“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday as the COP27 climate conference began in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. How firmly humanity’s foot stays on that accelerator will depend partly on the outcome of midterm elections in the United States.
Votes were still being counted as this Climate Beat went to press, but it seems likely that Democrats will retain control of the Senate as seats in Arizona and Nevada lean their way. The House of Representatives might, or might not, flip to Republicans. If Democrats retain control of the Senate and the House flips, President Joe Biden likely could not pass meaningful climate legislation during the final two years of his term. And even if Democrats do keep control of the House, their majority will be so slim that passing federal legislation slashing emissions as much as science requires is hard to imagine.
Still, the absence of the Red Wave that so many news outlets predicted allows Biden to tell COP27, where he arrives Friday, that the US remains committed to aggressive action. Which in turn means the US can press other big polluters, notably China, that they too must boost their ambitions, as all governments pledged to do last year at COP26.
So there are plenty of story lines for journalists to pursue in the coming days. COP27 remains both a global and a local story, because what gets decided there will shape the climate impacts experienced by every locality in the world. Can humanity still get off the highway to climate hell Guterres warned about? That’s one of the many questions demanding journalists’ attention as COP27 advances toward its decisive second week of negotiations.
Below are some storylines worth considering and noteworthy stories to check out as you produce your own COP27 coverage.
US MIDTERM ELECTIONS & CLIMATE POLICY
How will the US midterm elections affect climate impacts and policies — locally, nationally, and globally?
- If Republicans gain control of the House and/or the Senate, they have “vowed to use their new power to undermine the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as climate programs that have passed in bipartisan bills such as the infrastructure deal,” write Adam Aton and Scott Waldman in Politico (via Scientific American). This would threaten the Biden administration’s goal of halving US emissions by 2030 and weaken the president’s bargaining position on climate on the world stage.
- Aton and Waldman also report on how the election results could change climate action in Congress and in several states. Also, see the Washington Post’s overview of Republicans who could lead key environmental committees if they win the House.
Did the youth vote to save the climate?
- Youth organizers from the climate, gun violence, and other progressive social movements predicted a “youth wave” election-night surprise, Mark Hertsgaard reported in The Nation — and the youth were right.
- Exit polls show that 63% of young Americans voted for a Democratic candidate for the US House, while 35% of young Americans backed Republican candidates, Rachel Janfaza reported for Teen Vogue. The strongest support came from youth of color, with 89% of Black youth and 67% of Latino youth voting for a Democratic candidate.
- “If there is an obvious story from today with results still unknown, it is this: a new generation is picking up the torch of our democracy,” wrote historian Heather Cox Richardson.
CLIMATE JUSTICE AT COP27
Will there be real progress on climate financing at COP27, including “loss and damage”?
- For the first time at a COP, loss and damage, an issue developing countries have been raising for decades, is on the summit agenda. Several Global North countries have pledged funds to help developing countries pay for the irretrievable economic, social, and cultural losses and damages sustained as a result of climate change. By contrast, The New York Times reported, “The United States was silent.”
- On climate finance, which is separate from loss and damage funding, the US is falling $32 billion short on its share of the $100 billion climate-finance goal, according to TIME.
- Analysis by NGO Global Justice Now released on Wednesday said that five big oil companies — Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, and Total — should be paying $65 billion annually, based on their contribution of 11% of global carbon emissions to date, the Guardian reported. For the last 50 years, the oil and gas industry has delivered an average annual profit of $1 trillion a year.
Can John Kerry’s climate offset plan deliver?
- On Wednesday, US climate envoy John Kerry unveiled a controversial carbon credit plan that aims to increase private investment in developing countries’ clean energy projects. The voluntary program would sell carbon credits to companies wanting to offset their own carbon emissions. The goal is to help deliver the trillions of dollars of investment needed to help poorer countries transition to renewable energy, write Oliver Milman and Nina Lakhani in the Guardian.
- Kerry’s proposal came as the UN released a report warning that promises by corporations to achieve net-zero emissions are often little more than greenwashing.
- Carbon markets are controversial and this one is no different. Journalists can help educate audiences on the proposed program, including criticisms of carbon credit programs.
COP27 STORIES ON OUR RADAR
- “What Climate Justice Means to Journalists on the Emergency’s Front Lines”: Five reporters from the Global South discuss covering extreme weather disasters, how they wish the Western press would cover climate change, and their hopes for COP27. By CCNow deputy director Andrew McCormick at CJR…
- “Poor Countries Need Climate Funding. These Plans Could Unlock Trillions”: World leaders at COP27 say it’s time to radically reform the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. By David Gelles and Max Bearak at The New York Times…
- “COP27 Egypt’s rights abuses and surveillance concerns loom over COP27”: Human rights groups are concerned about the Egyptian government’s potential surveillance of delegates, arrest of protesters, and imprisonment of political prisoners, especially pro-democracy activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah. By Rebecca Falconer at Axios…
- “Why Is One of Big Oil’s Top Greenwashing PR Firms Handling Media for COP27?”: Hill + Knowlton wasn’t just the firm that came up with science denial for Big Tobacco; they’ve also worked for oil companies before, during, and after that. By Amy Westervelt at Drilled…
- “Switzerland Is Paying Poorer Nations to Cut Emissions on Its Behalf”: To achieve emissions reduction targets, Switzerland is looking outside of its borders, raising concerns that other wealthy countries will try the same maneuver. By Hiroko Tabuchi at The New York Times…
- “Climate Carnage: Whose Job Is it to Save the Planet?” Guardian environment editor Fiona Harvey reflects on what 30 years of COPs have achieved, how she’s witnessed the climate change in the years she’s been on the beat, and who’s responsible for preserving a livable climate.
- CCNow Reporting Guide: How to Cover COP27.
- Climate Nexus’s daily COP27 newsletter.
- Climate Action Against Disinformation’s email bulletin — ‘COP, LOOK, LISTEN’ — covers dis- and misinformation attacks and anti-climate trends in and around COP27.
- Visit the CCNow Sharing Library to see a complete list of COP27 stories available for republication by partners.