At COP27, protesters within U.N. venue demand climate finance

A woman walks past a giant baby balloon inflated by Climate Change activists in the rain at Glasgow Green as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) takes place, in Glasgow

By Gloria Dickie and Mai ShamsElDin

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, (Reuters) - Civil society groups and youth activists at the U.N. COP27 summit held small pop-up rallies Wednesday at designated areas in this Red Sea resort town.

None lasted more than a few hours, and some broke up after less than an hour. They were all being held within areas under U.N. responsibility during the two-week international summit.

"There’s no time anymore to keep coming to these COPs as an exercise, when parties come in their private jets and are sponsored by Coca-Cola, etc., and we do a whole dance around an issue so critical and so urgent," said Zukiswa White, 29, a South African campaigner for gender equity in climate policy.

She and about 50 others held a brief rally in an outdoor area within the conference center Wednesday.

"Pay compensation!" they shouted, as delegates gathered to watch the event.

"We are trying to respect the organizing of the COP and the restrictions," White said. "We also want to make the point that this is a site for genuine engagement, and if the engagement is going to be meaningful and effective, we need to also be made to have our way."

Ahead of the conference, activists had worried their voices would be curtailed in the highly secured tourist resort in Egypt, where public demonstrations are effectively banned and activists have struggled to operate legally amid a far-reaching crackdown on political dissent.

Egypt had said it would allow protests within confined zones at COP27.

White said civic groups had worked hard through the year before the summit to ensure its agenda included the issue of compensating poor nations for losses and damages already incurred in climate-fueled disasters, like floods or wildfires.

"We're moving from the premise this year that climate finance is not a matter of charity ... but rather a matter of equity and justice, and that we're not asking anymore, simply saying: It's time to pay up."

One of the organizers noted that rain-driven floods in Nigeria had claimed hundreds of lives in recent months.

"Can adaptation fund pay for that? Can adaptation fund pay for the infrastructure destroyed, or the farms that have been destroyed, means of livelihood of people that have been destroyed. It cannot pay for that,” said John Baaki, deputy executive director of the Women's Environmental Programme.

Pressure from developing nations has helped put the issue of loss and damage payments on the conference agenda for the first time in U.N. climate negotiations.

At yet another small gathering, about 20 protesters demanded an end to fossil fuel use, chanting: "What do we want? Climate justice ... when do we want it? Now! Now!"

Youth activist Lucky Abeng of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance said the group wanted world leaders to take the financing agenda seriously.

"Adaptation financing and also climate financing for Africa, it’s nonnegotiable," he said. "Our future as young people is at stake."

Earlier Wednesday outside the main summit venue, in the "green zone" area set up for business exhibitions and civil society groups, 32 students stood still in a line in front of cameras while holding up placards on how climate change is destroying coral reefs, which are a key attraction in Sharm el-Sheikh, where the conference is being held.

(Reporting by Gloria Dickie and Mai Shams El-Din. Additional reporting by Chiara Rodriguez, Fanny Broderson and Jehad Shalbak; Editing by Katy Daigle)