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COP27: Daily Reports from the League


Photo by Marcus Siske on Unsplash.


The annual UN Climate Conference, COP27, has concluded in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Fifteen League representatives attended this year (in-person and virtually) as observers for the League of Women Voters of the U.S.


The team reported daily for the duration of the conference. See the reports below.


11/28: Final COP27 Summary


Report submitted by Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


The rule book for the Paris Agreement was completed at COP26. There were a few leftover items that needed cleaning up at COP27, but, for the most part, COP27 was for planning to implement the Paris Agreement.

But real-world events overshadowed much of COP27 - such as the ongoing droughts in Africa and the floods in Pakistan. The US, with the Biden administration, and Brazil with the newly elected Lulu de Silva, Russian and its invasion of Ukraine, and China still shutting itself off, created a new dynamic amongst the global powerhouses. The EU and USA found a way to support creating a financial structure to help less developed countries address their losses due to extreme climate events. The member states requested that the supporting agency make a new attempt at defining what counts as a carbon credit under the Paris rules, so as not to impact human rights and environmental justice issues and the carbon market can be put into place.

In other areas, countries decided to “identify opportunities and gaps to reduce emissions” so that more ambitious emission reductions would occur. And there was progress made on a “Global Goal on Adaptation”. The “Sharm El-Sheikh Implementation Plan” retained the Glasgow call to phase out coal and “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” and to call for reforming multilateral development banks.


Outside of the negotiations, the LWVUS delegation of observers took a broad view of various events. We heard from people on the ground affecting change and powerful political people from Biden and Kerry, to Al Gore, the UN’s Secretary General, a UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur, and a UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women. We participated in actions to convince delegates to be more ambitious and respect the rights of us all and we meet activists from around the world — passionate to address and solve the climate problem in many ways.



Here’s a sampling of what some of the LWVUS observers came away with:


Food & Agriculture

One observer focused on food. The Food Systems Pavilion provided much “food for thought”. Two facts were repeated multiple times. “1) 30% of climate issues are caused by agriculture, especially industrialized agriculture and therefore mitigation strategies must receive the proper attention;” and 2) “Since only 3% of climate change adaptation monies are directed toward food production and storage solutions, much more is needed to prevent mass hunger throughout many parts of the world.”


“Governments, such as the United States and Israel, are currently funding research projects and indeed both have a soft call out for new initiatives. Research labs are busy growing crops by controlling all inputs, from seed to harvest, to create a “better tomato” so to speak. Producers, such as Unilever, Oatly, and Impossible Burger are taking very different approaches---Unilever is working with governments to increase the nutritional value of its products and better storage of its inputs with the goal of food security in these nations. Oatly is designing its production and distribution systems to be net zero from the start. And Impossible Burger is working towards net negative emissions by creating demand for alternatives to animal-based proteins. Other entities are working directly with farmers by changing farming practices to improve soil health, guaranteeing against losses for the first few years of these changes and stabilizing farmers’ year-round income by planting trees to earn carbon credits which can then be sold.

Solutions will require substantial investments by all parties to affect change. However, innovation and fresh ideas abound in this arena as well. Plans are being discussed to replace food subsidies and target those monies towards adaptation. But even with adequate funds, key challenges include how to capture the true cost of food by factoring in impacts to health and the environment and how to scale up successful solutions yet at the same time recognizing that, in many cases, locally-led planning and execution is a must. Presentations at the LLA Pavilion (Locally Led Adaptation) reinforced the latter as a necessity.


We are in the early days of recognizing the role of food in the climate equation. Both as a contributor to and potential casualty of the climate crisis. As I discovered, this aspect is not without areas of disagreement as to who should do what, when, where and how. As with all problems of great importance, strong opinions abound. For example, the ICCA (International Coalition on Climate and Agriculture) finds fault with the new USA AIM (Agricultural Innovations Mission) agritech program, where the focus is on biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics and AI, claiming false solutions. ICCA’s focus is on ecological farming, not perpetuating industrial agriculture. And Impossible Burger squaring off against Oatley in a discussion claiming that net negative emissions, not net zero, should be the goal. But strong debate and discussions will lead to a much more food-secure world. “


Surveying delegates from various countries


One of our delegates took a very personal approach to the conference. Here are his notes:


“I decided to focus on personal interactions with people with whom I would almost never have contact. I began surveying countries with three questions: 1) what did they want Americans to know about their country and climate change; 2) what was their view of “loss and damages”; and 3) what did they think were the odds of keeping global warming to 1.5C by 2030?


