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COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh

Laura Puttkamer
Sharm El-Sheikh
Civil society is closely observing how COP27 will unfold. Photo: Li-An Lim via Unsplash

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From November 6 to November 18, Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt will host the world’s leaders for the annual climate conference. COP27 is facing many challenges. Read more about what to expect here.

2022’s key climate conference

COPs or Conferences of the Parties have been described as a “litmus test” of how seriously the world takes climate change. These big annual conferences work towards reaching climate goals. They also aim at reducing the toll on countries that suffer most from climate change. Every year, hopes are high and invariably, expectations are not fully met.

With the world close to an irreversible climate breakdown, as detailed in a recent UN report, this year’s COP27 is particularly important. It is the world’s opportunity to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. This key number was determined at the ground-breaking 2015 COP in Paris, France.

Currently, the world is not on track to reach this goal. Current pledges for action by 2030, even if they were fully delivered, would still result in global heating of 2.5 degrees. This would lead to a catastrophic climate breakdown with more and more extreme weather events. Climate refugees, species extinction, and rapid melting of the ice caps would be other consequences.

However, there is also some hope. In recent months, both Australia and the US – major polluters – have made policy progress. The current US legislation will probably lower the country’s emissions by 40% this decade. China and India also showed some degree of willingness to reduce their CO2 emissions at last year’s COP26. This is giving reason to hope that major emitters will make commitments this year.

What to expect from COP27

Representatives from nearly 200 governments and thousands of other stakeholders will gather in Sharm El Sheikh until November 18, 2022, for COP27. The stakes are high, and expectations are even higher: Observers are looking for an action-oriented COP that focuses on resilience and adaptation, loss and damages, and increased climate finance. The “African COP” will need to prioritise actions over talks to address the immediate needs of many countries in the world. Typically, those countries that have contributed little to the climate crisis are suffering most from its impacts.

These are some of the key expectations for COP27:

  • A clear roadmap for adaptation and resilience goals and their implementation
  • Availability of finance, especially to lower-income countries
  • Prioritisation of multi-level governance actions for adaptation and resilience policies, for example through incentives
  • Mobilisation of resources to support initiatives like Make Cities Resilient 2030 and the Race to Resilience
  • Building of partnerships to share knowledge among governments and non-state actors
  • Human rights in relation to climate change, but also in relation to inclusion and accessibility at the COP venue
  • Advocating for climate justice and an energy transition in Africa

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Key topics at COP27

Each day will have a theme at COP27, starting on November 9. These include finance, science, youth and future generations, decarbonisation, adaptation and agriculture, gender, water, actions for climate empowerment and civil society, energy, biodiversity, and solutions. An overview of the topics and sessions is available online.

At last year’s COP26 in Glasgow, key successes included the pledge to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, a global methane pledge to reduce emissions by as much as 30%, and a pledge to halt deforestation by 2030. Since then, there has been some progress,. But COP27 will show the status and the gaps between expectations and reality in detail. It will also focus on the key topic of climate change. So far, the Global North has fallen short of the promise to provide USD 100 billion a year to help poorer countries finance climate mitigation and adaptation. The war in Ukraine and the global energy crisis have put further strains on multilateral funding institutions like the World Bank.

Another topic to look out for is fossil fuels. In the Glasgow Climate Pact, leaders agreed to “phase down” fossil fuels. This weak wording was welcomed because it was mentioned for the first time. Commitment to net-zero is growing with more than 100 countries having proposed or at least considered a net-zero target. Similarly, low-emission transport and infrastructure will play a big role, as will biodiversity.

Why COPs are important

The Conferences of the Parties are the main decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Conventions on the Climate Change (UNFCCC). This agreement between 197 UN parties aims at stabilising greenhouse gas emissions at a level that would limit dangerous interference with the climate system.

At the annual gatherings, COP members assess the effects of measures introduced and come up with new goals. They propose Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs, which include pledges for action. The European Union has a joint NDC for all member countries. It aims at being an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

At COP26, countries recognised that current pledges for action by 2030 would still result in a global heating of 2.5 degrees. They promised to improve their plans before COP27. But so far, only 22 countries have submitted an update.

With climate impacts being felt acutely around the world, such as in Pakistan’s devastating floods, the world needs solidarity, accountability, and innovation. Cities have made progress towards net zero targets: More than 1,100 cities have committed to the Cities Race to Zero campaign. But national accountability and support remain a challenge.

Read our report about COP26 in 2021 in Glasgow here.

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