After a year of devastating natural disasters, the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) on climate change will seek to live up to its strapline – Together for Implementation – and advance prior commitments to limit global warming.
“The work ahead is immense. As immense as the climate impacts we are seeing around the world,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a pre-COP meeting earlier this month.
“A third of Pakistan flooded. Europe’s hottest summer in 500 years. The Philippines hammered. The whole of Cuba in blackout,” he listed, urging swift action.
This year’s two-week summit, which kicks off on November 6 in Egypt, will aim to strengthen and implement the pledges made at last year’s summit in Scotland, with the goal of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) to stave off the most devastating effects of a warming planet.
Here is what you need to know about the upcoming talks:
What is COP27?
- The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the supreme decision-making forum of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international environmental treaty signed by 198 countries and which came into force in 1994 to combat “dangerous human interference with the climate system”.
- The conference has taken place since 1995, bringing signatory governments together once a year to discuss and agree how to jointly address climate change and its effects.
- Egypt is hosting this year’s summit in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh. This is the first COP in Africa since COP22 was held in Morocco in 2016.
- More than 100 leaders are expected to take part in the World Leaders Summit on November 7-8 and inject political momentum into the talks.
- Many fossil fuel lobbyists will join in an attempt to protect their industry from action to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground.
- Climate activist Greta Thunberg said she will not attend, calling the conference an opportunity for “greenwashing, lying and cheating”.
What is its aim?
- The overarching objective is to halve global greenhouse emissions by 2030 and reach “net zero” by 2050 to keep warming below 1.5°C as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
- COP26 in Scotland’s port city of Glasgow saw a flurry of pledges that ultimately still left the world on track to hit 2.4°C (4.3°F), according to the Climate Action Tracker.
- Government officials this year will tackle some of the weightiest issues currently keeping the world on track to disastrous heating.
- Developing countries experiencing the worst effects of climate change will aim to obtain financial help from industrialised nations responsible for the biggest share of emissions, which have yet to deliver on promises of regular finance for both adaptation and mitigation efforts.
What’s on the agenda at COP27?
- Expectations at COP27 are high for countries to deliver clear signals of progress on cutting greenhouse gasses, referred to as mitigation implementation.
- Parties are set to adopt a “mitigation work programme” to urgently scale up mitigation ambition and implementation before 2030.
- As last year’s pledges on issues including phasing out coal power and curbing deforestation left the world on track to hit 2.4C of warming, the formal outcome of COP26 – the Glasgow Climate Pact – requested the strengthening of the targets on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
- Countries whose NDCs were not in line with the 1.5°C target were expected to present a revised version at COP27. Only 26 of 193 countries that agreed to step up their commitments have so far followed through with more ambitious plans.
- The Glasgow Climate Pact urged developed countries to at least double adaptation financing by 2025 and launch a two-year work programme on the global goal on adaptation (GGA).
- Yet, developing countries are not getting the promised assistance, including an annual $100bn meant to be delivered from 2020 to 2025.
- Rich countries will be urged to spend much more money in helping countries adapt and follow through on unfulfilled promises.
Loss and damage:
- “Loss and damage” – also dubbed “climate reparations” – are likely to be a main focus this year.
- A key request of developing countries has been the creation of a mechanism that provides funding for managing loss and damage caused by extreme weather.
- Developed nations have been resisting the issue, which has never been part of the UN talks’ formal agenda, fearing it might trigger litigation and compensation claims on a major scale.
- The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) will present a proposal for a “response fund” to help climate victims recover from the loss and damage caused by climate shocks.
- This contentious issue could catch more heat during COP27, at a time when aid-providing nations are facing soaring energy prices and diverting their budgets towards the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
- The operationalisation, funding and governance of the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage – established at COP25 to connect vulnerable developing countries with providers of technical assistance, knowledge and resources – will also be a priority.
- The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) established at COP26 aimed to accelerate the transition to a net zero economy by bringing more than 450 private players in the finance sector to adjust their business models. At COP27, GFANZ is expected to propose concrete plans for reducing carbon emissions.
- Countries agreed last year for the first time to “phase down” coal production, but some have backslid on their promises amid concerns about possible shortages caused by a cut in energy supplies from Russia.
- African leaders are likely to call for a formal recognition that they should be allowed to develop their fossil fuel reserves.
- There is a risk the COP stage might be used to set out misguided visions of a fossil fuel pathway out of the energy crisis.
- It may prove difficult to reach an agreement to reduce gas production, even though that is required to meet climate goals.