COP27 continues to suffer human rights criticism

Yesterday, the long-awaited COP27 kicked off in Egypt. Flemish Environment minister Zuhal Demir will not attend the climate summit. "Human rights there are hardly better than in Qatar," she informed. In recent days, more prominent figures reported absence, which is not conducive to this multi-day international meeting. ​

Some 45,000 people are attending the 27th UN climate conference over the next two weeks. On Monday and Tuesday, there is the world leaders' summit, where 120 heads of state and government discuss how to tackle climate change and global warming. Prime minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) represents Belgium at the two-day summit. Federal Energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen), Climate minister Zakia Khattabi (Ecolo) and Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib (MR) will also appear on the COP27 stage in the coming days.

"In Egypt, climate scientists are gagged, while politicians and companies are given the red carpet."

According to a rotation between federal and regional ministers, it is up to Flanders to represent Belgium this time. Still, Flemish Environment minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) previously expressed her reluctance to go on-site. According to her, human rights in Egypt are 'appalling', and therefore she decided to consult only digitally. "In Egypt, climate scientists are gagged, while politicians and companies are given the red carpet," she reported in a press release in late October.

Meanwhile, more and more people and organisations are trying to distance themselves from the host country, as a recent report by Amnesty International shows that the human rights situation in Egypt is catastrophic, especially since al-Sissi took office in 2014. The president of Egypt has undone the democratic gains of the Arab Spring by banning protests and arresting political opponents. In other words, climate youth would have no chance to make themselves heard. This is also why climate activist Greta Thunberg refuses to attend the climate summit, which she says offers opportunities for greenwashing.

We must choose between "solidarity" or "collective suicide"

Like the Qatar World Cup, enthusiasm about COP27 is going below zero. After all, the international community's latest commitments cannot prevent the world from warming by at least 2.5°C in the coming decades. Still, too many countries are not ambitious enough to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, even though it is necessary to come close to the targets.

Meanwhile, WWF confirms that we are doing anything but well. 2022 was another year of significant droughts, water shortages and forest fires in Europe and unprecedented floods in Pakistan, while other parts of the world were ravaged by heat waves and increasing tropical storms. WWF, therefore, urges the participants to reach landmark agreements at COP27 on adaptation and financing for damage and loss, especially for the vulnerable countries and communities hardest hit by these disasters.

The NGO further calls for nature to play a more significant role in this year's talks and urges leaders to integrate nature-based solutions into climate action. In this way, they can create momentum ahead of Montreal's December COP15 biodiversity summit. In the meantime, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged humanity to "work together or perish". We must choose between "solidarity" or "collective suicide", Guterres said.



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