The aim of COP27 is to reach solutions that match the scope of the problems facing the planet: devastating floods in Pakistan, Europe’s hottest summer in 500 years, the whole of Cuba in blackout, hurricanes in the US, the global energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the continuing carbon emissions that have dangerously impacted the planet.
According to the Egyptian presidency, the COP27 action agenda is structured “with a focus on implementation, aiming at mobilising collective efforts for ambitious emission reductions from different sectors, enhanced transformative adaptation agenda on the ground, enabling flows of appropriate finance and delivering on the ground on time and at scale.”
COP27 is expected to build on the achievements reached in COP26 in Glasgow and see through negotiations regarding points that remained inconclusive after Glasgow.
There is a governing rule that the world is obviously following, according to Tarek Said, a journalist and former coordinator of Egyptian Editors Forum (EEF): the need to collaborate and act together to face the global challenge of climate change. “Without collaboration, we will see more natural disasters,” Said told Al-Ahram Weekly.
In a press conference in New York last month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres underscored the importance of COP27 pushing for that pressing Celsius goal and warned that the collective commitments of leading G20 industrialised nations are coming “far too little, and far too late.
“The actions of the wealthiest developed and emerging economies simply don’t add up,” Guterres said. “The current pledges and policies are shutting the door on limiting global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, let alone meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal,” he said.
“We are in a life-or-death struggle for our own safety today and our survival tomorrow. The world can’t wait. Emissions are at an all-time high and rising.”
COP26 issued the Glasgow Climate Pact which kept the goal of curbing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius alive, a goal that was outlined in the Paris Agreement in 2015.
In addition, another positive step was taken to make the Paris Agreement fully operational: finalising the details for the practical implementation of the agreement, also known as the Paris Rulebook.
Countries also reached an agreement in Glasgow to commit themselves to more ambitious targets towards this end by outlining their strategies in an updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDGs) or national climate plans highlighting climate actions to be handed to the UN by September. However, only 24 out of 193 countries have submitted their plans to the UN so far.
However, various reports, including a recently issued report from UN Climate Change, show countries are bending the curve of global greenhouse gas emissions downward but underline that these efforts remain insufficient to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
Realising that more genuine efforts are needed to achieve the goal, Egypt’s Foreign Minister and President-Designate of COP27 Sameh Shoukri noted in an interview with The Guardian early this week that the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius is “more fragile” than ever because most countries failed to set targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with a 1.5 degrees Celsius limit in Glasgow or put in place the policies to meet such goals. They were meant to return to the table at COP27 this year with revised plans.
Describing this as the most serious issue, Shoukri said “we recognise the geopolitical conditions that have evolved over this year, whether it’s the Russian-Ukraine war or the tensions between the US and China. But even more broadly, the issue of trust has again come to the surface after the momentum that was created by Paris and Glasgow in how we can achieve progress when we deal with climate change,” he said.
Shoukri said he hoped that during COP27, more countries will present not only their commitments but their desire to implement those commitments in an impactful manner.
STRESSING ON MITIGATION
Climate change mitigation refers to taking important measures like accelerating the transition from coal to clean power, protecting and restoring nature for the benefit of people and climate and accelerating the transition to zero-emission vehicles, as outlined in the Glasgow Climate Pact, adopted by the participating states in COP26. It aims to turn the 2020s into a decade of climate action and support.
It also includes using new technologies and renewable energy sources, making older equipment more energy-efficient, and changing management practices and consumer behaviour.
During COP27, countries are expected to show how they are planning to implement the Glasgow Pact call, to review their climate plans and create a work programme related to mitigation.
Although mitigation is an important goal in COP27, Shoukri pointed to the need, especially in Africa and other developing countries, to see greater equity between finance for mitigation and adaptation.
“For mitigation, there are economic benefits, whereas adaptation, the return is much more impactful because it deals with lives and livelihoods,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg Television last month.
Adaptation is another goal established by the Paris Agreement that aims to enhance countries’ adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change.
