The Latest | UN Climate Summit

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — The Latest on COP27, this year’s annual U.N. summit on climate change.

The head of the U.N. Development Program warned Wednesday that many poor nations are struggling to raise the funds for tackling climate change because of the heavy burden of debt they’re under.

Achim Steiner told The Associated Press that his agency estimates 54 countries worldwide are now facing potential “debt distress.”

“That’s essentially a step away from not being able to pay the interest rate or even to pay your debts,” he said. “And that is a very serious situation.”

Steiner said one proposal being discussed at this year’s U.N. climate talks in Egypt is to forgive a part of countries’ debt if they commit to investing in clean energy projects and adapting to global warming.

So far, there has not been much progress on that issue, he said.

This has fueled the perception that poor nations only act against climate change if they receive money from the rich, which is not true, said Steiner.

An analysis by his office showed developing countries have been investing many times the amounts they receive from developed countries on climate measures.

Steiner said a recent estimate of the money needed to tackle global warming runs to between $1-2 trillion a year — a fraction of the world’s total global wealth of $430 trillion.

“Are we really unable to direct public and private financial flows to the tune of one or $2 trillion, essentially saving humanity and our economies from extraordinary disasters that are beginning to manifest themselves,” he asked.

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An Egyptian minister says Africa needs up to $1.6 trillion to address the devastating impacts of climate change by the end of the decade.

Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad says funding is a major challenge but access must be given to African nations to “bridge the gaps between the needs and climate funding.”

Fouad spoke Wednesday at an event on facilitating access to climate funding at the United Nations conference on climate change, currently underway in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

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A senior White House official says it’s up to China to “get back to the table” in talks with the United States on tackling climate change.

President Joe Biden’s senior adviser on clean energy innovation, John Podesta, said Beijing was harming itself and the rest of the world by not formally engaging with the U.S.

Deals between the world’s two biggest emitters have been crucial in the past to getting broader international agreements on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, such as the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Podesta’s comments to reporters on the sidelines of the U.N. climate talks in Egypt came after China’s envoy Xie Zhenhua blamed the U.S. for rupturing relations with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, seen as an affront by Beijing which considers the country part of its territory.

Both Xie and Podesta acknowledged that informal encounters between the two sides have taken place in recent weeks, even if they differed on who should make the first move at reconciliation.

“It’s up to them to get back to the table,” Podesta said.

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Egypt’s government said on Wednesday it signed partnership agreements worth $15 billion for climate change-related projects as it hosts the U.N climate summit in the seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The agreements include a $10 billion investment in clean energy, and eight other initiatives that cover food security, agriculture and irrigation and water sectors.

In a statement, the government said the projects would help the country transition to renewable energy by replacing existing inefficient thermal power plants.

It also said the investment would help adaption efforts to protect farmlands and coastal areas through increasing crop yields and irrigation efficiency, building resilience of vulnerable regions in the country.

The projects will be funded by world and regional financial institutions including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the African Development Bank and global banks such as HSBC and CitiBank.

The signing ceremony was attended by Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly and U.S. climate envoy John Kerry.

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The top 14 greenhouse gas emitters are gas and oil fields and their associated facilities, with the U.S. the oil-rich Permian Basin at the summit of the list. What’s more, emissions are much higher than reported to the U.N., as much as three times more.

That’s according to data released Wednesday by the Climate TRACE coalition at the U.N. conference on climate change, hosted by Egypt in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The coalition of 100 organizations said it collected its data through multiple open sources including satellite coverage, remote sensing, artificial intelligence.

Announcing the report, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who is a founding member Climate TRACE, said the data showed how deep emissions cuts need to be to “prevent the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis.”

The report showed that 56.33 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions were produced in 2021, and the Permian Basin was at the top of emitters with with more than 208.6 million tons. Russia’s Urengoyskoye gas field came second in the list with 152 million tons.

The data showed that the top 500 individual sources of greenhouse gas emissions account for 14% of the global emissions for 2021.

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China blamed the United States for disrupting negotiations between the world’s two biggest polluters on tackling climate change, but said communications never ceased entirely.

Beijing’s climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, told reporters at the U.N. climate conference in Egypt that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan had “invaded China’s sovereignty and hurt Chinese people’s feelings.”

“That’s why China decided to suspend the formal climate talks with U.S.,” he said. “The responsibility lies totally with the U.S. side.”

Xie urged the United States to “clear the barriers” to holding formal talks again. Meanwhile Xie and his U.S. counterpart, John Kerry, had continued informal exchanges before and during the gathering in Sharm el-Sheikh, he said.

