COP27 : Negotiating the Square Brackets It is often queried why so many people are necessary to attend the COP. The attendance of around30,000 this year is made up not just of national negotiators from the 197 countries who signed up tothe 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 incollaboration 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 islandcommunities. The plethora of feathers and grass skirts provide a lovely contrast to the sombre suitedindividuals 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 documentthat maybe has been developed in advance of the conference. In this the sticking points areidentified by means of phrases or sections contained in square brackets. It might be [will][shall] orsomething more complex. But the objective of the negotiation is to work towards removing thesquare brackets, at which point agreement can be deemed to have been reached. Some of the initialdocuments 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 arereached that produce deadlock. That’s where the COP Presidency enter in bilateral discussions to tryand resolve things. This process can of course be multiplied across several simultaneous topics suchas mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage etc., hence the need for teams of negotiators who canalso survive sleep deprivation! Progress is typically slow here, even to retain the achievements of earlier COPs. Some attempts arecurrently active in seeking to remove or water down the Paris commitment to commit efforts toavoiding warming of 1.5 o C. Admittedly this is an increasingly unattainable target due to the failuresof governments to reduce emissions over recent years. But were these attempts successfullyreflected 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 & Damagefacility by the developing countries to recognise their right to compensation of sorts for extremeweather and climate events experienced by them as a result of the historic and ongoing emissions ofthe developed world. It is hard to argue against this and the EU have moved some way towardssupporting such a fund. Individual countries, such as Belgium, Denmark and Scotland have alreadypledged finances towards this, while Ireland has committed €10M towards a related short termfacility known as Global Shield. There are however other countries such as China, Saudi Arabia andUS who appear opposed to the implementation of such a scheme at this stage. The EU has alsoconcerns as to how the methodology for distributing funds would be developed. How would thedistinction between a ‘natural’ and human-induced climate extreme be established? What aboutslow 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 developingnations 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 showup 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 alsodraw a crowd to celebrate greater protections for the Amazon than has been evident in recentyears. But politically motivated crowds are not particularly welcome in Sharm. Even though securitywithin the campus is the responsibility of the UN, some civil society activists are reporting covertsurveillance by plain clothes individuals at some events. Problems with WiFi are also evident. Pressreports also describe an officially designated area for protest at a desert location outside the COPwhere little attention could be obtained and onerous administrative preconditions for participationapply. Despite such drawbacks, Sharm has its positives. The offshore marine environment is a greatattraction of the area with tourists enjoying dives to view the majesty and beauty of the offshorecoral reef. On person described the experience to me a a ‘finding Nemo’ moment! Pity it will begone, like almost all coral reefs, if we continue to warm to 2 o C above preindustrial levels, a value weare presently on target to breach during the current generation’s lifetime.