Deliverable outcomes from COP27

Doaa El-Bey , Tuesday 2 May 2023

Lead negotiator for the COP27 Presidency Mohamed Nasr explains how Egypt is encouraging all the parties to agree on the pressing issues of climate change to Doaa El-Bey

 Mohamed Nasr
Mohamed Nasr



Mohamed Nasr, lead negotiator of the UN COP27 Climate Change Conference held last year in Sharm El-Sheikh, is an Egyptian career diplomat and negotiator. He is currently the director of the Climate, Environment, and Sustainable Development Department at the Foreign Ministry. He was part of the COP27 Presidency team leading the negotiations at the Sharm El-Sheikh meeting, and he served as chair of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2018-2019.

Under the UNFCCC, Nasr has been a lead negotiator on adaptation and climate finance for the AGN since 2009, where he served, among others, as member of the compliance mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol and an advisor to the African board members of the Green Climate Fund. He was also a member of the Egyptian delegation to the UN COP19 and COP20 meetings.

He spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly about how Egypt is following through on the outcomes of the COP27.


The transitional committee of the new Fund for Loss and Damage, set up at the COP27, held its first meeting late in March in Luxor. What were the outcomes of the meeting?

This is a transitional committee that has a plan for a full year, so the outcome of one meeting is not an indication of what will be the final outcome, but it gives a sense of how things are moving. Besides, first meetings are always challenging, but this is where you set the tone, start working on the work plan, and calibrate the expectations of the different members and the different parties.

The importance of the meeting was to build bridges between the 24 members who come from different backgrounds and different countries and have different perspectives on loss and damage, which is a very complicated issue in the negotiations.

In hosting the meeting, we aimed, first, to build confidence, agree on a work plan, and highlight the expected outcomes by the end of the year. We aimed to create or operationalise the committee, a step that was delayed for a couple of months. Secondly, we wanted to agree on a work plan, and thirdly we wanted to agree on the expectations and the possible outcomes from the different work schemes.


What are the obstacles facing the establishment of the fund?

There are different views coming from different groups and countries on where and what will be the value of this creation and whether we are discussing a fund or funding arrangements, which are two different issues. How we can operationalise this fund and how to make it deliver is not an easy question to answer. It is easy to establish a fund, but to have money in the fund and then start dispersing it takes time. We have the experience of the Green Climate Fund that took years to operationalise, for example.


What are the next steps?

The next meeting will be in the third week of May in Europe, possibly in Bonn, Germany, to be followed by two other meetings, with workshops in between, in addition to a lot of virtual meetings. The process also includes holding a ministerial meeting chaired by the Egyptian President of the COP27 Sameh Shoukri and the incoming President of the COP28 Sultan Al-Jaber, to push the work of the transitional committee later in the year before the COP28.


The Copenhagen Climate Ministerial Meeting, the first major climate meeting of 2023, was held last month. It aims to define expectations on how to deliver COP27 promises ahead of the COP28. How far did the meeting manage to meet its goals, and are there more meetings in the pipeline?

The negotiating process on climate change is very complicated: we have many items to look into, and it is very politicised. Relying only on official meetings and one technical meeting in Bonn in the middle of the year and then the technical meeting at the end of the year is not enough to create the momentum needed to have an outcome and take decisions.

So, we tended to opt for more ministerial dialogue. Originally, we had the Petersburg Dialogue, which is a dialogue to be held by Germany before the Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) meeting in mid-June.  

It has become a trend and tradition to have a ministerial meeting before the COP itself to be held in the same region in order to allow ministers to have a discussion and to give some guidance. The government of Denmark wanted to provide more support for building on what came out of the Glasgow meeting and discussing what would come out of Sharm El-Sheikh, for example, before the COP27 meeting. That was an idea that came up between Alok Sharma, UK president of the COP26, Shoukri, and Denmark’s Minister of Energy and Climate Dan Jorgensen.

The first Copenhagen meeting happened last year, and because it was very helpful, it was also thought that we should have one this year, which we did. The aim of the ministerial meetings is to have a frank assessment between the major active parties within the process on the outcome of the COP and on what are the expectations for the rest of the year. Ministers usually give political guidance to the negotiators, so you can get a sense about the challenges and opportunities and how to take things forward.

These meetings work on two levels: one for the current Presidency to explain and promote the outcomes of the COP that has already been concluded, and one for the incoming Presidency to build on what was achieved in the previous COP and assess where the challenges in the negotiations building on the outcomes are.

The negotiations are an ongoing process; we have been at this for 30 years, and it is an incremental process. Of course, there is a need to speed up the process a bit because the scientists are telling us we are facing a major climate challenge, and there is also a need to make this development-sensitive. The climate response should be development-sensitive, and this was one of the messages that came out of Sharm El-Sheikh.


