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COP27: Ukraine finds new allies in Russian tourism hotspot

COP27: Ukraine finds new allies in Russian tourism hotspot


Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
CNN

Ukrainian pavilion COP27 UN Climate The conference in Egypt is built of austere, dark gray walls. It’s like a bomb shelter, a bit out of place among all the brightly colored structures built by other countries that showcase climate solutions and celebrate natural beauty.

The contrast is intentional. Ukrainians came to Sharm el-Sheikh with a specific mission: to show the damage done. Russia’s war of aggression – a war largely financed by oil and gas revenues.

Russia, on the other hand, will not be seen at the conference in most cases. As in previous years, he did not set up a pavilion, and his delegation was mostly excluded.

This is a unique sight in Sharm. The Red Sea resort town is a popular holiday destination for Russians wealthy enough to travel abroad – now that sanctions and visa restrictions linked to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine have put many other tourist spots out of reach for them.

Restaurant menus and signs in shops and entertainment venues are often in Russian and Arabic, indicating that Russians and their money are welcome here.

But inside the COP conference grounds, the reception was much friendlier. Ukrainian activists staged several protests during Russia-hosted events at the summit, and the protests often included anti-war messages.

At one panel attended by Russia’s Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, one protester said: “You are criminals, war criminals. You are killing my people. You are throwing bombs at our people,” he said, and sent them out of the venue.

Ukraine, on the other hand, made many new allies among climate activists at the conference, drawing a clear link between fossil fuels and occupation. Protests against war and other conflicts have become part of daily demonstrations at the COP, where “fossil fuels kill” is one of the main messages of activists.

“As a Ukrainian, I see how fossil fuels have fueled Russia’s war machine for far too long,” said Alexandra Matvichuk, a Ukrainian human rights lawyer and chair of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize-winning Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties. .

Speaking at the conference via video link from Kiev, Matvichuk said Russia “has never been punished” for its crimes in countries like Chechnya or Georgia because the world depends on its oil and gas.

Climatologist Svitlana Krakowska, head of the Ukrainian delegation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been trying to get this message across for months.

When Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February, Krakowska and her IPCC colleagues were working on a major report. “That morning, I told my colleagues in plenary, ‘Look, we’re being attacked by the Russians now, and now we’re facing a much bigger threat…our lives are at stake.’ But we understand that climate change is not going to stop.”

“So we will do our homework, we will survive and withstand Russian aggression, and you will continue to work at the IPCC and approve this very important summary to enable policymakers to work,” he said at an event at the COP27 conference.

After the incident, Krakowska told CNN that the hack had given her a clearer view of the connection between Russia’s aggression and the fossil fuel industry. “Climate change is caused by our reliance on fossil fuels. And Russia depends on the income from this fossil fuel. So the message is clear. Stop funding the fossil fuel war,” he said.

“This is very important for us and for many other countries that are suffering,” he added, noting that the war in Ukraine is having a severe impact on some of the countries most vulnerable to the climate crisis because of Ukraine’s role. play in the global food supply.

Ukraine is one of the largest contributors to the World Food Program, which delivers food to countries suffering from hunger caused or worsened by the climate crisis. To remind the world of its role in the global breadbasket – and to show the degradation caused by war – the Ukrainian pavilion has a display of the various soil samples found in its vast agricultural lands.

Ukrainian climate activist Iliess El Kortbi found the exhibit particularly impressive. El Kortbi is from Kharkiv, a city in eastern Ukraine that has seen some of the worst attacks of the war.

“When I walked into it, it really felt like home. I miss my country,” El Kortbi, who fled the war to Germany, told CNN. Dressed in a blue shirt and yellow jeans – the colors of the Ukrainian flag – El Kortbi said this was their third COP summit as an official member of the Ukrainian delegation. “I am renewed,” said El Kortbi.

Like many other Ukrainians at the COP27 summit, El Kortbi relied on donations to pay for his travel and is helping and working for free as a communications consultant. El Kortbi has organized climate strikes in Ukraine, and her years as a Friday for Future activist have been good practice for this role.

Ilyess El Kortbi during a protest at the COP27 climate summit.

The message of the activists to the COP was highlighted by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, who spoke at the conference last week.

“There can be no effective climate policy until there is peace on earth, because in fact people are thinking about how to protect themselves here and now, in particular, from the threat posed by Russian aggression,” he said at the summit.

A few days after Zelensky’s speech at the COP, Ukrainian troops recaptured the city of Kherson months later. Russian occupation. An agricultural center known for its watermelons, the strategic southern city was Ukraine’s only regional capital captured by Russian forces after the February invasion. His release a Great victory of Ukraine.

As the news broke on Friday, a watermelon appeared in Ukraine’s COP27 pavilion. He sat down in his chair, which was wrapped in a Ukrainian flag.

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