COP27 preview: Here’s everything you need to know about the climate conference in Egypt
We’re now in the very final preparations for COP27, which begins in Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday (6 November). Read on to find out who’s attending, whether nations are prepared and what the key negotiating topics are.
It feels like only a matter of days ago that the edie team was travelling on the climate train to Glasgow for COP26. But, a year has passed and the hours are being counted down until the start of COP27. Here, we provide our final comprehensive COP27 preview, taking a look back at last year’s agreement and answering your FAQ on what to expect over the coming weeks of climate diplomacy.
What are COP conferences?
‘COP’ stands for ‘the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’. The aim of these events are for nations to provide updates on efforts to reduce emissions and improve climate resilience and to agree on new targets and measures to increase ambition and delivery.
COPs have been held every year since 1995 and, each year, the COP Presidency rotates among the UN’s recognized regions – Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe and other nations.
COPs are attended by world leaders on the first few days and official negotiating delegations for the duration. Other policymakers, including environment ministers, also attend. Over the years, the presence of other groups – known as non-state actors – has gradually increased. COPs are now attended by NGOs, city and town representatives, citizens’ groups, businesses and all manner of other organisations.
COP27 is taking place in Sharm el-Sheikh from Sunday 6 November to Friday 18 November 2022. Some 40,000 people are set to attend.
What was agreed upon last year at COP26?
Last year, Glasgow hosted COP26, which has widely been regarded as the biggest and most significant COP since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. The fact that there was no COP in 2020, due to Covid-19, meant that there was a huge to-do list for the UK Presidency – especially as China and the US returned to the negotiating table.
Almost 40,000 people attended and, from nations, the final agreement text was the Glasgow Climate Pact.
COP26 President Alok Sharma has stated that the Pact has “kept 1.5C alive”, as he had worked towards – but that the goal (intended to give humanity the best chance of preventing the worst physical impacts of the climate crisis) is “on life support”.
The Pact is the first to mention fossil fuels specifically and states that all nations should “phase down” “unabated” coal-fired power generation as a priority. Sharma and his team had been pushing for the text to read “phase out” and to cover all generation, not just unabated generation. They had also push for an agreement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, but a caveat of “inefficient subsidies” was added.
Also included in the pact were commitments for wealthy nations to “at least double their collective provision” of international climate finance by 2025 and to update their plans for contributing to the Paris Agreement ahead of COP27.
Less progress was made than was hoped for on carbon markets and on creating a loss and damage finance facility and mechanism, through which developed, high-emitting nations would pay for physical impacts felt by low-income, low-emitting nations. The US, UK and EU are accused of blocking loss and damage finance.
What has happened since COP26?
The global economic, social and political situation has changed markedly over the past 12 months. Russia’s war in Ukraine has led many nations to draw up plans to end their Russian fossil fuel imports, dramatically changing the global energy supply and demand dynamic. The International Energy Agency has stated that some national upticks in coal-fired power and liquid gas storage being used to maintain energy security this winter are likely to be temporary, with the overall trajectory being an acceleration of the transition to a clean energy system.
Russia has not confirmed for certain whether or not it will send any representatives. President Vladimir Putin will not be in attendance.
There are other concerns, too. Climate collaboration between China and the US was broken off by the former in August.
The year has not, however, been without some climate wins. The US has introduced the world’s largest package of decarbonisation investment in the form of the Inflation Reduction Act, including $369m for climate mitigation. As a result of the package, US emissions are likely to be 40% lower in 2030 than in 2005. Before the package, a 26% reduction within this timeframe was predicted. Elsewhere, elections in Australia and Brazil have broadly been welcomed as chances to kick-start climate action.
Regarding the pledges made at COP26 in the Pact specifically – with just days left to go, the vast majority of UNFCCC participants have not submitted updated Paris Agreement NDCs. The UN stated last week that just 26 had been received. There is still hope that a flurry of submissions may be made before COP27 concludes.
Figures are not out on climate finance for 2022 yet, but the UN has confirmed that finance from developed nations to developing countries peaked in 2020 at $83bn before reducing in 2021. It is unlikely that the $100bn milestone will be met this year.
On fossil fuel subsidies, a report published earlier this week revealed that G20 nations provided the highest levels of fossil fuel subsidies in 2021 since 2014. A total of $693bn was provided. G20 nations were due to meet in October for their annual summit but this will now take place later this month.
Egypt’s COP presidency and the UN as a whole have expressed the need for this year’s event to be the “implementation COP” – a time for the gap to close between stated ambitions and actions on the ground.
Will there be a new pact at COP27?
Every COP has a final negotiating text, but the expectation is that the final communique will not be regarded as a “breakthrough” on the scale of the Glasgow Climate Pact. There is now a specific decision point upon which success hinges, the UN Foundation’s VP for climate and environment Pete Ogden has stated.
Nations are facing calls to recognise how energy security and food security are connected with having a liveable climate, coupling their long-term climate plans with their short-term responses to current crises rather than using the current geopolitical context as an excuse to water down or pause action.
What are the key negotiating topics this year?
As noted above, nations need to produce their Paris Agreement NDCs as a matter of urgency if they are to avoid breaking the Pact agreed at COP26. The UN has warned that, at present, national commitments are putting the world on course for 2.5C of warming even if they are delivered in full. In Egypt, countries will negotiate plans to “urgently” scale mitigation work this decade, and may well come up with requirements for all nations to set sector-specific emissions targets.
Climate adaptation will also feature heavily in discussions. A summer of extreme weather events across the globe, including droughts, wildfires and flash flooding, has focused hearts and minds on the fact that physical climate impacts are crystallising more rapidly. The UN’s latest adaptation gap report, out this week, revealed that while most member states have national adaptation plans, most don’t have time-bound targets or adequate delivery mechanisms.
COP27 will include discussions on the Global Goal on Adaptation and on how better to monitor and evaluate adaptation.
Whether it’s for adaptation, mitigation or loss and damage, the big questions this year are around finance. Funding arrangements for loss and damage are on the agenda at the request of the Group of 77 and China, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI). However, an agreement may not be reached until next year. Something countries will have to do is formally operationalize the Santiago Network on loss and damage, which will act as an international knowledge-sharing hub on the matter.
Headline finance figures are important, but the most affected communities are calling for more clarity, too, on how finance will be directed to the people most in need and the activities which will have the greatest benefit. Developing nations are making rallying cries for climate justice and for more funding for historically underfunded activities, such as nature-based solutions and water infrastructure.
What comes next, after COP27?
As noted above, the G20 summit is this year taking place at the same time as COP27, in Indonesia on the third week of the month. There may well be some new agreements on topics including nature and the energy transition.
The next major event in the calendar is the UN’s 15th convention on biodiversity, COP15. What should be the final round of talks for this long-draw-out summit will take place in Montreal in December, with the UN seeking consensus on a new global ‘Paris-style’ pledge to halt nature loss and begin nature restoration. Global UN-led nature targets are only agreed on once every ten years and, of the previous targets under the Aichi framework, none were delivered.
As has been the case with climate COPs, non-state actors are becoming increasingly vocal and visible around climate COPs. Last week, edie covered news that 300+ Business for Nature members are pushing for nations to implement mandatory nature-related disclosures.
The next climate COP will take place next November in Dubai. The UAE received formal approval to host the Conference in 2021.
For more information on preparations for COP27, readers are encouraged to access edie’s Action Tracker series.
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