I spoke to folks from 21 countries and several NGO’s. The closest they came to an agreement was that in general folks felt it was unlikely that we can keep global warming below 1.5C by 2030.


In the interest of time, I will summarize my impressions with some generalizations. In general, African countries, and some Pacific Island countries, consider themselves on the front line of climate change. Their reasons were quite compelling, from food shortages and deaths to civil unrest. They desperately need loss and damage money to help adapt to climate change.

Middle eastern countries (oil producers) generally focused on their virtue as future producers of hydrogen. They did not anticipate using their sovereign wealth funds to assist other countries. They were vague about loss and damages. (The Kuwaiti that I spoke with did point out that their country would be uninhabitable by 2035 and that sand storms reduced the viability of solar panels.)

The developed countries talked about their mitigation efforts and technological talents and were ambivalent about loss and damages

The odd two out were China and India both of whom are huge emitters. Their emissions are growing. They spoke about all that they were doing to develop alternative energy with vague promises about carbon neutrality in the far distant future

The country that gave me the most personal angst was Qatar. I asked them if it was true that Qatar was the largest carbon emitter in the world per capita. The person said it was insignificant. If carbon emissions are a cup, their emissions are a drop. The reason for my angst was that their logic is largely my logic when I travel to COP or drive a gas-powered car, clearly, I am part of the problem.


I am convinced that the single biggest thing the U.S. can do (and it will not solve the problem) is to put a rising fee on greenhouse gas emissions, rebate the proceeds monthly to everyone and implement a border carbon adjustment. This is not an original idea, but it requires political will that has not yet been demonstrated by the U.S.”

Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


11/17: Day 10 of COP27


Report submitted by Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


Getting to the end. Some items:


1. The Emissions Report from the UN Environmental Program; addresses the gap between how much emissions have been reduced or are addressed in current plans and how far we have to go.


2. Side event: HRW, TI, GAIA: Climate Justice, Civic Space and Public Participation


One takeaway: Some countries have suggested that a Conflict of Interest form is needed. Maybe by COP28 or ban corporations (happens in WHO)


Continued to listen to negotiations on a cover decision. There is a split in the delegations - many (including the US) want to reinforce the Glasgow Climate Pact and state a goal of reaching emissions peak by 2025. Also, including a phase out of coal and new fossil fuel incentives. Lots of push back on this last point. US would also like a statement relating to oceans and biodiversity. There is a concern that parties are going backwards, rather than forward.


Barbados made an interesting comment - originally the UNFCCC treaty was all about reducing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), then it morphed to include adaptation, now it has had to include discussions on “loss and damage”. If we had only taken care of the mitigation part early, we would have reduced the cost of addressing climate change and would not be addressing the latter two. Barbados always puts things very succinctly.


Someone asked me about what positives have come out so far from COP27. Here’s what I can say so far: 1) US and China are again negotiating on climate. 2) The Santiago Network implementation was agreed to (The network is for “Catalysing technical assistance of relevant organizations, bodies, networks and experts, for the implementation of relevant approaches for averting, minimize and addressing loss and damage at the local, national and regional level, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.”) 3). Lots of interesting and exciting ideas from an engaged global civil society. 4) The US delegation is saying a lot of the right things on gender, indigenous rights, and human rights.


I have some other notes to share, but will require some summarizing … maybe early next week.


Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


11/16: Day 9 of COP27


Report submitted by Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


From my virtual view - a couple of things to note:

  1. UN organizations are siloed and don’t speak enough to each other - but it’s better than it was. For example, UN Biodiversity talks only recently included climate discussions.

  2. Women and Gender: 80% of the NDCs (Nationally determined Contributions) mention gender and/or women, but it will still take 286 years to reach gender equality at the rate we are going. This is from a UNWomen report (don’t have a reference to report, yet).

