Your Friday Briefing: A COP 27 Preview

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World leaders and climate activists are heading to Egypt for the annual U.N. climate talks, known as COP27, which begin on Sunday.

The two weeks of negotiations, in Sharm el Sheikh, come at a tense time. Since last year’s summit in Scotland, just 26 of the 193 countries that agreed to step up their climate actions have followed through with more ambitious plans.

To understand the stakes, I spoke with my colleague Lisa Friedman. COP27 will be the 11th climate conference she has covered.

What are the major themes?

Countries that failed last year to put forward strengthened targets were expected to do so before COP27. And the protection of vulnerable countries is going to be really high on the agenda.

This year, Pakistan is leading the G77, which is a group of developing nations, so Pakistani leaders are going to be out front on the issue of aid for countries in need of support. We’ll also hear a lot on the subject from the small island nations that are the canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate change, as well as from very vulnerable countries in Asia and Africa.

So we’re most likely going to see developing countries make a dramatic stand and call for wealthy nations to provide compensation for a problem that they didn’t cause but with which they have to deal.

How does the war in Ukraine affect the talks?

A lot of countries are finding it very hard to move forward this year with their climate commitments.

Germany is moving back toward coal. President Biden is leaning on oil-producing nations to produce more oil in the short term. And European nations are pushing African countries to develop more gas, when, just a few years ago, you saw Europe pressuring Africa to focus on renewables.

But a lot of leaders make the case that one can focus on oil and gas supplies in the short term, while also aiming to phase out fossil fuels. In fact, the International Energy Agency said last month that the war could actually speed up the shift to clean energy. COP27 will be one place where we will see if leaders are as serious about climate change as they are about their near-term energy needs.

What about China and the U.S., the world’s largest polluters?

It was cooperation between the U.S. and China that made the Paris Agreement possible in 2015. Having the two biggest polluters commit to establishing emissions goals set the stage for an agreement in which all countries, at all levels of wealth and responsibility, were able to say: ‘Yes, we will act, too.’

This year, it’s hard to imagine the U.S. and China making any kind of joint anything. And in the long term, it’s impossible to see how the world can stay at safe temperatures without the world’s biggest emitters working together.

Even though this is the 27th meeting, climate change is still barreling forward. Is anything going to change this time around?

I have medium expectations. There are big COPs and little COPs, and every five years or so there is a big decision-making protocol: Kyoto, Paris, Glasgow.

I do expect there to be agreements and deals that move things farther along in the right direction. But the thing we’ll be looking for is whether governments will keep the promises they make at these summits.

Related news: China is burning more coal than the rest of the world combined. Its greenhouse-gas emissions rose nearly 6 percent last year, the fastest pace in a decade.

Benjamin Netanyahu will retake power as Israel’s prime minister.

After five elections in less than four years, Israel will have its first stable government since 2019, and Netanyahu will re-enter office at the helm of one of the most right-wing governments in the country’s history. His allies want to give politicians more control over the justice system and end Palestinian autonomy in parts of the occupied West Bank.

Right-wing Israelis were driven to more extreme parties by perceived threats to Israel’s Jewish identity and to their safety, following unrest in the West Bank and interethnic riots in 2021. Netanyahu tried to calm fears about his return, but many in Israel’s Palestinian minority remain unconvinced.

Details: Netanyahu said he would not use his authority to upend his trial on corruption charges. But some of his coalition partners might.

Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, was wounded at a rally yesterday when at least one gunman fired on his convoy. His doctor said he was in stable condition.

Khan was shot in both legs, a senior member of his party said, calling it “100 percent an assassination attempt.” He was leading a protest march to Islamabad to demand that the government hold early elections. A total of seven people were wounded, including one senior aide, and a suspect was in custody.

Context: Khan was removed from office in April in a no-confidence vote after falling out with top military leaders. Last month, the election commission disqualified him from completing his current term in Parliament.

Background: The attack was one of Pakistan’s most serious outbreaks of political violence targeting a prominent government official since former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam will show “Girl With a Flute.” But is the painting a real Vermeer?

A hundred years ago, Dushanbe was only a village between Kabul and Samarkand. The Soviet Union transformed the city, now the capital of Tajikistan.

Now, Dubai-style glass and steel is rising from the dust. Much of the new architecture is meant to evoke the ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire. But the new buildings conceal more recent, undesirable history, including Mongol invasions, Turkic overlords and Russian colonization.

In a changing Tajikistan, where history is constantly being erased and rewritten, artisans are left holding on to tradition. “The smells and feelings of the 19th century are here,” said Karim Saidov, who specializes in carving combs. “You’d never know that the internet had been invented.”


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