Responsible and Sustainable Investing

Responsible and Sustainable Investing

INTRODUCTION Responsible and sustainable investing are trending topics in the investment industry. GraySwan has, since becoming a signory to the PRI (Principles of Responsible Investing) in 2013, written numerous articles and research pieces outlining developments...

COP27 – What can we expect?

The 27th U.N. climate conference (known as COP27) convenes today and tomorrow in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Sadly, the prospects of this meeting yielding any meaningful results seem remote, and already there is greater focus on the controversies than the issues at hand (the appointment of Coca-Cola, arguably the brand associated with the worst plastic pollution, as the lead sponsor is not even the most controversial issue).

The biggest controversy threatening to overshadow the climate agenda is the fact that it is being held in Egypt, where the assault on human rights have continued with even greater momentum in the lead up to the conference. Since he seized power in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government has arrested more than 60,000 people on political grounds, according to reports by human rights groups. Sisi has silenced dissent, dismantled the independent media, undermined courts, and stifled civil society. Not surprisingly, Sisi’s government has imposed severe restrictions on environmental groups and will strictly curtail civil society participation in COP27. Human Rights Watch (1) reported in September that, “those working on these issues have been arrested, forced into exile, or silenced through a slew of bureaucratic restrictions that make research impossible.”

Last year Amnesty International ranked Egypt as the third worst (2) country by number of executions. It’s for this reason that some climate justice campaigners, including author Naomi Klein, are calling this the “Carceral Climate Summit”. Klein is one of the dozens of prominent environmentalists and politicians, alongside Bill McKibben and UK MP Caroline Lucas, who expressed their alarm in a letter earlier this year.

“We are deeply concerned that a successful conference will not be possible due to the repressive actions of the Egyptian government,” the signatories wrote.

“Indeed, it seems more likely at this point that the conference will be used to whitewash human rights abuses in the country.”

The United Nations itself has been outspoken, publicly announcing that Egypt must ensure the safety and full participation of all parts of civil society [at COP27], after a wave of government restrictions on participation raised fears of reprisals against activists. “This new wave follows years of persistent and sustained crackdowns on civil society and human rights defenders using security as a pretext to undermine the legitimate rights of civil society to participate in public affairs in Egypt.”, the UN announced.

“Arrests and detention, NGO asset freezes and dissolutions and travel restrictions against human rights defenders have created a climate of fear for Egyptian civil society organisations to engage visibly at the COP27,” the experts said. (2)

They warned that Egyptian NGOs have previously been subject to harassment, intimidation and reprisals for cooperating with the UN.

A lack of information and transparent accreditation criteria for Egyptian NGOs, a coordinated increase in hotel room rates, undue restrictions to freedom of peaceful assembly outside the COP27 venue, and unjustified delays in the provision of visas to those travelling from abroad were the main concerns for civil society activists, the experts said.

Addressing the existential global threat of climate change effectively seems even more daunting given the ongoing global energy crisis (caused mainly by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a continuing Covid health emergency, and a global economic downturn tied to inflation). While the agendas have been set, the media briefed and the delegates prepped, it remains to be seen whether, under these unfavourable conditions, COP27 can accomplish much – COP 26 in Glasgow was hailed as something of a disappointment as measured by the perceived progress made by member countries towards reaching Net Zero (emissions) targets. And, with even more catastrophic evidence of the cost of climate inaction over the last 12 months the urgency has just become even greater.

“The work ahead is immense. As immense as the climate impacts we are seeing around the world,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during a pre-COP meeting this week.
“A third of Pakistan flooded. Europe’s hottest summer in 500 years. The Philippines hammered. The whole of Cuba in black-out,” he listed.

The onslaught of climate disasters in 2022 has left little breathing space for the international community to respond. And, as the latest report (4) from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows, time is ticking ever more dangerously towards the 1.5C threshold of global warming.

Another key issue to be taken into account at this COP is climate injustice. Climate injustice is a phenomenon or term used to describe the situation in which countries that contribute the least to the climate crisis nevertheless pay the highest price. Ahead of COP27 in November, some of the nations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are pushing for a funding facility for loss and damage to be established. This was also a major topic of conversation at last year’s COP 26, with major polluters like the US and EU opposing the creation of a separate fund to address this issue. But the need to help countries pay for damages caused by climate consequences has never been more apparent.

After recent severe flooding affected one in seven people in Pakistan – around 33 million people – the country’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that loss and damage must be on finance the agenda at COP27. (5)

He expressed hope that a decision could be reached at the international conference, to be held in Egypt, for a financial mechanism to compensate developing countries for these often catastrophic impacts of climate change.
Denmark has been the first to pay “loss and damage compensation”, recently voluntarily promising 100 million Danish crowns (€13.4 million) to developing nations damaged by climate change.

It is grossly unfair that the world’s poorest should suffer the most from the consequences of climate change to which they have contributed the least.
Flemming Møller Mortensen
Denmark’s development minister

This makes COP27 a decisive event on the fate of countries most vulnerable to climate change. The fortnight of negotiations kicks off today with a World Leader’s Summit today and tomorow. After this, government officials will tackle some of the weightiest issues surrounding climate including finance, decarbonisation, adaptation and agriculture.

In the second week, big topics including gender, water and biodiversity will be in the spotlight.

We will have to wait and see how the conference develops – hopefully as a forum for robust debate and decisive action. This is what is needed- let’s hope it delivers.

1. Egypt: Government Undermining Environmental Groups | Human Rights Watch (
2. Death Penalty 2021: Facts and Figures – Amnesty International
3. Egypt urged to ensure civil society’s full participation in COP27 climate summit | | 1UN News
4. It’s not too late to fix the climate crisis & 5 other things to know about today’s IPCC report | Euronews
5. Pakistan floods: Parts of the country now ‘like a sea’ says prime minister | Euronews
6. At COP 27 In Egypt, Climate Accountability Will Be Challenging.