The COP27 Conference brought governments together to accelerate global efforts to confront the climate crisis. However, some critics claim that it did not take steps on the issue of mitigation, nor on the issue of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  

If you are engaged in the process, you have people who are very ambitious, activists, and those who are committed to the climate agenda. Then, you have the reality on the ground. Everybody wants to deliver, and we were very focused on delivery at Sharm El-Sheikh.

The Presidency made it clear from the beginning that our COP is about implementation. It is not about making headlines.

We are concerned about limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, but it is not up to us alone; it is up to the involved parties. If these parties do not go on this path, a COP meeting will not change things. During the COP27, we looked at the root causes of why things were delayed. First, we looked at what were the concerns, and we listened to the developing countries, and the African countries in particular, on this. It was very clear that the transition that was envisaged in the Paris Agreement and what was promoted in Glasgow had social and economic components that were overlooked.

A very simple example was the Glasgow package of energy transition in South Africa. When the implementation of this started, they found that there were issues related to mine workers and mines that needed a different package and a different way to deal with it. Creating jobs and shifting employment from one sector to another is much more challenging in developing countries than in many developed countries. They do not have the capacity to provide subsidies like the European countries or the US, where the government can prepare the needed subsidies.

If you do a reality check, the transition that we all agreed to is that by 2050 we should be carbon-neutral on a global scale. But we need finance, not more loans. Do not give more loans because the developing countries are not able to take them out, and do not expect them to pay from their own pockets for adaptation, or loss and damage, at the time when they need to pay for education, healthcare, and other development needs.

That is why the outcome of the Sharm El-Sheikh meeting focused on positive messages. One, for the first time we have a work programme for a just transition, which means that we do the transition in the right way to ensure that employment is not affected and workers in the different sectors are not affected. Two, as we focus on implementation, we included as a goal the phasing out of fossil fuels. But we looked at it from a different perspective. We had in the initial plan an increase in the share of renewable energy, which means a decrease in the other sources of energy including fossil fuels.

Three, we kept the same language that came out of Glasgow, which is requesting the countries to update their Nationally Defined Contributions (NDCs) and the phasing out of coal and of inefficient fossil fuels. For the first time there was a very clear section on energy that was never there before.


COP27 President Shoukri said that the Sharm El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda represents a significant contribution to enhancing global action on adaptation and resilience. How far did the COP27 meet these goals?

Adaptation has always been a challenge for the developing countries because if you look at the reports coming out from the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), or the flows of investment, it all goes to where the profit is, and they all tend to go to mitigation. Thus, the flows will go to countries that are investment grade, according to the investment-rating agencies.

Many countries in Africa and the small islands are not investment grade, so they will not attract any investment. So, what is happening is that those countries are paying from their own pockets. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is saying that Africa pays between three and five per cent annually to support adaptation.

As it is a very difficult process to create bankable or profit-generating projects on adaptation in Africa, the MDBs and the UN system need to provide that kind of support which we, partially, achieved through that Adaptation Agenda declared by the Egyptian Presidency during the COP27 in partnership with UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for Egypt Mahmoud Mohieldin and the UN organisations.

We are working on this to ensure that this agenda moves forward, and then we will report to the COP28 on the progress achieved. Our agenda focuses on agriculture, water, livelihoods, sustainability and stability. The challenges we are facing with adaptation are similar to those we are facing with loss and damage. The developed countries focus mainly on mitigation as it is needed for the future. But we also need to deal with the impacts we are facing now.


Climate finance took centre stage during the COP27. What are the efforts being made to see that the developed countries finally come through on their pledge to provide $100 billion in annual financing?

Anything in the multilateral process is a pledge. There is a commitment to deliver, but there is no mechanism to say that if you do not deliver there are consequences. So, what is happening is that they agreed on $100 billion, as a catalyst for the developed countries to move from a position of no responsibility before 2009 to recognising responsibility as per the Paris Agreement.

The $100 billion was not delivered, even though the pledge came at a time when the same countries could mobilise billions when it came to the Covid-19 pandemic. These countries managed to mobilise up to $30 trillion in a year to meet the challenges of Covid-19. We are also seeing strong mobilisation for funding the geopolitical situation in Europe. Billions are being used almost every week. All this proves that reaching $100 billion is not impossible.

Many developing countries are saying that if the figure of $100 billion is not met, this gives an indication that the commitment from those who should deliver is not there. They say do not expect us to go three steps forward and take more loans and divert money from healthcare and education to the climate when those who are responsible are not taking steps forward themselves. The failure to deliver is, still, an indication of the level of political commitment to climate change.