“The door is actually closed by them and it is we, China, trying to open it,” he added, according to an official translation.

Asked why President Xi Jinping was not attending the two-week meeting, where U.S. President Joe Biden is expected Friday, Xie cited the Chinese leader’s “very busy domestic schedule” and visits by foreign dignitaries following the recent Communist Party congress.

“When you have guests at home you cannot just leave them and fly abroad to this conference,” he said.

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The mother of a leading jailed Egyptian pro-democracy activist who is on a hunger and water strike went to the prison where her son is held for the third day in a row on Wednesday in hope of getting proof that he is still alive amid increasingly growing concerns about his health.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah, also a U.K. citizen, escalated his months-long hunger strike and stopped drinking water Sunday to coincide with the start of the Egypt-hosted U.N. climate summit on Nov. 6.

His family has been lobbying for his release for months, taking advantage of the international spotlight on Egypt’s human rights record at COP27.

Abdel-Fattah’s mother, Laila Soueif, was unsuccessful on her previous two attempts to receive a letter from her son. Officers told her that he refused to write one.

His family fears that prison authorities might resort to force-feeding him to keep him alive.

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Climate activist Vanessa Nakate has warned against new fossil fuel projects on the African continent at the U.N. climate summit Wednesday, arguing oil and gas are “a dangerous distraction.”

The UNICEF ambassador added that “decades of fossil fuel development has failed to help the 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa without basic electricity access,” adding that any projects in Africa will only serve energy demands in the global north.

Nakate has previously spoken out against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline which would run through her native Uganda.

She feared any new fossil fuel projects would “soon become stranded assets” which would leave “African countries with debts piled upon debt.”

Nakate repeated her calls for rich countries to step up and pay for the damage cause by heat-trapping gases in poorer nations that are more vulnerable to climate change.

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The first phase to a project to establish a major clean hydrogen plant in the Egyptian seaside resort of Ain el-Sokhna was launched by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and the Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre on Wednesday.

The project will have a capacity to produce 100 megawatts of green hydrogen once completed. President el-Sissi said the project “provides a practical model of investment partnership that stimulates sustainable economic development with a focus on the role of the national and foreign private sector.”

Norwegian renewable energy company Scatec will take the lead in developing the project. The company already has a footprint in Egypt, having developed one of the world’s largest solar parks, the Benban solar park in the Aswan region in upper Egypt.

The Egyptian government said in a statement that they intend to work towards producing 8% of the global hydrogen market in the next few years.

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An aid group linked to Denmark’s Lutheran Church says it wants to take responsibility for all of the emissions it has produced worldwide over the past 100 years.

DanChurchAid said Wednesday that from 2023 to 2025 it aims to plant enough trees to absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide — the main greenhouse gas — as its activities have produced since 1922.

The group acknowledge that there is no agreed method for how to count historic emissions, but that “a rough estimate is better than no estimate” and if in doubt it erred on the high side.

DanChurchAid said that while it can’t undo the damage its emissions have caused, it hopes the measures “will provide inspiration and contribute to the debate about how to address the climate crisis.”

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BERLIN — Climate activists climbed on top of Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate to protest global warming on Wednesday.

The activists from Last Generation unrolled a large poster Wednesday morning saying, “We wish for survival … We are the last generation.”

Members of Last Generation and other climate groups have been protesting across Germany for months, disrupting traffic by gluing themselves to city streets during rush hour or sticking their hands by famous paintings in museums trying to call people’s attention to their cause.

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A few dozen climate activists held a small protest on Wednesday calling on nations to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

Wednesday’s protest was a rare show of activism in at the U.N. conference, known as COP27, taking place in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The protesters called for an end to new oil and gas exploration and money for renewable energy. The protest comes on COP27′s themed day for finance and was organized by the Netherlands-based Recourse organization that campaigns for investments to be redirected away from fossil fuels and toward renewables.

The protesters sang, chanted and held signs with slogans that read: “Get Finance out of Fossil Fuels,” and “No Gas.”

Several thorny issues have been discussed at the talks, including further cutting greenhouse gas emissions and boosting financial aid for poor countries struggling with the impacts of climate change.

The issue of reparations for climate harms, known as loss and damage, has been put on the negotiation agenda for the first time, with many leaders calling for the implementation of previous financial pledges.

Another group of activists held a protest also demanding a “swift, just and equitable phase-out of fossil fuel.”

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Follow AP’s climate and environment coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment

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