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Hunger striker’s sister to push for his release at Egypt’s COP27

The sister of British-Egyptian hunger striker Alaa Abd el-Fattah landed in Sharm el-Sheikh to campaign for his release as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and other world leaders kicked off the COP27 climate summit.

“I am here to do my best to try to shed light on my brother’s case and save him,” said Sanaa Seif, Abd el-Fattah’s sister, after arriving in Sharm el-Sheikh early Monday morning.

“I am really worried. I am here to put pressure on all the leaders who come, especially Prime Minister Rishi Sunak,” said Seif, who recently led a sit-in outside Britain’s Foreign Office in London.

Sunak has said that he will raise the case of Abd el-Fattah with the Egyptian leadership. Abd el-Fattah had informed his family that he would stop drinking water on Sunday in an escalation of his protest.

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The 40-year-old political activist rose to fame with Egypt’s 2011 uprising, but has been jailed for most of the time since. Last sentenced in December 2021 to five years for spreading false news, he has been on a hunger strike for 220 days over his arrest and prison conditions.

Egyptian authorities did not respond to requests for comment on Abd el-Fattah’s case, but have previously said he was receiving meals and was transferred to a prison with better conditions earlier this year.

Abd el-Fattah’s family said he only ate minimal calories and some fiber to sustain himself earlier in the year. After family visits in October, Seif said, “He looks very weak. It is slowly fading. It looks like a skeleton.”

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Some rights advocates have criticized the decision to allow Egypt to host COP27, citing a long-running crackdown on political dissent in which rights groups say tens of thousands have been jailed and expressing concern about access and the space for protests in the talks.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has said that security measures are needed to stabilize Egypt after the 2011 revolution in the country. Egypt hopes to raise its diplomatic profile by hosting the United Nations climate talks.

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low expectations

More than 100 world leaders are preparing to discuss a worsening problem that climate scientists call Earth’s greatest challenge: greenhouse gas emissions, which lead to global warming.

The weather events are taking place amid multiple global crises around food, energy and rising inflation, and expectations for progress are seen as low.

Dozens of heads of state or government will take the stage on Monday, the first day of “high-level” international climate talks, in Egypt, with more to come in the following days.

“The fear is that other priorities take precedence,” Simon Stiell, the UN’s top climate change official, told a news conference.

The “fear is that we lose another day, another week, another month, another year, because we can’t,” he said.

In 2009, developed countries committed to providing $100 billion a year by 2020 for climate protection in poor countries. The promise remained largely unfulfilled.

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Only 29 of 194 countries have submitted enhanced climate plans, as requested at the UN talks in Glasgow last year, Stiell noted.

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French President Emmanuel Macron has urged the United States, China and other wealthy non-European nations to “step up” their efforts to cut emissions and provide financial aid to other countries.

“The Europeans are paying,” Macron told French and African climate activists on the sidelines of COP27. “We are the only ones who pay.”

‘loss and damage’

Fresh off his electoral victory, Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is expected to attend the summit later, hoping to protect the Amazon from deforestation after defeating climate-skeptical leader Jair Bolsonaro.

Sunak, another new leader, reversed the decision not to attend the talks and is due to urge countries to move “faster and faster” in the transition away from fossil fuels.

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On Sunday, leaders of developing nations won a small victory when delegates agreed to put the controversial issue of money for “loss and damage” on the summit’s agenda.

Pakistan, which chairs the powerful G77+China negotiating bloc of more than 130 developing countries, has made the issue a priority.

“We definitely consider this a success for the parties,” said Sameh Shoukry of Egypt, who is chairing COP27.

The United States and the European Union have stalled on the issue for years, fearing it would create an open-ended reparations framework.

But European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans welcomed the inclusion of loss and damage, tweeting that “the climate crisis has impacts beyond what vulnerable countries can bear alone.”

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