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“I’m too tired. I don’t know what you’re asking me.” That was Frans Timmermans, on an aspect of the climate agreement he had just adopted, on Sunday morning.
The vice president of the European Commission was one of the highest profile and best resourced leaders still standing after two nights of overtime at Cop27. US envoy John Kerry was in Covid isolation. Smaller delegations had gone home.
Journalists – also sleep-deprived – wanted to know the significance of the insertion of “low-emission” to a line in support of renewable energy. It was one of very few alterations to the cover text since a clean draft published the previous afternoon. It had to mean something, right?
Decisions are made by consensus in the UN climate process. In theory, that means everyone has a voice. In practice, if you drag proceedings out long enough the exhausted participants will grudgingly accept whatever is on the table. And this latest round of talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt sure did drag.
The summit delivered one breakthrough: agreement to set up a loss and damage fund for the victims of climate disaster. All it took was for rich countries to stop saying “no”.
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The fossil fuel fight
On addressing the causes of the climate crisis, there was no such clarity. It took Joe Lo and Chloé Farand a lot of phone calls to unpack the last-hour wrangling, which – like most of the real talk at Cop27 – was closed to media.
And it’s a bit more complicated than the climate champions vs petropowers spin Europeans, with the most proactive comms, were putting on it. If developed countries are so keen on phasing out fossil fuels, why wait until India proposed it to say so? Why did the US approve more oil and gas expansion in 2022 than any Gulf state? Why have only four European countries joined the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance? Where is the finance for developing countries to leapfrog to clean energy?
If you read climate science, it’s a no-brainer to stop burning coal, oil and gas. But money talks. At today’s prices, Big Oil is coining it, while many governments are cash-strapped.
We’re all tired. Tired of obstruction, delay and greenwashing. Tired of being shut out of decisions that affect us. Tired of the bullshit.
It’s time to get a good night’s sleep and try again.