In the second week of our COP27 coverage as observers, Sarah Mukherjee MBE reflects on what is, or what is not happening, during the final week of COP27 negotiations, in Sharm El-Sheikh.


The morning briefings were gloomy:

  • “There’s a feeling that the Presidency is being slow to bring forward draft texts”
  • “There’s still a big gap between the parties on 6.2”
  • “There’s a lot in square brackets”

Yes, we have come to the time in COP when everyone has got a bit tired and cranky, we’re almost into the end of the second week and yet nothing has yet happened. But you also have 40,000 people here who by now have talked to most of the people they want to talk to and are keen to see some developments. Many of those I have spoken to who are at COP for the first time are a bit perplexed. Should there have been some announcements by now? Some decisions?

But those of us who have been around this track a few times know that COP negotiations are never linear. There’s no regular progression. It’s not so much a race, with a beginning, a middle, and an end than a game of Jenga, where nothing has fallen until everything has fallen. By the way, for those who are interested, Article 6.2 creates the basis for trading in GHG emission reductions (or “mitigation outcomes”) across countries; if something is in square brackets, it means it is not yet agreed.

The concern about the lack of progress was expressed to me by delegates in the areas of COP that host the individual country and organisation pavilions, where the theme today is biodiversity. First Nation Americans spoke passionately about their historic lands being destroyed, lands that contain vital biodiversity and medicines known to indigenous people but not yet fully investigated by Western science. There was optimism, too; presentations on cleaning up plastic from the sea, a new product that can help coral regenerate, and the amazing carbon capture qualities of peat.

Loss and damage – the need for developed countries to help support the global South to mitigate and adapt to global heating – is still centre stage at this Africa COP, with demonstrators shouting noisily in the tightly-confined protest “zones” that more needs to be done to make the promises of cash from the West a reality.

However, it’s a different vibe in the relative calm of the plenary sessions, which are taking place in a part of the conference complex that has the air of a first-class lounge, all business suits and conversations in measured sentences with lots of diplomatic sub-clauses. Seasoned negotiators say they are where they expected to be by this point in the process – with everything to play for, and as one put it to me, of “any one of 100 different scenarios, from bad to great, is possible at this point”.

We’re all just waiting for that Jenga tower to come tumbling down…

Photo of Sarah mukherjee
Sarah Mukherjee MBE

CEO of IEMA, IEMA

Sarah Mukherjee MBE is the CEO of IEMA. She was the BBC's Environment Correspondent for many years, presenting on national and international BBC radio and television news, working – and winning awards - across the world.