Attention turns, once again, to the global leaders gathering in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for the 27th Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) taking place over the next two weeks.
A very brief history
The COP Climate Change meeting has its roots in the UN Earth Summit, held in Brazil during 1992. Out of this came the three ‘Rio Conventions’ on biodiversity, climate change and desertification. In the area of climate change the COP is convened under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and brings together a range of interests including heads of state, negotiators, chief executives, NGOs and activists. COP27 will focus on renewing commitments adopted by 196 parties at COP21 held in 2015 in Paris, France, where the so-called Paris Agreement was signed. COP27 will also seek to build on outcomes from the Glasgow Climate Pact, agreed at COP26 which was held in Glasgow, Scotland, during 2021.
Struggling to deliver on the Paris Agreement
Under the Paris Agreement, signatories committed to keeping the average rise in global temperatures to ‘well below’ 2oC above pre-industrial levels, building climate resilience, and allowing the flow of funds for initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
At that time, signing of the Paris Agreement was a cause for much celebration. However, newsfeeds continue to be dominated by problems that are related to the climate and the impacts on food, health, livelihoods and economies. Following COP26 countries agreed to deliver strong commitments, including updated national plans with more ambitious climate targets. However the UN says that to date only 23 out of 193 countries have submitted updated plans.
At the end of October 2022, the UN released its Emissions Gap Report 2022: The Closing Window – climate crisis calls for rapid transformation of societies. The report paints a bleak picture where the international community is falling far short of the Paris goals, with no credible pathway to 1.5oC in place.
Only an urgent system-wide transformation can avoid climate disaster, the report says. The report, the 13th to be published, indicates that updated national pledges since COP26 ‘make negligible difference to the predicted 2030 emissions and that we are far from the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2oC, preferably 1.5oC. Policies currently in place point to a 2.8oC temperature rise by the end of the century. Implementation of the current pledges will only reduce this to 2.4-2.6oC temperature rise by the end of the century’, the report warns.
What can we expect from COP27?
The overall aim is for this meeting to end with solid plans for implementation. Welcoming delegates Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said: ‘The science is there and clearly shows the urgency with which we must act regarding rapidly reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, taking necessary steps to assist those in need of support to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change, and finding the appropriate formula that would ensure the means of implementation that are indispensable for developing countries in making their contributions to this global effort [...] Egypt will spare no effort to ensure that COP27 becomes the moment when the world moves from negotiation to implementation and where words are translated into actions.’
Roundtable talks will cover: investing in the future of energy, food security, finance and adaptation, amongst others issues. 10 November will be the day when the focus turns to science and reports recently released by the IPCC, UNEP and others will be the topics for discussion.
On 11 November, the focus will be on decarbonisation, concentrating on the progress made to decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors and identifying new technologies to help sectors including oil and gas, steel, and cement.
There will also be talks on the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to reduce emissions of methane by at least 30% by 2030. The session will focus on accelerating action on the ground to end methane venting and cut methane leaks and outline support including technology transfer, capacity building and finance. Other days have been designated to focus on energy, agriculture, and youth, amongst other issues.
According to the UN there will be a call for ‘action on the ground’, as well as negotiations to resolve points pending from COP26. One of these issues will be financing developing nations that are most impacted by climate change and allowing them to build resilience. There will also be discussion around the technicalities of measuring and reporting emissions along with numerous side events.
It will not be lost on delegates the geopolitical context of COP27. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has without doubt precipitated a redoubling of efforts to establish energy security by moving away from fossil fuels and establishing greater reliance on renewable sources of energy. In addition, tensions between China and the US, two of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, may yet prove to hamper negotiations and taking the all important action that the world wants to see.
We’ll bring you more coverage from COP27 over the next two weeks.