-British climate scientist Saleemul Huq has followed all climate negotiations till now and has long supported agendas like adaptation and loss and damage. Jayanta Basu spoke to Professor Huq about critical climate issues expected to come up at the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change before the summit began. 

Jayanta Basu: When the COP26 at Glasgow, Scotland, concluded quite hopelessly, you said you had more hope with the Egypt COP as it was a developing country. How hopeful are you now about favourable outcomes at Sharm El-Sheikh?


Saleemul Huq: I have hope for every COP; sometimes, it is fulfilled, but mostly not. Egypt’s presidency gives major hope for COP27. The developing country is situated in Africa and has indicated a lot of interest and support for positions pursued by developing countries. 

This was not the case in Glasgow. The United Kingdom talked a lot about sympathy but did not walk the talk when it mattered. I’m much more hopeful about the chances of achieving a favourable outcome for humanity in Sharm El Sheikh.  

JB: Many suspect loss and damage may be the biggest talking point in Sherm El-Sheikh.

SH: Developing countries initially made a strong intervention for loss and damage in Glasgow. The draft text included a proposal to create a Glasgow facility for loss and damage finance. But the Glasgow facility was changed to Glasgow dialogue on loss and damage for three years under pressure from developed countries. This was a great disappointment to all of us. 

Leading to Sharm El-Sheikh, we have raised the agenda of finance for loss and damage and we could already put it on the provisional agenda for discussion. So far, the UK has supported us, but the US still needs to be ready to accept loss and damage finance as an agenda item. 

If they object, I expect a big fuss; if they allow it, then we will have two weeks of negotiations on several facets of the issue, like from where the money will come, how much money is needed, who will manage it and who will get the money.

(Note: on Day 1 of the summit, the loss and damage finance agenda was accepted for a two-year formal discussion by UNFCCC)

Read more: COP27 diary (November 7): ‘World on a highway to climate hell, with our foot on the accelerator’

JB: Where does the dialogue stand in the context of loss and damage, as mentioned in the Glasgow agreement?

SH: The first one took place last June. A good dialogue but without any tangible outcome; It [the dialogue] did not even produce a report to the COP presidency. 

Such a process is making the forum useless and dialogue without an outcome remains suspicious. Such dialogue is not going to be accepted. We are actually trying to make an action structure where the dialogue will feed into it; I hope the developed countries will agree to that.

JB: Shouldn’t the impacted countries talk internally among themselves?

SH: We already have been having dialogues at various levels in Bangladesh about loss and damage. We will also hold site events in COP27 to bring the least developed countries together to start the ball rolling on dialogues at national levels.

JB: Overall, where does the negotiation stand in loss and damage?  

SH: There has been a step back on the energy front, but a few positive things have also happened. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has taken the issue seriously. He is pitchforking it as the number one issue that needs to be addressed in every speech. 

Guterres is going to be in charge of these collaborative dialogues and discussions. Collective action to tackle the global challenge of climate change is the only way forward. There are small divergent issues concerning various countries, but such issues should be kept from pushing back the necessary global actions.

Read more: COP27: Agriculture finally on table; beware of greenwashing though, warn experts

I’m hopeful that good sense will prevail globally among both the leaders and, more so, among citizens. We cannot leave it to leaders to sit behind closed doors and decide something on our behalf. 

That’s no longer an acceptable format; we all have to participate in the process and make it happen.

JB: South Asian countries are some of the most affected ones, but they hardly talk in unison.   

SH: Cooperation s difficult to achieve among South Asian countries due to long-standing rivalries and divisions. I find a hopeful note in a bottom-up cooperation mode. Scientists are talking to each other and so do the journalists. 

So, we need our governments to come out of their hostility to each other bilaterally and they should be willing to talk to each other in mutual COP collaboration terms. 

Regional climate change issues are no longer minor issues; they are big issues now and affect everybody; any collaborative effort will turn into a win-win scenario for all. 

This is part 1 of the interview. You can read the second part here.

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