Wringing the Hands

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World leaders and diplomats met in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday to attend the United Nations summit aimed at tackling climate change, even as the world reels from crises including the Ukraine war, high inflation and skyrocketing energy prices, the Associated Press reported.

More than 40,000 participants are attending the latest UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties – commonly known as COP27 – where they will discuss ways to cut emissions and help poor countries cope with the impacts of global warming.

Last week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the planet was heading toward “climate chaos” unless action was taken.

Egypt said more than 120 world leaders will participate even as Chinese and Indian officials look likely to sit out the conference, raising concerns that the COP27 talks can not result in any major deals to cut emissions if two of the world’s biggest polluters are absent.

British official Alok Sharma, the outgoing chair of the talks, said countries made significant progress at their meeting in Scotland last year. These included setting more ambitious emission-cutting targets, finalizing the rules of the 2015 Paris Agreement, and pledging to phase out the use of coal, the most polluting fossil fuel.

Even so, he warned that those efforts were being “buffeted by global headwinds,” including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has created political and economic turmoil around the globe, the Associated Press reported separately.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock noted that the talks will be overshadowed by the war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the conference has come under scrutiny from human rights advocates, who have criticized the Egyptian government for restricting protests and stepping up surveillance during the summit.

The US-based Human Rights Watch noted that Egyptian authorities arrested dozens of people calling for protests. It added that it had joined more than 1,400 groups from around the world in urging Egypt to abolish restrictions on civil society organizations.

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