  3. On Carbon Dioxide Removals using the ocean - there have several efforts over the years since 2009 to produce governing principles for ethical research in this area - for example, the Oxford Principles for Geo-engineering, and Principles for research into climate engineering techniques.


Susana’s take, on the ground:


My introduction to the League happened as a result of my interest in education, and one of my main interests in climate work (apart from the science/research/expedition skis I do) is in educating. This morning started with me attending a discussion on the role of informal (ie, not in school), locally-grounded climate teaching. We spoke about the role of culture and language, and my sociolinguistic background was wriggling with excitement. This also supports a program I have been trying to get off the ground, so I left the session with ideas, enthusiasm and a cast of global advisors!

On the academic front, my goal today was to attend two pavilion events led by a specialist in Antarctic and Greenlandic ice sheet destabilisation. I work with this man, but we had never met in person! As an Arctic researcher, one of my key interests is how the climate crisis in the Arctic is both a harbinger and a catalyst of global disaster. These two sessions focused on the dynamics of committed sea level rise and the shortcomings of ice models, which fail to show the rapid degree of ice loss seen in observations. For the record, Greenland has been averaging a loss of 14 million litres of water per second, so tally that up! Sea level rise from the poles is concentrated in the tropics, and we're seeing now resulting disasters, especially in the low-lying and small island developing states.



On the more COP-focused front, I joined my Indigenous sisters to stand against violence toward women and Indigenous peoples as a result of colonialism and extractive industry. We still do not have any concrete or substantive loss and damage finance from the negotiations. This is increasingly a hot topic, and it looks doubtful to me now. In the negotiations today, loss and damage finance was fiercely contested with some passionate and begging speeches by national representatives, yet the G20 and G7 have sought to protect their pockets, offering morsels for empathy that neither are financially sufficient nor would be controlled by the people in need of the funds. Here is one quote from Satyendra Prasad, Fiji's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to United Nations:

"The world is barreling down the highway to climate hell, as the United Nations Secretary General warned us. It isn’t Fiji’s foot on the gas pedal nor that of any Least Developed Country or Small Island Developing State. We are passengers – more like hostages trapped in a vehicle that is being recklessly steered by high emitters."


Imagine listening to these pleas all day!! It's heartbreaking for me. As a fighter for climate justice, I just want to rattle people into sense!


My other growing fear, especially with the UAE hosting COP28 next year and the 70 oil magnets comprising a core cohort of its constituency here, is that the Paris Accords may be dropped. 1.5 degrees has never been an arbitrary target!! It's a legit tipping point, a point at which disasters escalate exponentially. I am terrified the petro lobbyists here are getting the upper hand. So with that, I guess it's lucky I'm still running 18h days--fewer hours in bed to panic at night.

Guess we need to add ‘international climate negotiators’ as a target audience for education…

____


Robin Tokmakian LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


11/15: Day 8 of COP27


Report submitted by Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


The negotiations are now on a fast track to the end of the week and the parties are trying to address all the items which were left over from last week. Let’s see if the high-level ministers can get the job done on Article 6’s problem with removals, loss and damage funding, and addressing human rights issues.


You never know who is riding the shuttle buses. On one ride last week, I met one of the commissioners from the California Public Utility Commission, Commissioner John Reynolds. On another ride, Kimberly met a woman from Minnesota, who we ended up having dinner with. She ended up joining her local league in the Twin Cities because of Kimberly’s conversations with her (Kimberly is from Cincinnati).


In one side event on finance, the panelists spoke about the difficulty of women getting access to funding for local projects — For example, funding may be provided to improve major roads in an area, but the local roads, to get food or other items locally distributed do not get funded. The same thing applies to climate programs - funding is available for large projects that may or may not reach local people, but not for small local projects that may be significant on the small scale.



Here are Susana’s comments:


Sunday was supposed to be a rest day, but I was at the first of the two-day World Climate Summit to which I had been invited to further negotiate climate finance and Loss and Damages (ed. note - this is not the official UN negotiations]. In the evening, I attended UNDP's Frankie the Dino's birthday party on the beach--really good fun, and possibly my first dino-themed birthday party since the mid-1990s! You can check out Frankie's #DontChooseExtinction campaign here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9eFABJqGTM. Even though it made for another 16h day, it was great to be able to converse with a small group of fellow activists and researchers in a more casual environment over a (ha, some) piece(s) of cake.



