Aside from trashing the British economy and a shorter lifespan than a lettuce, the prime ministership of Liz Truss will be remembered for dissuading the new King Charles from attending the Cop27 United Nations climate summit in Egypt’s resort city Sharm el-Sheikh commencing on 6 November.
This led to some media discussion over whether Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has outlasted several fields of lettuces, should attend this internationally prestigious event given her strong international reputation and the priority her government asserts to combating climate change. Instead she is staying at home.
The answer to the question of whether to attend or not can be indirectly found in the ‘long read’ article by Naomi Klein in The Guardian Weekly (28 October; first published in The Intercept): Climate conference greenwashes police state.
Klein centres her article on a visionary technologist and intellectual, Abd El-Fattah, who became synonymous with the popular uprising that ended the three-decade rule of Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak.
But, under a new more brutal dictatorship, El-Fattah has been imprisoned almost continuously for the past decade. Today he is one of the country’s highest profile around 60,000 political prisoners. He is presently undertaking a hunger strike.
In the lead-up to the summit El-Fattah penned a letter to his mother in London (both are also British citizens) on climate change prompted by the devastating floods in Pakistan and other world events. Although it contained no critical reference to Egypt the authorities declined to pass it on to her.
Since the military coup in 2013 led by General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who seized power in a military coup in 2013 which has been reinforced by subsequent sham elections, the governing regime is regarded by human rights organisations as “…one of the most brutal and repressive in the world.
Post-‘blah, blah, blah’
Klein observes that international delegates to the summit can’t even read up much on current pollution and environmental despoliation in Egypt in academic or non-government organisation reports. This is because a 2019 law requires researchers to get government permission before releasing information considered “political”.
The ‘government’ hosting the summit meanwhile has failed to protect Egyptians rights against environmental damage caused by corporate interests, including water security, industrial pollution, and harm from real estate, tourism development, and agribusiness. Capping it all off is the fact that Coke is a proud sponsor of the event.
Is the Cop27 summit likely to champion climate justice, bring about green energy, clean up transit and ensure food sovereignty for those living in poverty? There is about as much chance of this as the Iranian theocratic government holding a genuine conference on women’s rights.
Instead it is more likely to be a lavish gift to a dictatorship based on a torture regime. It is difficult to convincingly argue that Egypt is less repressive than Iran.
Greta Thunberg with considerable effectiveness characterised the last summit (Cop26 in Glasgow) as ‘blah, blah, blah’. Levering off this Naomi Klein suggests Cop27 in Sharm el-Sheikh be characterised as ‘blood, blood, blood’.
If there was a realistic prospect of Cop27 advancing climate justice in some substantive way, then if at all possible Jacinda should attend. Otherwise it would be more effective and progressive for her to denounce it as ‘blood, blood, blood’.
In contrast to Klein’s characterisation, Thunberg’s sounds positive albeit in a vacuous kind of way.