Dr. Greta Reeh, head of IKEM’s Research Academy, was a member of the IKEM delegation at COP27 in Egypt. In this interview, she shares her impressions of the event.
Hello, Greta! You were in Sharm El-Sheikh during the second week of negotiations. What was the atmosphere like on the ground?
Dr. Greta Reeh: What you definitely notice at every COP is that many of the people there are motivated and want to make a difference. That’s true for state representatives as well as for observers. The contributions from civil society – whether from climate NGOs, representatives of indigenous peoples or human rights activists – make the COP something very special, as do the many exciting side events.
But this year, the whole event was overshadowed by the poor working conditions. Both during the official negotiations and in the ‘Blue Zone’, an area for side events held by states and NGOs, there were massive problems, for example with catering.
Why do you think that was the case?
Reeh: Well, COP has grown a lot overall. That is actually good, because making it easier to participate creates greater transparency around the climate negotiations. It may be that the organisers were simply overwhelmed by the 33,000 accredited participants. But we also had the feeling that this was done deliberately to depress the mood at the negotiations.
What did you hear about the negotiations?
Reeh: On the ground, very little. Very few specifics about the negotiations leaked out. The negotiations take place in a separate area, which was at least partially accessible to observers at previous COPs. But this year, it was difficult to get access to the plenary hall. Of course, all draft texts of the negotiations are publicly available on the website of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But due to poor internet connections and inadequate infrastructure, we had virtually no access to it.
How could you still get involved as an NGO representative?
Reeh: NGOs are indispensable as representatives of civil society at COP, just as they are at all international conferences that involve representatives of different states. The decisions taken at COP have a direct impact on each and every one of us. The German Climate Change Act, for example, only exists because of the Paris Climate Agreement. As a German NGO, IKEM can participate in briefings and events organised by the German government and the EU. In these sessions, we can present our knowledge and our assessments. NGOs from less open countries sometimes have a much harder time. It’s important to strengthen the role of NGOs at future COPs so that all representatives of civil society can take part in COP to the same extent.
You’re an expert on international climate agreements. What’s your take on the results?
Reeh: From a legal perspective, the results of this year’s COP aren’t very encouraging. Many of us had hoped for greater progress and wanted to see the implementation of more ambitious climate goals or the creation of a more extensive fund for loss and damage. But there was also the fear that the negotiations wouldn’t be productive at all. People were afraid that COP would come to symbolise the failure of multilateralism. For that reason, we should be satisfied that COP27 was able to present any positive results for global climate change mitigation at all.
What are the lessons for COP28 in Dubai?
Reeh: COP25 and 26 took place in a very pleasant atmosphere, which not only facilitated our work as members of civil society, but also positively influenced the mood at the official negotiations. The poor working conditions at this COP show that the host state can have a significant influence on the course and the results of the climate conference. The UNFCCC needs to ensure that there is a minimum standard for working conditions next year.