What are the COPs?
From November 6th to the 18th, 2022, various heads of state, ministers, politicians, diplomats, representatives of national governments, lobbyists, land and environmental defenders, CEOs, as well as climate activists and organizations came together in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt for the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—also known as COP27.
COP stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’, meaning a committee created after an international treaty is signed, tasked with making decisions about how that treaty is implemented. In this case, the term COP is associated with the meetings of one particular committee created after the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
154 countries signed the UNFCCC in June 1992 in Rio, agreeing to combat harmful human impacts on the climate.
For nearly three decades the United Nations (UN) has hosted the COPS annually. Some of the most influential climate-focused international commitments have been established at COP summits— including the monumental Paris Agreement which was signed at COP21 in 2015.
What happened at COP26?
As a quick recap, here are some of the key takeaways from 2021’s COP26:
- 100 nations pledged to end deforestation by 2030. This pledge, if upheld, would result in the protection of over 85% of the world’s forests!
- More than 100 countries signed the Global Methane Pledged and agreed to cut their methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
- Over 100,000 people gathered to support climate action in Glasgow. From climate activists to farmers, and from Indigenous groups to trade unions people from around the world attended to demonstrate their commitment to climate activism.
- COP26 held a day dedicated to discussing the interconnection between gender and climate. Many countries pledged to develop and enact gender-sensitive climate policies.
- Over 40 countries pledged to phase out coal, and 20 countries pledged to stop funding overseas projects.
- The Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration Impact Program (FOLUR) were announced. The $345 million program will improve the food chains of eight different industries across 27 countries. Industries the program will focus on include beef, cocoa, coffee, and palm oil!
It’s always a good idea to revisit agreements made at previous COPs in order to hold governments accountable to their commitments, while also encouraging them to push further at future climate summits!
COP27 Goals and Agenda
Prior to commencing, the COP27 vision and mission were published. It stated that COP27’s vision was to “accelerate global climate action through emissions reduction, scaled-up adaptation efforts, and enhanced flows of appropriate finance”. In order to achieve this vision the following themes were established for the summit:
Focussing on global warming mitigation, it is the goal that COP27 will be an opportunity for countries to fulfill their commitments to deliver the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Additionally, this year delegates will witness the implementation of the Glasgow pact call to review ambition for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and establish a program for global warming mitigation.
NDCs refer to each country’s emission reduction targets and accountability metrics. So far, only 23 of the nearly 200 countries that signed the Glasgow Climate Pact have submitted increased NDCs, therefore at COP27, it is critical that more countries deliver greater ambition for emission reduction targets.
Due to extreme weather events that occur as a result of climate change, it is a goal that world leaders reiterate their commitment to the enhanced Global Goal on Adaptation which was established at COP21, in which COP 26 made the two-year Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheik Work Program on the Global Goal or Adaptation.
It is also the hope that in addition to this, COP27 will encourage an enhanced global agenda for action to adaptation.
The Paris Agreement goals stated the importance of adequate and transparent climate finance facilitated to meet the needs of countries most adversely affected by climate change.
At COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, developed countries committed to the collective goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 for climate action in developing countries. COP21 extended this goal to 2025.
At COP27 it is imperative that leaders deliver on their $100 billion promise.
One of the goals of COP27 is to ensure adequate representation and participation from all relevant stakeholders, especially those from vulnerable communities and representatives from countries in the African region who are increasingly affected by the impacts of climate change.
The following are some of the sessions planned for COP27 in accordance with the conference vision and goals listed above:
- Matters relating to adaptation
- Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts
- Matters relating to finance
- Matters relating to the development and transfer of technologies
- Capacity-building under the convention
- Matters relating to the least developed countries
- Gender and climate change
The full COP27 agenda can be viewed here.
Key takeaways from COP27
A breakthrough in Sharm el-Sheikh was made after a marathon overnight session on Sunday, November 20th, 2022 that resulted in the COP27 final agreement. The final deal was signed off by almost 200 countries ranging from major polluters and emerging economies to small island states.
The result of COP27 was a package of decisions that were agreed upon which we will now briefly summarize. We encourage you to briefly read through the package if you wish to gain a deeper understanding of all the commitments made during the two-week period.
COP27 Loss and Damage Fund
COP27 closed with an agreement to provide a “loss and damage” fund for vulnerable countries that are hit hardest by climate-related disasters. After decades of calls for countries that have gained their wealth from fossil fuels to compensate climate victims, COP27 finally produced an agreement to establish a fund that would address loss and damage.
A monetary sum was not committed, and rules of how the fund would operate were not determined. In the meantime, the Loss and Damage Fund agreement will establish a transitional committee made up of representatives from 24 countries that will determine how the fund should work, and where the money should come from and present its recommendations at COP28 in 2023.
Climate Adaptation Finance
Wealthy nations had promised $100 billion USD to an annual climate fund. As mentioned earlier, in 2021 at COP26 countries agreed to double the amount of financing to help countries adapt to climate impacts and extended the deadline to 2025.
The COP27 agreement “expresses serious concern” that the fund targets have not yet been met and urges developed country Parties to meet the predetermined goal.
