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What needs to happen at COP27?

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21 Oct 2022

Egypt is hosting the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh from 6-18 Nov 2022. The vision for this latest round of international climate talks is to “move from negotiations and planning to implementation. Now is the time for action on the ground.”

Sounds like a plan.

Glasgow held the COP26 international climate talks last November. It was a big deal. Joe Biden flew in from Washington on Airforce One, and Boris Johnson (remember him?) flew in from London on a private jet to show his passion for the environment.

In the end, COP26 wasn’t the breakthrough many of us had hoped for. But it was a positive step forward in terms of commitments by the international community to tackle the climate crisis.

Now we need action. The focus in COP27 has to be on delivering the promises made in COP26.

What happened at COP26?

At the end of the Glasgow talks in 2021, nearly 200 countries unanimously signed the Glasgow Climate Pact. In it they pledged to increase efforts to cut emissions and called on wealthy countries to double their funding to protect poorer nations who’re suffering the worst consequences of the climate crisis.

Over 40 countries also promised to quit coal in the 2030s, although this didn’t include many of the world’s biggest coal consumers, such as China, India and the USA.

And as the New York Times and others pointed out, it was unclear how much and how quickly each nation should cut its emissions. The pact doesn’t provide a clear plan to limit warming to 1.5 degrees (the aim of the Paris Agreement in 2015) or even 2 degrees, and it doesn’t do enough to help vulnerable countries.

Why is COP27 so important?

COP27 has attracted a fair amount of flak, even months out from the event. It’s been accused of greenwashing Egypt’s real stance on the climate crisis as well as slammed for accepting sponsorship from Coca-Cola (named as the world's biggest plastic polluter in 2021).

Nonetheless, COP27 is the one place where nearly 200 countries will gather to talk about the climate crisis. It’s more vital than ever that concrete action comes out of this.

Speaking in October 2022, a month before COP27, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that COP27 must make climate action “the top global priority” because while “climate chaos gallops ahead, climate action has stalled”.

“A third of Pakistan flooded,” he added. “Europe’s hottest summer in 500 years. The Philippines hammered. The whole of Cuba in black-out. And here, in the United States, Hurricane Ian has delivered a brutal reminder that no country and no economy is immune from the climate crisis.”

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So, what actually needs to happen at COP27?

The world is facing a climate emergency with devastating consequences for both people and the natural world. COP27 needs to be a leap forward in both commitments and action across the board, but here are the three key areas we hope will be making the headlines:

Country specific plans:

COP26 included a promise by countries to “revisit and strengthen” their emissions reduction plans before COP27, but only 15 had done so by September, two months before the start of the talks.

New targets are essential because current pledges will only limit warming to 2.3C at best, according to Climate Action Tracker, which will cause dramatically greater damage than the Paris Agreement’s goal of “well-below 2C, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius”.

For COP27 to be a success, these country-specific targets must be updated and strengthened in line with the commitments made at COP26.

Loss and damage:

The question of who should pay for the loss and damage caused by climate change looks likely to be high on the agenda. Countries like the USA and blocs like the EU are being asked by poorer countries to contribute to a new fund for loss and damage because they’re the biggest historic contributors to climate change. 

It’s not plain sailing. The BBC reported that this was a “source of acrimony between rich and poor countries” at international talks in Germany in the lead-up to COP27.

What’s certain is that we need global agreement and action to tackle the climate crisis, so an agreement on this issue must be found.

Funding for adaptation to the new climate:

Aside from the issue of loss and damage, wealthy countries previously promised to provide $100bn in finance per year from 2020-2025 to vulnerable countries. They delivered only $83.3 billion in 2020, according to the World Resources Institute.

At COP27, the wealthy nations must clearly show how they’re going to meet their promises up to 2025 – but they also need to commit to 2026 and beyond so that developing nations can plan their climate strategies with confidence.

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