Author: Andi Mujollari

A surprise from COP27

The last global events have brought an intense interest in the climate crises and their devastating impact on human life. Floods in Pakistan, the heat waves in Africa, and also the location of the conference created the perfect environment for a strong Loss and Damage agenda. As part of the week 1 group, based on what I witnessed in the loss and damage negotiations my expectations were very low. Developing countries asked for financial mechanisms while the developed countries were killing the time with discussions on ToR, how the host country will be selected, and the structure of the mechanism. Outside of these rooms, it was hard for me to match the expectations of the public and the progress made in the negotiation. Here is when COP27 taught me the biggest lesson: the magic happens during the overnight hours of the last day. The parties agreed on creating a Loss and Damage Fund as a support mechanism for natural disasters’ catastrophic impact on developing countries. This is a very important commitment that shows serious engagement from everyone. As this agreement cached me off guard, my interest is significantly high in the upcoming work of the secretariat and stakeholders to make the mechanism totally functional.

Away from progress, the inability to make forward GHG reduction goals is considered one of COP27’s failings. I don’t consider it a failure from what I witnessed in the negotiations around this particular issue. The majority of the parties were generally in agreement with the text recommended by the secretariat until the final six minutes when Richard representing South Africa took the floor. His position is quite powerful because he is the spokesperson for the African group and his recommendations are always taken into account. Richard brought up several very significant issues that prevented agreement at least for this COP. He claimed that developing nations needed more time to comprehend the text and evaluate their capabilities and potential in terms of what they can accomplish. He was dissatisfied with the secretariat for withholding technical and financial reports as well. Although they didn’t reach a consensus, to me, it sent a very clear message to everyone. Every nation needs to be aware of its capabilities and should avoid signing agreements merely for the purpose of garnering media attention. Previous experiences have demonstrated that having ambition fosters a positive attitude and inspires everyone to do better, but we cannot expect an elephant to climb a tree.

In the end, my perspective on governments’ and stakeholders’ responses to climate change has changed as a result of my UNFCCC class and the COP27 conference. From the outside, everything appeared to be very politically motivated, followed by utopian goals without any specified implementation strategies. I build a greater understanding of reality thanks to the in-depth knowledge presented in class on the UNFCCC’s history, significant agreements, attained aims, unaccomplished goals, and the roles of all stakeholders. On the other hand, the vigor and will seen during COP27 made me understand how mistaken I was and how difficult it is to simultaneously get 192 countries to the same table and sign the same agreement. I also gained an understanding of my areas of expertise and where I still need to make improvements. In addition to continuing to learn more and following the implementation schedule, I feel compelled to share this new experience with everyone and inspire in them a stronger belief that this process is the only way to go forward.

My first week highlights of COP27

The magnitude of COP27 only dawned me upon its’ commencement. The scale of the event exceeded my imagination, almost akin to Alice discovering Wonderland after wandering down the rabbit hole. Looking at the sheer number of pavilions spread across a wide area, we spent all of Sunday exploring the blue zone after picking up our badges. One of the key highlights of my first day was a touch of nostalgia amidst the familiar sights, when I stumbled across the IFRC pavilion, the organization where I have volunteered for almost eleven years.

The blue zone, which hosted the side events of COP27 was a universe by itself. A diverse range of pavilions representing countries, NGOs, and other private sector actors with different visions and interests working together to identify solutions for climate change adaptation and mitigation. I was fortunate to follow a very interesting discussion between the Benelux countries and the Antwerp port CEO regarding the initiative of transforming the energy production of the port towards a 100% hydrogen based source. Following up on my curiosity I participated in a follow-up discussion about the sourcing of the hydrogen, including its form, the support from the Belgian Government towards this initiative, the policies that could potentially lead towards a larger transition to cleaner fuels in Belgium and the broader EU region, etc. I was in awe of the CEO’s technical knowledge and passion for the environment, which further impressed upon me the crucial role of the private sector in combatting the adverse effects of climate change.

It was heartening to observe the increased recognition and participation of the private sector towards identifying solutions to the climate crises. This was reflected in both the terminology, “public and private resources” as well as in recognition of the magnitude of the private sector. Private companies are understanding the importance of being environmentally friendly and carbon neutral and are trying to shift their production chain in these channels, attracting more clients while creating a positive trend.

