Cop27 starts and many hope it will not prove another failure

Photo by Sayed Sheasha/Reuters: View of a COP27 sign on the road leading to the conference area in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh town

Contributed by Joe Montero

The United Nations Cop27 climate talks are under way in Egypt. Division began right from the start and took the form of a disagreement about an item on the agenda about the wording on how to address the loss and damage suffered by the poorest and most vulnerable countries and hoe to help them. The argument lasted a day. This is symptomatic of the division among the attending 186 nations, 120 world leaders, and a total of 45,000 participants.

After a day of bickering a final compromise was reached. The argument centres on which nations should be held most responsible and should therefore bear a cost. Developing nations argue that they have caused far less damage per capita and can’t afford to a heavy burden. They insist that developed nations should help. Developed nations, in turn, bulk against taking the responsibility and providing the level of help needed. This is even they ushered in the industrial and fossil fuel economy and have therefore produced most of the carbon currently in the atmosphere.

Most reasonable people would believe that climate change is far too important a matter for petty argument.

The troubled start to Cop27 is ominous and may be a sign that little progress can be expected. Governments continue to dither as the world heads towards catastrophe. The target of preventing a climate temperature rise of 2.5C, reaffirmed at last year’s Cop26 gathering in Glasgow isa already lost. The world’s temperature will rise by at least this amount. And the minimal promises made then have still not been honoured.

Australia under Scott Morrison played a terrible role in Glasgow. At least this time, under a new government, there has been a lifting of the bar. Support has been pledged to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution by 43 percent by 2030 compared to 2005. But the Morrison bar was set so low that anything would be an improvement. The Albanese government is under pressure to lift its carbon reduction policy much higher. Australia’s commitment still lags many other countries.

Unfortunately, the Australian Prime Minister has joined his United States and British counterparts in not attending. Climate change and energy minister, Chris Bowen, will be there at the head of an Australian delegation.

Photo by Diego Fedele/AAP: Australia’s climate change and energy minister Chris Bowen with state and territory energy ministers

Cop27 must move forwards meaningfully if it is going to do its job and continue with relevancy. Australia’s role should be to join the voices calling for this.

If the science, including the most recent reports, is going to be respected, the world must accept that unless much more effort is forthcoming, the planet is heading for a catastrophe. It’s not only wild animals and plants that are suffering, which should be enough to spur humanity into action on its own. Human beings are also experiencing the impact of increasingly volatile weather and rising sea levels. The prospect of food and water shortages, economic collapse and social chaos is real.

The world still has an opportunity to avoid disaster. But the window is narrowing and there is little time left. This is what Cop27 must admit to and act accordingly.

As the world’s foremost per capita polluter, Australia has an obligation to be part of the solution and stop being part of the problem.

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