A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding COP27

In 1992, The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC Secretariat) was created and tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change. The Convention, also known as the ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP), has near universal membership (198 Parties) and parented the 2015 Paris Agreement. It has been held every year since 1995. This year marks the 27th annual summit.  COP27 took place in Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre, Egypt, from 6-18 November.

In all conference of parties (COP), nations negotiate various extensions of the original treaty to establish legally binding limits on emissions. It has resulted in The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the latest Paris Agreement adopted in 2015, in which all countries of the world agreed to step up efforts to try and limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures and boost climate action financing.

Over 30,000 people registered to attend this year in Egypt, representing all kinds of entities, including governments, businesses, NGOs, and civil society groups.

The conference is divided into the Blue Zone and the Green Zone. The Blue Zone is an UN-managed space where negotiations are hosted, and all attendees must be accredited by the UNFCCC Secretariat. It includes 156 pavilions and consisted of a Youth and an Agrifood pavilion for the first time.

The Egyptian Government managed the Green Zone and opened it to the registered public. It included events, exhibitions, workshops, and talks to promote dialogue, awareness, education, and commitment to climate action. The Green Zone will be the platform where the business community, youth, civil and indigenous societies, academia, artists, and fashion communities from all over the world can express themselves, and their voices can be heard. It also includes a special “protest zone”, and a huge outdoor lounge and terrace space.

What has COP27 discussed?

Last year’s COP26 (minus one year for COVID) marked five years since the signing of the Paris Agreement, which culminated in the Glasgow Climate Pact. It focused on planning and announcing a nation’s commitments based on its growth and finances. Countries agreed to deliver stronger commitments, including updated national plans with more ambitious targets. However, only 24 out of 193 countries have submitted their plans to the UN so far. 

This year’s negotiations focused on the technical discussions of previously announced national plans, specifying the way in which nations should practically measure their emissions so there’s a level playing field for everyone.

COP 28 will see the first global stock of the implementation of said national plans set to follow the goals of the Paris Agreement. It will focus on assessing the collective progress on mitigation, adaptation, and means of implementation. 

The big objectives of COP27 included: 

1. Mitigation: how are countries reducing their emissions?

2. Adaptation: How will countries adapt and help others do the same?

3. Climate Finance: how are countries improving investments that mitigate climate change

How is the war in Ukraine affecting COP27?

Even the best-laid plans are altered in case of war. The war in  Ukraine has created global inflation and energy, food and supply chain crisis. This has caused countries like Germany to scale back their climate goals for the short term. The historical China-US Climate Working Group announced in Glasgow has now been suspended. COP27 saw setbacks in the pledges and commitments from countries.

While some countries are taking a step back, other countries like Switzerland have adopted laws requiring mandatory climate reporting for public companies. 

Special Rapporteur Ian Fry considers the war a “wake-up call” for nations to move towards energy self-sufficiency. The cheapest way to do this is through renewable energy, which is key in reducing emissions.

“We’re seeing Portugal moving towards 100 percent renewable, we know Denmark is also doing that, and I think that will drive other countries to see the need to be renewable and energy self-sufficient”, he told UN News.

How did COP27 conclude?

After days of intense negotiations, countries agreed to establish a fund that compensates vulnerable nations for ‘loss and damage’ from climate-induced disasters.

You can Read the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan here.

What are we looking forward to next year?

COP28 is being held at the Expo City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates between 6th – 17thof  November 2023. The privilege to host the COP28 comes as a recognition of the country’s commitment to tackling climate change. UAE is among the first in the GCC to sign the Paris Agreement and announce the net-zero by 2050 initiative. UAE is also one of the world’s largest humanitarian aid donors for climate-related disasters worldwide.

UAE is the 2nd Middle East country to host COP, Egypt being the first. It is expected to attract over 45,000 participants daily.

The selection of the venue for the COP is built on the legacy and message of the Expo2020: ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’. It affirms the commitments to themes of sustainability, opportunity, and mobility, while showcasing its advanced and sustainable infrastructure. 

COP28 will focus on the following key pillars: (WAM, 2022)

  • Implementation of climate commitments and pledges
  • Inclusivity
  • Working together to take action and identifying solutions that contribute to overcoming challenges
  • Seizing opportunities to ensure a sustainable future

An important aspect of COP28 is that the first ever global stocktaking will take place since the Paris Agreement. Global stocktaking evaluates how countries are collectively implementing the Paris Agreement. It aims to review global rather than country-specific climate efforts. Stocktaking began during COP26 and is due to conclude at COP28 where major findings will be revealed. (IHS Markit, 2022). 

It aims to be the ‘solution COP’ where shareable alternatives for all the difficult challenges the world is facing today are discussed.

In preperation of COP28, UAE sent over 1,000 delegates to the COP27. The president of the UAE, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, spoke in Sharm el-Sheikh, and began by discussing oil and gas supplies from the Emirates.“The UAE is a responsible energy supplier, and we will continue to play that role as we pursue a transition to alternate resources and technologies,” he said. “By virtue of our geology, the oil and gas we have in the UAE is among the least carbon-intensive in the world. Nevertheless, we will continue to work towards reducing carbon emissions in the sector.”

This article was co-written by Faiza Ali and Vinuki Arachchi.

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