However, not having rest on Sunday meant Monday hit me like a lead hammer. Given Monday was gender (and water) day, I had been invited to be on several panels and interviews about gender equity, advancing women in research, and the voices of women during COP proceedings and negotiations. After several of these, I was properly toast and again had an evening invitation with a preview of one of my climate films, so I didn't make it to any panels today. Today, the UN Women Executive Director, Sima Bahous, cited that we're not on track to meet gender equality by 2030. In fact, not by 2050 or even 2100! Bahous cites a date 300 years into the future!! Partially as a result of the lack of meaningful action on themes of loss and damage, climate implementation (this is the "Implementation COP") and the compounding effects on gender, we have some spillover events for tomorrow that will continue these threads.



There are only four more days of COP, and I am definitely starting to feel the pressure! We have yet to have the emergence, or even partial emergence, of key conference plans (again, notably surrounding themes of loss and damage, and implementation), which hints at some seriously late nights in meeting rooms this week. Germany, on behalf of global partners, launched a Global Shield Against Climate Risks today as a mechanism of funneling money into particularly vulnerable areas, but the financing pledged by the G7 is a "drop in the bucket," according to Rachel Simon, the policy coordinator for Climate Action Network Europe. Wealthy countries know what is needed and they can very well afford it, but it isn't their priority. Instead, the climate crisis is a threat multiplier, particularly for climate vulnerable countries, women, and other marginalized territories and groups.


Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate Change


11/12: Day 6 of COP27


Report submitted by Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


End of the first week, and work of the negotiators is partly done, but they haven’t finished the job. The closing plenaries of the two subsidiary bodies say too many agenda items incomplete including not having a draft text for funding “loss and damage” and not resolving the questions of whether or not to reopen the Article 6 (carbon market) text about what constitutes a “removal” or credit. Let’s see if the ministerial level negotiations can get it done.

Civil society held a big demonstration inside the UN space. The space includes streets that could accommodate the loud and powerful voices of activists. Unlike in previous years, demonstrations were not allowed outside the UN space.



I’ve left Egypt and will now follow virtually…. Below are a copy of other reflections from LWV delegates inside and outside the UN space.

From one of LWVUS’ young delegates —- a junior in high school, Sumedha:


“I was particularly interested in the Africa Climate Week Side Events and the Presidency events relating to Africa, like “Africa: From Needs to Access” and the official launch of “A Climate Resilient Africa Initiative.” Studies presented at the conference noted that Africa requires $190 billion of investment a year, with two-thirds of this going to clean energy, in order to meet its climate and energy goals. As it stands, according to the Sustainable Development Goal 7 tracking report, Africa is unlikely to meet the SDG7 targets. In order to address and work towards diminishing economic and sociopolitical inequities within Africa, universal access to electricity is essential — a study done by the Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa also exposed a financing gap that stands between $17 billion and $25 billion, with the continent’s large economies like Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa accounting for around 33 percent of this deficit.


I was also able to check out the SBI-SBSTA special event on the gender-related aspects of IPCC AR6 (WGII and WGIII) and look at some of the related documents (“Implementation of gender-responsive climate policies, plans, strategies and action as reported by Parties in regular reports and communications under the UNFCCC”). There was recognition of how women across the globe are more vulnerable to climate-related risks (economic consequences, further domestic and educational inequity) and yet are imperative to the climate solution (as agricultural workers, household managers, and frontline leaders). Presenter Minhal Pinak noted that there exist gendered differences in energy and consumption choices — women use less energy (even in more developed countries). She also noted that (particularly in less developed countries without reliable access to education, medical assistance, and social protection), environmental degradation leads to asymmetrical health consequences that primarily harm women.

