Your guide to COP27
COP27: Where world leaders gather to discuss climate change and set new goals and targets urgently needed to tackle global warming.
The fight against climate change has become a global priority with countries from all corners of the world setting goals and targets to help slow down the damage being caused by carbon emissions and other pollutants throughout our lands, seas, and skies.
This November, almost 200 countries will come together in Egypt for a “Conference of the Parties”, or COP27, in a crucial meeting for tackling the climate crisis.
COP27 is being held in in Sharm El-Sheikh Egypt in 2022 and marks the 27th annual COP summit. With the strapline, “Together for Implementation”, it is being billed as an ‘African COP’. This is not only in reference to the location, but also the fact that African countries’ exposure to some of the most severe impacts of climate change will likely be front and centre of the discussions.
What is a COP?
COP stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’, and is the name given to the annual United Nations’ Climate Change Conferences which have been running since 1995.
The goal of these conferences is to assess the effects of measures introduced by members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to limit and tackle climate change around the globe.
The UNFCCC has near-universal membership of 198 United Nations countries and is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The ultimate aim of UNFCC members is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations and prevent “dangerous” human interference with the climate system. Specifically, to keep the global average temperature rise this century as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Each year, these global climate summits have grown in prominence and importance as signatory governments come together to discuss and agree how to jointly address climate change and its impacts.
History of COPs
The first COP meeting – ‘COP1’ – took place in Berlin, Germany in 1995. Over 190 nations came together to begin negotiations to strengthen the UNFCCC’s commitments. This resulted in the adoption of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was aimed at limiting and reducing overall emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions according to individual targets by at least 5 per cent below the levels in 1990. The Protocol came into force on 16 February 2005, seven years after it was negotiated.
In subsequent years, 192 of the UNFCCC parties backed the Kyoto protocol, but it was partially derailed in 2021 when some of the world’s biggest polluters, including the US, did not ratify it, despite agreements under the Protocol being legally binding (in comparison to UNFCCC agreements which are voluntary.)
The Doha Amendment extended the Kyoto commitments until 2020, which helped lay the foundations for the subsequent Paris Agreement. Negotiations for this began at COP13 in 2007 but failed to reach agreement at COP15 in 2009 in Copenhagen.
The next major attempt didn’t take place until Paris in 2015 at COP21 when the Paris Agreement was finally established. The Paris Agreement saw every country agree to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius (and, preferably, 1.5 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels.
Countries committed to prioritize reducing their emissions and agreed to report back on their emissions every five years with the aim of limiting global warming by 2030. These commitments are called Nationally Determined Contributions or ‘NDCs’ - essentially national climate change plans - and are reported to the UNFCCC Secretariat.
To date, 196 countries involved in the COPs have signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, the Glasgow Climate Pact and the Paris Agreement.
COP26, jointly hosted by the UK and Italy and held in Glasgow, saw the signing of the Glasgow Climate Pact. More than 100 nations committed to revisiting and improving the 2030 targets in their NDCs by the end of 2022 in line with the Paris Agreement temperature goal. However, these commitments still fell short of what is needed to reach the goals agreed at Paris seven years ago.
This year at COP27, it is expected that countries will demonstrate how they have improved their NDCs as they race to reach emission reduction targets, with the urgency to tackle climate change now on high alert.
When is COP27?
Originally expected to take place in 2021 but rescheduled due to the pandemic, COP27 is taking place this year in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, from 6 to 18 November.
World leaders, government organizations, negotiators, citizens and businesses involved in helping to make the world a greener place, will congregate, commit to making a difference, set goals and share solutions.
Why COP27 is so important?
The impact that climate change is having on the environment is immense and undeniable. Since COP26, we’ve seen catastrophic climate disasters ranging from floods in Pakistan to drought in Africa and wildfires and heatwaves from Europe to Mongolia.
Emissions have reached record levels after the pandemic downturn and air pollution is having a detrimental impact on billions of people’s health, homes, and livelihoods across the globe. Right now the world is on a pathway to between 3 and 4 degrees C (5.5 and 7F) by the end of the century.
Actions worldwide are already in place to make our air cleaner and restore nature by trying to reverse the damage that has already been done, but there’s still a long way to go.
The world needs to halve its emissions over the next 10 years to limit global warming. If the world doesn’t act now, and quickly, then the warnings are stark and serious.
A recent Paris Agreement report warns of “untold human suffering” and global economic losses of at least $2bn per day due to weather events increasing in severity as a result of human-induced climate change, should nations fail to reduce emissions. Additionally, weather events and patterns will hurt human health, livelihoods, food, water and biodiversity.
To prevent outcomes of this nature, it is imperative that all countries accelerate their strategy, enforce policies, accept that global emissions must reach net zero by 2050 and take leaps to make it happen.
Developed countries need to phase out coal power and commit to not opening or investing in new coal-fired plants across the world. Instead, replace them with renewables within the next decade. This is not only possible; it would be cost-effective. It is critical that countries implement policies and promote renewable and carbon-free power sources.
Protecting our trees and forests is also crucial as they help remove carbon from the air, as well as reducing the emissions that come from cars, planes and trucks, by switching to lower and zero emission vehicles.
We can also decrease carbon emissions by identifying and pursuing initiatives to power economies with clean energy instead of coal, gas and oil-fired stations.
Renewable sources, like wind and solar, can dramatically reduce emissions and also reduce costs, as these they are typically cheaper than fossil fuels.
COP27 is set to play an important part in climate change history as world leaders gather for 12 days in November to debate the global crisis and decide on a fair allocation of responsibility and next steps for realizing commitments. That is, who should lead in emissions reduction, who should pay for transitioning to new forms of energy production and who should compensate those already feeling the effects of climate change. It will be an opportunity for renewed commitment on mitigation and finance.
2030 is fast approaching so the pressure is on for countries to have more ambitious ratcheting to help achieve the commitment made in 2015 in Paris to limiting temperatures warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and preventing further damage to our planet. Every increment of warming we prevent will reduce those impacts. Every percent of a degree matters.
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