COP27 must be about implementing previous 'fine speeches' on climate change, EU Council chief says

Charles Michel in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for the COP27 cimate conference on November 8, 2022.
Charles Michel in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for the COP27 cimate conference on November 8, 2022. Copyright Euronews
By Gregoire Lory (in Sharm El-Sheikh), Alice Tidey (in Brussels)
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Charles Michel stressed that climate change is "the challenge of our generation" and that only international cooperation can solve it.


The COP27 must be focussed on "implementation", Charles Michel said on Tuesday, urging countries to redouble their efforts to solve the "challenge of our generation" that is climate change.

"In the past, we have systematically made fine speeches, formulas that hit the nail on the head. That's all very well but we must implement, we must achieve what we say," the European Council president told Euronews in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

He called Russia's war in Ukraine and the energy crisis it has fuelled "additional obstacles on the way".

"This should not make us give up. On the contrary, it must make us redouble our efforts. We have to roll up our sleeves.

"We understand that what the European Union believes in — that is to say international cooperation, the will to build solutions together — is the way forward. There is no country alone, even the most powerful militarily, even the most powerful economically who can solve this challenge, which is the challenge of our generation," he said.

In fact, he continued, the war has struck home the need for energy independence and diversification in Europe.

The EU which was heavily dependent on Russian fossil fuel imports for its energy needs has scrambled to find alternative supplies following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine on February 24 as it banned Russian coal and seaborne oil from the bloc in its sanctions packages.

Russia, meanwhile, has cut gas supplies to Europe via Nord Stream pipelines.

Brussels has struck contracts with what it calls "trusted and reliable partners" including Norway, the US, Israel, Qatar and Azerbaijan to make up for the shortfall in gas ahead of the crucial winter months. It has also unveiled a €225 billion package, RePowerEU, to help member states boost their use of clean energies.

"It is a climate issue, as we have understood, but it is also a prosperity issue, it is also a matter of quality of life, of living conditions for our families, for our citizens and of the ability of our industries to project themselves into the future," Michel told Euronews, adding that he has held talks with Norwegian and US officials on the sidelines of the conference to discuss the security of Europe's energy supply.

Like his counterpart at the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, Michel welcomed discussions on climate reparations, officially known as loss and damage. 

This amounts to the payments industrialised countries in the Global North, which are responsible for the overwhelming majority of greenhouse gas emissions, are called upon to make to developing countries in the Global South to help them minimise and address loss and damage associated with climate change.

Industrialised countries pledged in 2009 to donate a collective $100 billion per year by 2020 but have so far failed to do so with an estimated $83.3 billion provided to developing countries in 2020.

Developing countries now argue more money is needed and should be given through a new fund but wealthy nations are wary that agreeing to do so might leave them open to legal claims. 

"I think that we need trust between the North and the South. And certainly, the subject of loss and damage is a legitimate one. We must be able to look each other in the eye and discuss it," Michel said.

But he said the bloc is mobilising resources to help countries.

"When there are tragedies that take place with terrible humanitarian consequences for the populations, for the economic sectors, in countries that are already victims of climate change, most of the time it is the European Union that responds immediately, mobilising resources, either directly through bilateral support to the countries concerned, or via the United Nations agencies. The European Union is the largest contributor to UN funding," he said. 

"It is certain that we must do more, we must do better and we must also, I believe, be transparent in what is done because today, I sometimes have the impression that we are comparing apples and pears and that there is a lack of truly independent bodies that put the cards on the table and indicate," he added.

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