Controversial climate insurance and hope for US-China collaboration: 7 key stories from water and gender day at COP27

Image: UN Climate Change - Kiara Worth

It has often been said that water is the nexus of the climate crisis. Oceans act as climate solutions, absorbing heat and sequestering carbon. But, as temperatures rise across the globe and weather patterns change, risks including coastal erosion, flooding and drought increase for many geographies.

Many COPs dedicate agenda space to water; this was the case at COP26 in Glasgow.

The Presidency’s second chosen theme today was gender, in recognition of the fact that women are disproportionately vulnerable to climate impacts but that they have been systemically excluded, throughout history, from contributing to environmental solutions. There was little in the way of new finance or commitments on gender equality, though. Sadly, this may be an area where COP27 has been proven as more talk than action.

So, here’s a roundup of seven of the big stories to take away from this day of COP27.

1) Egypt launches Pan-African Centre for Water Climate Adaptation

Water is often regarded as the nexus of the climate crisis. Warming temperatures and changing weather patterns are contributing to sea-level rise, ocean acidification and increased risks of flash flooding and drought. This is being compounded with the ongoing challenge of ensuring safely managed water and sanitation for all.

The Egyptian COP27 presidency kicked off the day with the launch of the Action for Water Adaptation and Resilience (AWARE) initiative, in partnership with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). Governments are being invited to sign up and to volunteer to spearhead specific workstreams.

The initiative sets out three priorities for governments, namely decreasing water loss and waste and improving water access; collaborating on water-related climate adaptation and recognising the link between action on water and the delivery of key climate goals, as well as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. The key SDG of focus is SDG 6, clean water and sanitation.

Egypt has confirmed that it will host a new Pan-African Centre for Water Climate Adaptation to oversee AWARE workstreams.

AWARE builds on the launch of the Sharm-El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda last week, which has a headline ambition of improving climate resilience for four billion people this decade. Read our full story on AWARE here.

2) New funding pledge for water in African cities

Also launching today is the African Cities Water Adaptation Fund (ACWA). This blended finance instrument, overseen by the World Resources Institute (WRI), has an overarching aim of implementing at least 200 water adaptation projects across 100 African nations within a decade.

There will be a focus on improving water access as well as improving water stewardship. The Race to Resilience initiative has stated that there  is a $66bn backlog in water and sanitation infrastructure investment in sub-Saharan Africa and that, even if that backlog were cleared immediately, an additional $9-14bn would be needed each year this decade to ensure reliable supply.

3) Fair Water Footprint issues call for new supporters

Last year, at COP26, a new ‘Glasgow Declaration for Fair Water Footprint’ was launched, with nations and sub-national actors vowing to “transform” how the global economy interacts with water systems. The Declaration recognises the links between water, climate adaptation, biodiversity and human rights and requires signatories to take “significant and measurable action” this decade.

Governments already involved in the Declaration include the UK, Finland, Malawi, Peru, Madagascar and Panama. Today, these nations, along with participating businesses and NGOs, called for more members to sign up. The call was made in Sharm El-Sheikj by Finland’s environment secretary Terri Lehtonen. The UN’s High-Level Climate Champions, at the same time, designated the Declaration and surrounding work “a breakthrough initiative” in recognition of its importance.

4) Loss and damage rows rumble on

Loss and damage is, without doubt, the most contentious issue being negotiated at COP27 and, after wealthy nations kicked the can down the road to 2024 in Glasgow, the Egyptian presidency has worked hard to put the topic back on the agenda.

Today saw the G7 network of wealthy nations unveiling ‘Global Shield’, a new insurance scheme, and pushing it as a potential alternative to a loss and damage finance mechanism. The scheme includes €170m from Germany, current holder of the G7 Presidency, and a further €40m from other nations, as a starting point. The US is yet to confirm its level of financial support.

The scheme would “kick in automatically in the case of a crisis”, freeing up grant funding for initiatives like replanting crops after wildfires or rebuilding infrastructure after flooding, say the G7. Some nations, including Ghana, are supportive. But many NGOs representing climate justice interests in developing nations have been quick to criticise the proposal.

Climate Action Network has said that details on how the money will be allocated are “very vague and opaque” and stated that an insurance-based approach is “not feasible”. It is calling for “something more comprehensive” overseen by the UNFCCC.

You can read our explainer on what loss and damage entails, and how discussions are taking shape at COP27, here.

5) The COP27 Presidency says it wants talks to finish on time

Many commentators, including the UN’s climate chief Simon Stiell, have expressed disappointment around slow progress in negotiating rooms during the first week of COP27. As we head into the second week, Ministers will be paired up and brought into the rooms to help accelerate progress. Some have noted that it is an unusual choice not to involve Ministers directly until the second Wednesday.

Stiell said there are still “too many unresolved issues” and said some nations seemed set on causing “log jams” in progress, on topics including loss and damage.

Nonetheless, the COP27 Presidency has stated that it wishes to try and end the summit on time on Friday evening. This has never been done before but is the moonshot aim of all presidencies. It has stated that it wants to “shift gears” so technical discussions can all be wrapped up by the close of play on Tuesday (15 November).

6) The US and China look set to resume climate collaboration

The G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, is running alongside the second week of COP27. It was pushed back after originally being diarised for October.

Ahead of the start of official talks tomorrow, introductions were given today and a number of side events and bilateral meetings were held. All eyes were on the meeting between US President Hoe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping – the former has already been to COP27 and the latter will not be attending COP this year.

The two nations have now indicated a willingness to support climate and environment ministers to restart collaborative discussions and workstreams, after talks collapsed this summer.

A statement from the White House reads: “President Biden underscored that the United States and China must work together to address transnational challenges – such as climate change, global macroeconomic stability including debt relief, health security, and global food security – because that is what the international community expects.”

7) Keep an eye on G20 for a new climate pact

Also attracting much attention in Bali this afternoon was Guterres. He said that he will bring forward a new ‘Climate Solidarity Pact’ for the meetings and encourage as many nations as possible to sign up to a strong Pact. This harks back to his speech last week.

Watch this space in the coming days for more details on what the Pact will entail and which countries will support it. We know from Guterres’ speech that the Pact will be designed to reinvigorate efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C and will include international climate finance.

“Wealthier countries and International Financial Institutions would provide financial and technical assistance to help emerging economies accelerate their renewable energy transition,” Guterres said.

“The Climate Solidarity Pact can save lives, livelihoods, and our planet. It can help end dependence on fossil fuels while providing universal, affordable, sustainable energy for all.”

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