It is often queried why so many people are necessary to attend the COP. The attendance of around
30,000 this year is made up not just of national negotiators from the 197 countries who signed up to
the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change but also an army of vested interest groups,
mainly from fossil fuel concerns and carbon traders. Though these are not particularly prominent,
they are nonetheless active behind the scenes pushing their own agendas, sometimes in
collaboration with sympathetic national delegations.

A further large contingent comes from civil society groups, the most colourful of which are probably those from indigenous societies.

These come complete in their national costume, especially those from the Amazon and South Sea island
communities. The plethora of feathers and grass skirts provide a lovely contrast to the sombre suited
individuals scurrying from venue to venue to make their meeting deadlines.

But how do the negotiations actually take place? This is usually based on an initial skeletal document
that maybe has been developed in advance of the conference. In this the sticking points are
identified by means of phrases or sections contained in square brackets. It might be [will][shall] or
something more complex. But the objective of the negotiation is to work towards removing the
square brackets, at which point agreement can be deemed to have been reached. Some of the initial
documents may have over 100 square brackets and these will take lengthy negotiations to remove.
Of course the UN works on the basis of unanimity, so progress is slow and sometimes red lines are
reached that produce deadlock. That’s where the COP Presidency enter in bilateral discussions to try
and resolve things. This process can of course be multiplied across several simultaneous topics such
as mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage etc., hence the need for teams of negotiators who can
also survive sleep deprivation!

Progress is typically slow here, even to retain the achievements of earlier COPs. Some attempts are
currently active in seeking to remove or water down the Paris commitment to commit efforts to
avoiding warming of 1.5 o C. Admittedly this is an increasingly unattainable target due to the failures
of governments to reduce emissions over recent years. But were these attempts successfully
reflected in the final communique, however, it would be seen as a failure of the Egyptian Presidency.
Clearly, the big issue dominating proceedings here is undoubtedly the clamour for a Loss & Damage
facility by the developing countries to recognise their right to compensation of sorts for extreme
weather and climate events experienced by them as a result of the historic and ongoing emissions of
the developed world. It is hard to argue against this and the EU have moved some way towards
supporting such a fund. Individual countries, such as Belgium, Denmark and Scotland have already
pledged finances towards this, while Ireland has committed €10M towards a related short term
facility known as Global Shield. There are however other countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and
US who appear opposed to the implementation of such a scheme at this stage. The EU has also
concerns as to how the methodology for distributing funds would be developed. How would the
distinction between a ‘natural’ and human-induced climate extreme be established? What about
slow onset events such as droughts? Would all countries, including inhabitants of the rich countries,
qualify for reparations? Would contributions to the fund be based on current or historical emissions?
The complexities would appear to suggest to this writer that the issue will not be finalised at Cop27.
But some form of progress on it is going to be necessary in the final communique to keep developing
nations on board. The customary Friday brinkmanship evident at COPs may yet materialise.
The usual COP stars are in evidence here. Al Gore and John Kerry attract crowds wherever they show
up while numerous recognisable politicians shuttle between venues with their entourage.

Later today the newly elected President of Brazil, Lulu Inácio Lula da Silva is expected and this will also
draw a crowd to celebrate greater protections for the Amazon than has been evident in recent
years. But politically motivated crowds are not particularly welcome in Sharm. Even though security
within the campus is the responsibility of the UN, some civil society activists are reporting covert
surveillance by plain clothes individuals at some events. Problems with WiFi are also evident. Press
reports also describe an officially designated area for protest at a desert location outside the COP
where little attention could be obtained and onerous administrative preconditions for participation

Despite such drawbacks, Sharm has its positives. The offshore marine environment is a great
attraction of the area with tourists enjoying dives to view the majesty and beauty of the offshore
coral reef. On person described the experience to me a a ‘finding Nemo’ moment! Pity it will be
gone, like almost all coral reefs, if we continue to warm to 2 o C above preindustrial levels, a value we
are presently on target to breach during the current generation’s lifetime.