“AIPP: Indigenous Peoples' Assessment: Our contributions to the National Climate Plans and Policies” was another standout. The meeting mostly focused on exploring the question of whether and how Asian governments are recognizing the rights, roles and contributions of Indigenous Peoples. The Chairman presented a study focusing on Thailand that focused on a long-term climate master plan (up to 2050). Some of the key findings they noted were that Indigenous communities have already been suffering from climate change (decrease in water sources and natural food sources), but Indigenous people have knowledge of the natural landscape and how to accommodate such changes. However, equitable climate change mitigation is essential to sustainability in Asia — increasing forest cover, in particular, is vital for Indigenous communities and for the continent of Asia.”


And from Susana Hancock, LWVUS climate observer:

“Today was another one for soul rejuvenation, which provided a bit of breathing space for me. Late morning, I joined the Global Climate March within the UN-controlled Blue Zone. With Egypt’s laws prohibiting free speech, nearly all forms of protest have been isolated to an off-site zone. We, however, received official permission to have this event on-site. It was empowering to march, rally, and cheer with several hundred other Blue Zone participants. The march ended with speeches, mostly from African activists questioning the legacy of colonialism in the current COP dialogue.



I also had the opportunity to meet with Dr Vandana Shiva, whom I met as a kid when I first learned about the role of agriculture in addressing the climate crisis.


After my last session, I made my way to the Green Zone, the section of the COP run locally. It was full of a different kind of life, art, music, and a lot of creativity. Very few Blue Zone delegates even go to the Green Zone and probably fewer global leaders. I wish more delegates would go, it is a showcase of how the climate crisis affects more local communities. “


Robin Tokmakian - LWVUS UN Observer for Climate



11/11: Day 5 of COP27


Report submitted by Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


Started the day in the Women and Gender Constituency meeting. After updates on various states of the negotiations, we had a surprise visit from the sister of the prisoned UK/Egyptian, Alaa Abdel-Fattah. He is on a hunger/water strike. She informed us that the Egyptian government said that his attorneys could see him, but in the end, they weren’t allowed in. I hope that while President Biden was in Egypt, he had strong words about the situation with the Egyptian President.


Talking about security —men in suits EVERYWHERE, on the street, in the UN, in your hotel. That is on top of men with AK47s (only a few I’ve seen), regular police, traffic police, and private security in hotels (more than one and on the road to hotels.Leaving Egypt yesterday, at the airport — two airport-like security checks, and multiple passport checks, including right before getting on the plane, where the policeman wanted to see the Visa stamp on our passports. When I went through one security check, the man with a “bomb squad” label on his shirt checked my bag to see what a small metal thing was. … It was my favorite collapsable pen. But seeing it, opening it up to where the cartridge was — was not good enough for him. He put it through the scanning in a big bin all by itself! Maybe he thought it was a James Bond camera or something! Very strange.

Three US Senators spoke at the US Pavillion, Cardin(MD), Whitehouse(RI), and Markey(MA). They spoke about all the work done in the Senate, the problems with cloture, and the difficulty of getting things done with the powerful fossil fuel lobby. All things we know about. Emphasized that there are still things the Exec. Dept. could do in the area of the regulation. Markey thinks we need a World Climate Organization like the World Meteorological Org that handles the coordination of weather operations. Whitehouse spoke about efforts to crush democracy around the world and also about independent PACS. All things we know can harm civil society interaction with getting things done.


Last, with the human rights working caucus, we had a visit with the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the area of Climate, Ian Fry. He was a former negotiator for Tuvalu and was surprised now that he is in the side event space that there is a vast disconnect between civil society and the negotiators. The negotiators are not showing up to side events to hear from civil society. It is much different from what happens at the biodiversity COPs where there is more sharing between civil society and the parties.


Susana Hancock, LWVUS climate observer:


I needed some personal care today after a few recent tough days. So I slept in (til 8am) and had a good meal. I also gained energy from some protests on loss and damage funding. The afternoon was capped off with a speech by President Biden. Overall, he spoke with passion and conviction, and he said the ‘right’ things. However, I have heard these words before. This COP is said to be the Implementation COP—the time for promises is over, and I find myself disenchanted by anyone offering further pledges when not backed by action. Unfortunately, while I know the US recently passed its largest-ever climate act with the IRA, the fact is we have a dire track record, and even if completely upheld, the IRA only covers a fraction of our commitments to the Paris Agreement. As a country, we have only actually paid up 5% of the financing we’re promised in the green transition, and I need time to digest Biden’s words, time to see that his Administration is for implementation.


