COP27 is the 27th annual United Nations (UN) meeting on climate, and it took place this year in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, between November 6th, 2022, and November 18th, 2022. The UN holds yearly climate summits for state governments to discuss steps to limit global temperature rises. These are referred to as COPs – Conference of the Parties. It is composed of the countries that signed up to the original UN climate agreement in 1992.
Billed as the “African COP”, several pertinent issues were on the agenda, especially in the age of rapid climate change. Representatives of parties to the convention and observer states; members of the press and media; representatives of observer organizations, such as the UN System and its specialized agencies; IGOs; NGOs, and finally, members of the public were in attendance.
The leading cause of global warming are emissions created mainly from the combustion of fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global temperatures have increased by 1.1 °C by 2022. They are projected to increase by 0.5 °C more in the coming decades. Consequently, increased heat and humidity will threaten half of the world’s population. 194 countries signed The Paris Agreement in 2015, pledging to “pursue efforts” to keep global temperature increases below 1.5 °C.
This is the fifth time that an African country has hosted a COP. In doing so, regional governments hope to highlight the continent’s plight in the face of the devastating effects of climate change. According to the IPCC, Africa is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions, with drought causing food insecurity for an estimated 20 million people in East Africa.
The three primary focuses of COP27 was reducing emissions; equipping countries to handle climate change, and guaranteeing technical support as well as funding for developing countries. It also addressed issues that had not been fully resolved or discussed at COP26: including the loss and damage finance – a fund to help countries recover from the effects of climate change, rather than prepare for them; establishing a global carbon market, to price the impact of emissions into products and services globally, and strengthening commitments to reduce coal use.
Participants agreed on a new global climate pact called The Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan. It includes a historic commitment by wealthy nations to assist developing countries in recovering from the damage, and economic losses caused by ongoing climate change impacts. This follows a year of devastation caused by climate change, including severe flooding in Pakistan and persistent drought in East Africa.
Countries agreed, for the first time, to establish a “loss and damage” fund. It focuses on assisting poorer nations in recovering from the effects of climate change; such as destroyed homes, flooded land, and lost income from affected crops. Until now, these nations have only received funding for mitigation – efforts to transition away from fossil fuels, and adaptation. The fund has been established to alleviate climate-change stricken countries, largely Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs).
Ambassador Nasr, Egypt’s Director General for climate at the Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs, stated, “We have an energy crisis, a food crisis… and over and above, a climate impacts crisis. Flooding in Pakistan… forest fires in Europe. Climate change isn’t giving us space to breathe.”
Previously, LEDCs have experienced untold suffering stemming from climate change’s widespread effects. They are often forced to stretch their resources to address such catastrophic events. The Paris Climate Agreement stated, “high emitters must respond to prevent climate change by accounting for losses and damages,” in Article 8.
Currently, existing funds are usually focused on averting and minimizing, as stipulated in the agreement; this takes too long, especially in the processing of funds. Instances of flooding in LEDCs, such as Pakistan, have incurred the state over $30 million in losses. Not to mention, many LEDCs are still reeling from the pandemic and have little funding to dedicate to other issues. There is a growing need for the fast movement, and increased availability of resources – to allow affected countries to rebuild their nations. This is especially necessary considering that many losses have stemmed from climatic disasters caused by other countries.
Phasing down fossil fuel emissions was also discussed in this year’s conference. William Ruto, the president of Kenya, advocated that Africa’s natural resources should be compensated for the ecological services they provide; such as the Congo Forest and Lake Basins. Ruto added, “Africa contributes less than 3% of the pollution responsible for climate change, but is most severely impacted by the ensuing crisis.” He mentioned that Africa, with its renewable energy, has the potential to become an energy superpower; reducing investments in exploring fossil fuels, by lowering the cost of capital to harness renewable energy and hold back LEDCs.
Last year, COP26 in Glasgow saw the end of discussions on how climate action should take place under the “rulebook” of the 2015 Paris Agreement. At COP27, the Egyptian presidency aimed to shift the focus to acting on the ground. With these new plans, global temperatures are still expected to rise. Hence, the Egyptian COP President Sameh Shoukry wanted to focus on turning some of the more ambitious targets and pledges into tangible action.