At COP26 it was agreed that rules to allow nations to trade carbon credits would be created. COP27 outlined a detailed framework for how a potential international carbon market would work. There have been some critiques that the framework is not strict enough.
Determining rules for which types of projects can produce credits has been pushed back to 2023. Proposed projects for consideration range from solar farms to avenues to avoid deforestation. Methodologies on carbon credits must also be decided upon by next year or risk running into a deadline where carbon-cutting projects registered under old U.N. rules have to re-apply to be part of the new system.
There are various key issues regarding carbon credits that must be discussed at the international level. For example, whether there should be a centralized body where trades are reported, a system the European Union supports. Contrariwise, the United States prefers a more diffuse, decentralized system. Future debates will continue on issues such as whether credits should also take into account biodiversity and human rights. A consensus at the United Nations on biodiversity and human rights would send a strong signal to private markets on what their standards should be.
Status of the 1.5C Goal
In Glasgow, at COP26, countries agreed to “revisit and strengthen” 2030 climate plans by the end of 2022 with the goal to review these strengthened commitments at COP27. Since this statement was made, only a limited number of countries have successfully followed suit.
The emission reduction plans that were submitted ahead of COP27 revealed that they would take less than 1% off projected global emissions in 2030.
This is alarming… given that scientists have reported that global emissions must be cut by 43% by 2030 in order to hold temperature increases by the end of the decade and meet the 1.5C goal.
At COP27 the commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels was reaffirmed. However, the final agreement established at COP27 failed to raise ambitions of reducing emissions. This could result in the world missing the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming target.
Calls to phase out fossil fuels and to peak global emissions by 2025 were dismissed by many nations.
Methane Momentum and Fossil Fuel Frenzy
More countries agreed to sign the methane pledge from COP26 150 nations have agreed to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030. China agreed to develop a draft plan to reduce its methane emissions although it did not commit to signing the pledge.
The final COP27 package of decisions did not officially call for the reduction of all fossil fuel use which was exceptionally disappointing to climate activists and many nations. The agreement repeated statements calling for accelerated efforts towards the “phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. This has given the appearance that the use of fossil fuels has been affirmed for the near future, with some countries such as the United Arab Emirates boldly stating that they would continue to deliver oil and gas “for as long as the world is in need”.
The “mitigation work plan” was a focus on COP27. The idea of the plan is to ensure that countries set clear targets, plans, and metrics to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet climate goals.
As it stands, the variety of national commitments have not followed the same standards as countries have been using different criteria and baselines for their targets. It is a concern that without a standardized approach, reduction pledges will not come to fruition. This “mitigation work plan” will run until 2026.
What happens after COP27
An article by the BBC states that there is a 50-50 chance that over the next five years we will surpass the important marker of temperature increases, 1.5C, and we’re likely to permanently pass it by 2031.
International agreements to commit to phasing out fossil fuels once and for all are desperately needed in order to set the tone for how development will continue in the future and will determine whether or not we reach emission reduction targets.
That means it’s critical that fossil fuel phase-outs, in particular, are strongly advocated for and taken more seriously at future COPs. Bob Ward, of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, believes that there is not much prospect of staying below 1.5C and that future COPs will shift conservation to have to get back to 1.5C.
Now that COP27 has finished, it is the responsibility of each nation that attended to work towards the various commitments they have pledged. It is also the role of the global community to help keep nations accountable to their commitments.
Plans for COP28
COP28 is set to be hosted by the Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Dubai from November 30th – December 12th, 2023. As the nation is heavily involved with fossil fuels, it is critical that the UAE establish itself as a leader in the renewable energy sector, and this will be a great opportunity to do so.
The UAE has been committed to tackling climate change since 1989, the same year it ratified the Vienna Convention for the protection of the Ozone layer. After this, it became a member of the UNFCCC in 1995 and also ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2005.
COP28 will have the goal of determining how the Loss and Damage Fund, agreed upon at COP27, will operate.
Other common questions about COP27
What is meant by COP27?
COP refers to the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. COP27 is the 27th Conference of the Parties and took place from November 6th to 18th, 2022.
Who runs COP27?
The leader of the COPs summit will differ depending on which nation it is being held in. This year Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, will take on the role of COP27 president for the summit.
In this role, Shoukry will act as a neutral arbiter for the 196 nations attending the conference in order to smooth over differences and encourage nations to step up with stronger climate measures.
When and where is COP27?
COPs are held in a new location each year. In 2022 COP27 took place from November 6th through 18th in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
Conclusion: We are all responsible for climate change
While we’re happy to bring you this brief summary of the events that took place at COP27, if you’d like a deeper insight into details of the important discussions and decisions that resulted we recommend reviewing the package cited earlier.
We love a good celebration, and while progress was made, no matter how big or small, it is also critical that we do not forget the warnings from scientists, academics, and advocates worldwide: we are still not doing enough. These conferences serve as an important tool to motivate nations to make serious commitments that will mitigate the current impacts of climate change and prevent future damage. However, in order to make real change it’s up to everyday people to take action through the organizations they support, brands they patron, and those they vote into government offices. You have the power to make a change, how will you use it?