Signing off - Robin Tokmakian LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


11/10: Day 4 of COP27


Report submitted by Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


It was, unofficially, human rights day at COP27. Many people wore white, the color of imprisoned people in Egypt. Several silent protests were held - but unsure if member states were moved.


One highlight of the day was a group of US NGOs being able to meet with the official US delegation, that is, the negotiators. They were fairly frank in their views (but off the record) and we can take hope that the outcomes will be positive, but there is still a ways to go.




On the negotiation front - things are moving along. The parties have essentially agreed to start the process to create a fund for addressing loss and damage caused by climate events. It will probably take several years to complete. This is a major accomplishment because it was not even on the agenda for this COP and was added at the beginning of the negotiation process. And progress is being made to implement the rules for Article 6, the carbon market. The parties have expressed concern over the language concerning “removals”. That is what counts as removing carbon from the atmosphere. Civil society is very concerned that the proposed language is harmful to many communities and is too broad. It appears that the US also sees this as a problem. One consequence of the implementation rules that will be put in place, is that many voluntary/non-Paris Agreement markets will follow these same rules. We don’t want bad rules, such as what happened with the Kyoto agreement.

Susana Hancock, LWVUS climate observer, has this to add about what she’s been up to:


Today was a toughie for me. To have been an activist since elementary school and a frontline scientist, I want to believe we host these events for progress in tackling the existential threat of the climate crisis. Yet, 636 lobbyists are here from the petroleum industry—70 are part of the UAE delegation, which is particularly scary given the UAE is hosting COP28. There is so much greenwashing in their material—each of their displays highlights how fossil fuels are necessary to our future with some fictitious net-zero pledge.


Around midday, I was invited to address this on a broadcast, which had several million live views. I spoke about speaking to power, both as a young activist and also as a scientist in the fastest-warming region in the world and the global disasters triggered by this region’s rapid change.



I wrapped up my evening with an IPCC colleague from Kyiv. I had the chance to learn about Ukrainian polar research projects and then had the opportunity to hear how the war has changed the research landscape.

Luckily, I also ran into an amazing friend from school—unexpectedly, and it was incredibly reinvigorating. We do this work for a reason. It is worth it.

Check out my social media for more—each evening I am sharing a short wrap-up in a video taken from a different part of COP. www.twitter.com/susanahancock_ and www.instagram.com/susanahancock_


Signing off -- Robin Tokmakian LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


11/9: Day 3 of COP27


Report submitted by Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


Today was an odd mix of things. Tried to listen to some of the negotiations. On the carbon market implementation, there was disagreement between parties on whether or not there should be a “coordination and working group”. Once again parties disagreed with the developed countries (US, Canada, EU for example) not wanting extra bureaucracy and the developing countries (for example the Africa Group).


One positive note - Brazil has changed its tune this year with the recent outcome of their election. Because of the transition process in Brazil, it seemed to happen overnight — with much more progressive statements coming from the Brazil delegation. Not surprisingly, the Brazilian NGOs are overjoyed.


In the US Center, Kerry announced an “Energy transition accelerator” - basically a voluntary carbon market with the Bezos Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation behind it. Some of the concern I heard was that it might trample on human rights, and allow double counting — all the problems found in the Kyoto Protocol.



Here’s a look at COP from LWV observer Susana Hancock:


One of my highlights(?) today was partaking in the Earth Information briefing at the large plenary hall. The World Meteorological Organization, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission-UNESCO and other scientific expert teams presented to the UN to give an update on our planetary status, and in particular, our so-called carbon budget. However, in a significant oversight, nowhere was permafrost thaw mentioned as a greenhouse gas source. Permafrost holds 4x the carbon that has been emitted by modern humans!! Its thaw accounts for as much as 40% of our remaining carbon budget and the UN leaders continue to act as if it doesn’t exist. As a polar specialist, this is a topic I was able to raise, and I was backed by research institutions around the world afterward. Accounting for permafrost completely destroys our global calculations and drastically cuts any permissible emissions. Still waiting for answers….