COP26 established a comprehensive two-year Glasgow-Sharm El-Sheikh work programme on the global goal on adaptation (2022-2023). It was regarded as a turning point in the world’s journey to both make and measure progress towards this global goal.
The plan was designed to equip communities and countries with the knowledge and tools to ensure that adaptation actions they take are indeed moving the world towards a more climate-resilient future.
The COP27 presidency expects nations to assess their progress towards enhancing resilience and helping the most vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change.
In addition, developed countries agreed last year to at least double finance for adaptation, and many stakeholders are calling for even greater levels of adaptation funding to match that spent on mitigation. The Paris Agreement (Article 9.4) states that the provision of scaled-up financial resources should aim to achieve a balance between adaptation and mitigation. In fact, there is a political aspiration of having a 50:50 balance between mitigation and adaptation, with a greater share of the adaptation funding going to the most vulnerable countries.
This will definitely be a controversial topic at COP27.
At COP27, climate finance will, as expected, be a major theme once again. Developing countries are expected to repeat their call for developed countries to reassure sufficient and adequate financial support, particularly to the most vulnerable and most affected by climate change.
Also expected are several discussions on the yearly $100 billion promise by developed nations that has not been delivered.
In 2009 in Copenhagen, rich countries committed to this amount, but official reports still show that this target is being missed. Experts expect COP27 to actually make this pledge a reality, finally, in 2023.
The Egyptian presidency aims to follow up on this and other commitments and pledges made in previous COPs.
On finances, Shoukri stated that the National Development Bank (NDB) indicated that it was revising the situation to provide finance more readily and at less cost to developing countries.
“We will put our faith in their commitment,” Shoukri said, adding in his interview with Bloomberg that “the general environment is somewhat stressful economically,” emphasising that there is no opportunity for states or parties to backtrack.
“If we reach a point of no return, I think we won’t be able to speak about security in any sense. The global situation will continue to deteriorate and we will see the very devastating consequences, as was the case most recently in Pakistan,” he said.
LOSS AND DAMAGE
Extreme weather events, including floods, drought and wildfires, caused by gas emissions from developed countries, result in costly damages to developing countries. As a result, developing countries argue that they should receive compensation.
The issue, known as “loss and damage”, will be more than likely a big topic of discussion at COP27 even though it has not been officially put on the agenda.
Guterres has repeatedly emphasised the importance of compensation. He said that decisions must be made now as “failure to act” will lead to “more loss of trust and more climate damage”, describing it as “a moral imperative that cannot be ignored”.
The issue was also raised in New York during a high-level meeting with the Group of 77 and China. The group, which essentially includes all developing nations, has requested to add loss and damage to the agenda which will require consensus across all countries on the first day of the talks.
Egypt has also repeatedly underlined that it will put the issue at the centre of COP27.
Negotiators at last year’s COP26 agreed to launch a two-year dialogue on loss and damage but stopped short of setting up an actual fund. During COP27 the topic is likely to raise debates on where the money for any fund will come from, how it will be distributed and how climate-induced losses are defined.
However, tensions and differences over the war in Ukraine and skyrocketing energy and food prices have hugely affected economic and political policies across the developed and developing world. The diplomatic showdown between the US and China, the world’s biggest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, will further complicate any breakthrough over the loss and damage issue.
THE WAY TO COP28
All these discussions will pave the way for the first Global Stocktake at COP28. The global stocktake of the Paris Agreement is a process for taking stock of the implementation of the Paris Agreement with the aim of assessing the world’s collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the agreement and its long-term goals.
Egypt has also designated several thematic days, including water day, decarbonisation day, adaptation day, finance day, and concluding by solutions day. These were designed for focused discussions, via side events, panel discussions, round tables, and other interactive formats.
The first UN Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. During the meeting, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, through which the states agreed to “prevent dangerous interference from human activity on the climate system,” was adopted.
Since then, the UN has been bringing together countries for global climate summits called Conference of the Parties, or COPs, since 1994.
During these meetings, nations have reached various agreements to establish legally binding limits on emissions, including the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the Paris Agreement adopted in 2015, through which all countries of the world agreed to step up efforts to try and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, and boost climate-action financing.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 3 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.