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Here's what happened on day 3 of the U.N.'s COP27 climate talks

Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, prime minister of Pakistan, listens to speeches during the conference. He took the stage today, as well, explaining the impact of catastrophic flooding in Pakistan this summer.
Peter Dejong
/
AP
Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, prime minister of Pakistan, listens to speeches during the conference. He took the stage today, as well, explaining the impact of catastrophic flooding in Pakistan this summer.

International climate negotiations rolled on today in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

The leaders of dozens of countries took the stage to describe how climate change is killing and injuring their citizens and hurting their economies. Scientists weighed in on how humans can adapt to a hotter planet. And the United Nations tried to crack down on companies that lie about how much they are reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Pakistan's Prime Minister sounded the alarm

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of Pakistan took the floor to deliver an opening statement on behalf of his country. He opened with the grim details of catastrophic floods that hit Pakistan earlier this summer.

Thirty three million people were affected, he said, more than half of whom are women and children. In the southern part of the country, seven times more rain than average fell.

"This all happened despite our very low carbon footprint," Sharif told assembled world leaders. "And yet we became a victim of something with which we had nothing to do.

"This is simply unjust and unfair, to say the least," he continued. Sharif called on world leaders to come up with a fairer way for the wealthy countries responsible for current global warming to help pay for the costs of climate disasters.

U.N. takes aim at greenwashing

The U.N. is trying to prevent "dishonest climate accounting" by companies and local governments that have promised to eliminate or offset their carbon emissions.

Non-state actors like financial institutions and city governments will play a crucial role in getting the world to net zero emissions by midcentury, a group of experts working on behalf of the U.N. said in a report. To ensure they're delivering on what they promised, groups that have made net-zero pledges must publicly report on their progress with verified information, the report says.

The report also says groups that have made net-zero pledges should stop building or investing in new fossil fuel supplies, avoid buying "cheap" carbon offset credits instead of cutting their own emissions, and ensure their lobbying activities align with their climate commitments.

"A growing number of governments and non-state actors are pledging to be carbon free. And, obviously, that's good news," says António Guterres, the U.N. secretary-general. "The problem is that the criterion benchmarks for these net-zero commitments have varying levels of rigor and loopholes wide enough to drive a diesel truck through."

American elections cast a shadow over global talks

Voters are heading to the polls to decide which party will control Congress, and the outcome could undermine the Biden Administration's negotiating clout in the climate talks over the next two weeks.

The U.S. has already committed to cutting its emissions 50-52% by 2030. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which spurs the adoption of electric cars and more efficient buildings, is a major part of reaching that target and is already underway.

"If there is change in leadership in Congress, Congress is not going to be able to pass a repeal of the Inflation Reduction Act," says Dan Lashof, director of the World Resources Institute. "That is a key bedrock of federal policy and importantly, most of it is self-executing."

According to the new "America Is All In" report, the U.S. is on track to cut emissions 39% by 2030, but would need to phase out coal completely by then to achieve its goal. But a major negotiating item at COP27 is over how to increase funding for developing countries to help them adapt to climate change and pay for the damage from climate impacts. If Democrats lose Congress, Republicans will likely oppose any climate aid for poorer countries.

Scientists say more research is needed about places most at risk from warming

People who live in low-income and developing countries are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. That includes sea level rise, heavy rain and more extreme storms, droughts and heat waves.

"The impacts are here, they're now and they are impacting the most vulnerable," said Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the adaptation section of a sweeping international climate report released last year, at a presentation today at COP27.

Roberts and other top climate scientists working for the United Nations warned that research about adapting to climate change focuses on wealthier nations. That disparity leaves millions of people without useful guidance, the scientists say.

Where are the protests?

Last year's conference in Glasgow saw crowds of thousands of people gathered outside the conference center to push for climate action. Their voices could sometimes be heard inside the building. This year couldn't be more different.

The Egyptian government said it would allow some protests. But it has limited demonstrators to a ring-fenced area several minutes drive from the conference center. And human rights groups say the government has heavily vetted those who have been given permission to protest.

When NPR visited the protest site, there were only a few dozen demonstrators, and the event felt carefully controlled. As one foreign TV crew approached, one of the organizers quietly warned the protestors, who had been asked to stand in a line, to be careful what they said, even to each other, because the correspondent "understands Arabic".

Rather than try to hold politicians at the conference accountable, people there seemed keen to voice their support for world leaders - in particular the Egyptian president Abdul Fattah El Sisi.

Taher Salem, an employee in the Ministry of Education, said he'd come to the protest site to join President Sisi in "welcoming people here from all over the world". "We are here to support the conference; to say welcome to Sharm el Sheikh; welcome to Egypt," he said.

This scene is in keeping with Egypt's record on freedom of expression. The country has a record for the widespread stifling of dissent, with an estimated 60,000 political prisoners. Human Rights Watch says dozens of environmental activists have been arrested in the lead up to this summit.

Despite these efforts, human rights are becoming a growing focus at the conference. Sanaa Seif, the sister of one of Egypt's best known political prisoners, Alaa Abd El Fattah, is attending to spotlight the case of her brother, who has been in jail for almost a decade.

At the same time, Abd El Fattah has stepped up an ongoing hunger strike by now also refusing water. Several world leaders, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have all said they have raised his case in discussions with Egyptian officials.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lauren Sommer covers climate change for NPR's Science Desk, from the scientists on the front lines of documenting the warming climate to the way those changes are reshaping communities and ecosystems around the world.
Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.
Michael Copley
Michael Copley is a correspondent on NPR's Climate Desk. He covers what corporations are and are not doing in response to climate change, and how they're being impacted by rising temperatures.
Ruth Sherlock is an International Correspondent with National Public Radio. She's based in Beirut and reports on Syria and other countries around the Middle East. She was previously the United States Editor for the Daily Telegraph, covering the 2016 US election. Before moving to the US in the spring of 2015, she was the Telegraph's Middle East correspondent.