Robin Tokmakian LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


11/8: Day 2 of COP27


Report submitted by Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


COP27 is underway in earnest. The US opened their pavilion with John Kerry talking about - what else - the Inflation Reduction Act. The highlight, though, was not the bigwigs, but Janene Yazzie of the NDN Collective, an enrolled Navajo. What a dynamo! She spoke from the heart about how the indigenous peoples of the world have taken care of the land and it is their soul to do so. She spoke of how hard it is to repair damages done by big corporations and big governments.



Human Rights are front and center at COP27. Both from the climate perspective and from the perspective of political prisoners held in Egypt. There is a working group for Human Rights to advocate and push delegates not to trample on them as the Paris agreement moves toward full implementation. One aspect is that in creating the rules for the market mechanisms, there is a fear that anyone and everyone will be able to claim carbon credits, even if human rights are trampled upon. For example, if a geoengineering scheme, such as fertilizing the ocean to take up carbon, is allowed and is not verified not to impact the rights we have as humans, then fishing as a basic food source may be harmed. There are many more examples.


I also listened to several sessions on the IPCC. One on how climate scenarios are determined and the outcomes, in terms of mitigation. A new article to appear in Science in the next few days talks about the economic growth is much better for developing countries under scenarios that reach net-zero. The other IPCC session was on how gender issues have been addressed in the three reports along with the 1.5°C report. No surprise, women are affected by climate change in ways that men don’t face, much having to do with cooking and growing food. But one of the IPCC reports has evidence that overall, women’s carbon footprint is much smaller than men’s. This is not only in how we use energy or the traditional jobs associated with each gender but that women make better sustainable choices when it comes to energy use. Interesting, I say.


One big or little positive, depending on how you view it — Scotland pledged money to a “loss and damage” fund.


The logistics still are difficult. It is a miracle each day that I can get off a crowded bus at the right stop as the drivers don’t seem to want to stop anywhere along the way. And food is still not to be found easily.


Here is a brief report from our delegate from Maine, Susana Hancock:


I had a 15h day, and I am properly spent—needed my first cup of caff midday! I started at 7am with breakfast meetings on climate finance, before the small invite-only First Movers Summit on implementation of policy. I then took a bit of time to check out the NY Times Climate Hub to which I had been invited (attending it otherwise a costs more than I am paying in accommodation!!) and met neat people developing climate education practices, which ties into some of my specific League interests. Afterward, I returned to talk about loss and damage financing in high-level panels and had the opportunity to speak with the present and past COP presidents and Egyptian leaders. Lastly, I spent some time planning for one of my upcoming panels and linking up with some of my IPCC colleagues and drafting responses to several world leaders on integrity, action and the gross lack of action to which I am accustomed.

Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


11/7: Day 1 of COP27


Report submitted by Robin Tokmakian, LWVUS UN Observer for Climate


COP27 has begun. This first report will be short. Monday’s events were mostly introductory negotiation sessions and the world leader’s summit. President Biden has not arrived yet, but former Vice President Al Gore was in full voice.


Former Vice President Al Gore speaks at COP27.


Sharm-el-Sheik is, well, different. It is a purpose-built resort and that is what it feels like. Some logistical things have gone smoothly - for example, security lines are not super long like in Glasgow (COP26), but eating places inside the UN space are few and far between. We are all hoping that things will improve as the side events begin tomorrow and it will become even more crowded. Several LWV delegates have had the pleasure of swimming in the Red Sea and we’ve tried the local seafood.


In the negotiation space - The women and gender constituency along with an NGO human rights working group are making their voices heard, but whether action by member states will occur, who knows? I heard on a bus ride that progress has been made in the area of “loss and damage” in the form of an added agenda item being approved to push for specific ‘loss and damage” funding. It is a beginning but will take a while to get any funding in place. Loss and damage funding is money to address things like the floods in Pakistan. It is different from adaptation funding.


I had a conversation on the walk and shuttle ride to COP with a former assistant to the UN’s secretary general. He and a group he is with are pushing to change how climate ambition gets achieved. He thinks we should have it like the Olympics and award prices for who does the best in various areas. Not sure how that would work, but interesting idea.


All for now.


Robin Tokmakian & the rest of the LWVUS team


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