But now the dilemma is not only the $100 billion, but also the bigger picture that is telling you that developing countries need to implement their NDCs to an amount of $5.6 trillion by 2030. And another trillion is needed for the transition in the energy sector. What is needed to head to carbon neutrality is $4 trillion per year. These are important figures that you need to look at. The $100 billion becomes very small in comparison to such figures. But it has always been the token for trust building and confirming the political commitment of the developed countries.

Besides, the accounting methodologies are different. We are being told that by 2020, almost $90 billion were delivered. But independent civil society organisations like the charity Oxfam have said that it was only $40 billion. This can be ascribed to the use of a different methodology and playing with numbers, as there is no agreed methodology and definition on what climate finance is.

In many cases countries tend to repackage things and account for everything they do as climate finance in order to magnify their contribution. The reality is close to what Oxfam is saying, if we apply a strict methodology.


Moving to the transition away from fossil fuels, during the COP27 a decision to extend the phasing down of all fossil fuels was taken. How do you see the future of that transition?

The reality is that many countries are saying that they want to phase out fossil fuels, but on the ground they are expanding their use of fossil fuels. They claim that this is an emergency because of the Ukraine war and other reasons.

We also must respect the fact that various countries have development needs. What we heard during the year ahead of the COP27 was that many countries were willing to phase down or phase out fossil fuels if they were provided with the needed finance. But this has not been the case, as the $100 billion has not been met and the investment flows are not happening. It does not make sense to rely on the science-based phasing out of fossil fuels until countries are ready to do so.

All countries, for instance, cannot have electric vehicles until they have electric networks. Until then, they will not be able to shift. Countries can also say that they do not need fossil fuels and stop using them, but then what are their revenues? I am not talking about the Gulf states only, but about many countries in Africa and Latin America where their production of fossil fuels represents a substantial amount for their economies. We hope we will all be developed countries eventually, and then we can all make the shift and our governments can fund and subsidise the transitions, but until then it is not easy.

Scientists say that there will be a substantial phasing down of fossil fuels. The understanding was, and still is, that we should start gradually. The first thing will be getting rid of coal because it is the most polluting fossil fuel. Then oil and then gas will be the transition fuels, after which we will move to clean energy. Until this happens, and until we have the right financial and economic packages that allow for it, fossil fuels have to stay, not because people like them, but because it is the only solution we have right now.

Unless you give countries other options, fossil fuels will stay. We all agree there will be phasing out, but how can we manage this through a just and equitable process is the question.


The COP27 was dubbed the “African COP” due to its location in Egypt, and several African-led initiatives were in the spotlight. How far were these initiatives implemented on the ground?

Some of the initiatives were already there. Others came forward during the COP27, where the focus was on how to ensure affordable energy for Africa.

There were several important projects, including the Decent Life Initiative (Hayah Karima) in Egypt, which was meant to replicate the projects on the domestic level. The initiatives in Africa aimed to enhance the sustainability and resilience of communities.

One of the major things we face in Africa is when climate change hits an area, people leave, causing a displacement problem. We have seen that in many cases, and it places stress on other communities.

One thing that we want to put forward with Hayah Karima is that the initiative simply enhances the resilience of local communities by providing them with the right housing, cheap energy, water and other things. So, when they are hit by climate change, their livelihood is impacted but not to the extent of pushing people out.

The other project was Sustainable Energy forAll in Africa (SE forAll), which guaranteed access to affordable energy for the African countries. There were also projects about nutrition and agricultural resilience designed with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Most of them are being dealt with now in partnership with Mohieldin and his team. The idea is that these should be a process that delivers on the ground. We hope that all these projects deliver, but of course they all need funding as well as focus.


Are you optimistic that the goals for combating climate change will be met, and what do you expect from the COP28?

In this process, you have to be realistic, which means you need to push for ambitions to be as high as possible and also push for implementation and make sure that it happens. And in between, you must not fall into the trap of making the headlines or falling into that of not delivering enough on the ground.

At a certain point in time, which I think we have reached now, all countries and politicians will understand that climate change is a major issue that is already hitting all of us.

Meanwhile, awareness among decision-makers and policy-planners about the strong impacts of this on our lives is still missing, and this is a problem. Up until now, they have not really linked climate change and economic and social impacts. But extreme weather has impacts on agricultural productivity, which in its turn has impacts on livelihoods and consequent economic impacts.

Science is telling us that we can deal with these problems. But we are not dealing with them as fast as is needed or at the stage that is needed. One, because money is limited, and two, because awareness is limited.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 4 May, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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