COP 27: review of the climate conference in Egypt with a student from Toulouse assigned as an observer

Rémy Giacobbo, a student from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure (ENS) in Toulouse, participated as an observer at COP 27 in Egypt. He looks back on the moments that marked him the most.

Remy Giacobbo, 23 years old, is a student at ENS. He was selected with 6 other French students to observe the international climate negotiations in Sharm el-Sheykh in Egypt. “I left with a little hope and not much to say about it. I’m coming back without hope but with a lot to say about it” he summarizes in the preamble.

The student was marked by the place. Arrived at night, he was spotted thanks to the huge illuminated signs of international brands. “No street names needed. Sharm El Sheikh is a ghost town. The huge aisles are empty”he says.

“We see 4-lane roads lined with benches where no one sits. It’s a cardboard decor, the Middle Eastern version of Los Angeles. In the Sinai, which is a water-stressed region, we sees a succession of private beaches and, at the back, huge swimming pools… This mode of development is not eco-compatible. It is a summit that takes place in an ecosystem that is all that the summit fights… it gives the “la”!”

However, the student does not associate Egypt with this city “built on fake“. For him, the country has shown itself to be competent in the organization of this international summit. He even found his expertise in this area remarkable. “especially since the candidates do not jostle at the gate”.

If there is disillusionment, it is of course on the progress of the negotiations. “I see the slowness of climate negotiations and, despite all the fuss around the COP, very little action is taking place”.

Rémy Giacobbo believes that a major step forward has nevertheless taken place. “The negotiations were however badly embarked, the text on the “losses and damages” was signed between 3:30 am and 9:30 am at the very last moment, on Sunday morning. This is important for countries that are suffering from global warming like Pakistan with: how much does it cost to displace millions of people because of droughts and famines? Who pays ? The countries that pollute the most, those that are developing like China?…”.

The fact that an agreement for the creation of a common fund for the most vulnerable countries has been reached is a remarkable event according to him.. Even if he knows that a signature in principle is not a ratification of a treaty…”It is the executives who sign, but the budget is voted in most states by assemblies. The implementation of the agendas is therefore the result of sovereignty at the national level. So there is little hope of an international agreement in principle”.

Among the events that marked him, Rémy Giacobbo remembers a negotiation on article 6 concerning carbon credit. “Some countries pushed for the text to mention the defense of human rights. I’ve seen delegates from Mexico hug each other when they got that honour.”

“This is where we realize that the fate of thousands of people can be at stake at the bend of a sentence… It is to have the fight for climate justice recognized in law. This text sanctions the exploitation of countries by big companies, these companies expose themselves to serious sanctions. It moved me, I understand the enthusiasm of these delegates who see it as a weapon for future struggles”.

For the French observer, taking part in the negotiations could be intellectually stimulating. “But we realize that we are at the heart of what awaits the future society which is already suffering from its inaction”.

If he does not question the scale of action of the COP which remains relevant, because a country alone cannot lead the fight against global warming, the discussions at 197 around a table have “cooled” him.

Civil society actors were present, as were NGOs, but also investment firms and investment banks. “As much as the presence of the former seemed relevant to me, I was able to feel desperate by these structures that carry out large-scale greenwashing. Just like the presence of certain journalists who gargle to know such and such… One wonders if these people have their feet on the ground.

“I discussed with longer-standing participants who explained to me that the presence of consulting firms and other lobbies dates from COP 21, the Paris agreement and carbon credit. It is the redemption of emissions carbon to a country that has no money but does not pollute.These investment banks, consulting firms like MacKinsey are guarantors of the old world trying to place themselves in the new world“.

In the end, for Rémy Giacobbo, the great tragedy is that the States which have the means to act (the richest or those which pollute the most) do not yet suffer enough and do not act. “Those who suffer are the most fragile and are not able to act: the Tuvalu islands in the Pacific, for example, will no longer exist if the warming exceeds 1.5°. Unblocking billions, what is the point if we are under water ?”.

At the question “Does he have hope?”the student responds: “Hope is not a serious category in politics. It is not because we are fully aware of the obstacles that we should be discouraged. I opt for a pessimism of reason but an optimism of will. Just because I’m out of hope doesn’t mean I don’t act. I have no choice.”

COP 27: review of the climate conference in Egypt with a student from Toulouse assigned as an observer