A large part of my COP27 period was following the negotiations amongst countries regarding loss and damage, adaptation, climate financing, etc. I was very eager to try to understand the process even though it was much larger than I could fully absorb. In the beginning, the negotiations were more deliberate and closely related to ToRs, Structures, and other terminology that I wasn’t familiar with, which laid the framework for the overall negotiation process. The third day the negotiations started to heat up and continued to be more and more interesting in the following days. The Adaptation Fund negotiation was one of the critical aspects of the conference, characterized by substantive albeit heated discussions. In the initial phase, the involved parties were generally in favor of the proposed text by the secretariat. The negotiation here was on specific terminology, where the developed countries wanted to avoid mentions of specific financial commitments ($ 100 million) from paragraph 7 in favor of a more generalized context, while the developing countries were pushing a more aggressive position, insisting on changes to the terminology towards “at least doubling the financial commitments” for improved resource availability. One memorable incident of these negotiations was regarding the participation of the US representative in negotiations pertaining to the Kyoto Protocol. The US delegation left the discussions in protest, after their standing in the discussions was questioned and subsequently dismissed amidst heated debate, in light of their failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol themselves.

In the end, COP27 was a life-changing opportunity for me and I am very grateful to Duke university for making this dream come true. As the first week is over, I look forward to the progress of week two and the final texts of the secretariat reflecting the decisions made in the negotiations, and hope for positive outcomes.



COP27 Fever – Hunting for the Solution in the Desert

This new academic phase of my life in a new country, studying International Development Policy at Duke University, has been both exhilarating and challenging. Dealing with cultural adjustments, imposter syndrome, and the academic rigors has been a big part of the last few months, until I realized my trip to Sharm el Sheik to attend the COP27 was right around the corner. This left me with very limited time to focus on what this trip meant to me personally, as well as my expectations from the conference itself.

Having realized this, my cohort and I decided collectively to allow ourselves a brief reprieve from our usual routines to recharge and ready ourselves going into this landmark conference. The idea was to spend two days in Cairo prior to the conference which was to be our ‘dessert before the main course’. Unfortunately, Murphy’s law decided to intervene and our flight to Cairo got cancelled, leaving us stranded in New York for over 40 hours. While this didn’t really help with the ‘recharge’ part of the agenda, it did give me time to reflect (not too long luckily as we ultimately arrived at Sharm el Sheik on time).

Coming from a typically cold weather dominated country like Albania, my first view of the Sahara Desert flooded me with strong emotions and a rather bleak view of our future which reinforced my view on the need for addressing climate change. While science clearly establishes the need for reducing emissions and limiting global warming to below 2 degrees, it is ultimately our mindset and behavior that will make the difference, and this is what I am keen to see happen at the conference.

Just as Albania has spent time acclimatizing to its’ traditional cold weather climate, Egypt has spent time adapting to the extreme heat of the desert. However, climate ‘change’ as aptly coined, is now forcing us to respond to changing circumstances which we are not ready for, demonstrated by the experience of the recent heat waves in Europe. My previous work experience in disaster management has made me witness the devastating impact of such natural disasters on human life. These disasters, due to climate change are becoming more prevalent, affecting millions of lives and consuming resources that may be otherwise used for advancing socio-economic development.

Tacking this requires technology, infrastructure, resources, and most importantly, commitment. As one of the most important shared global challenges we face, the importance of coordination and supporting each other cannot be understated, particularly given the disparities in terms of resource availability between developing and developed countries.

I am personally keen to observe how countries will continue to navigate such complex issues relating to financing climate mitigation and adaptability, building on the dialogue established in Glasgow during the COP26 conference. Aspects such as how parties will decide to finance loss and damage, what will be covered and when, what are the requests of developing countries, and to what extent the developed countries will accept and support them, etc. However, with the slow pace of such negotiations observed during previous conferences, I’m not positive enough to believe that COP27 will address everything related to loss and damage. However, I would love to see at least a positive collaboration between the party groups and a structured plan for how to support affected communities in developing countries. Besides loss and damage, adaptation and energy transition will also be on my watch as the areas where I’m focusing my studies at Duke.

We set out on this journey with the intention of enjoying a sweet experience before dealing with the COP27 realities, but with everything that transpired, all I can hope is that the negotiators will manage to keep something ‘sweet’ for us all. A dessert that will restore our faith in this process even more and would strengthen our hope for the future.


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