World leaders are meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for two weeks of climate negotiations whilst countries are struggling to cut greenhouse gas emissions amid a global energy crisis, a war in Europe, and rising inflation.
This conference is convened annually by the United Nations. At the summit in Scotland last year, countries agreed to prevent dangerous rises in global temperatures. But there has been no swift action, and the effects of climate change are painfully evident, with deadly floods in Pakistan, droughts in the United States, famine in Africa, and heatwaves across Europe.
What is COP?
The COP, Conference of the parties, is the highest decision-making body of the convention. All parties to the Convention are represented by the COP to review the implementation of the Convention and all other legal instruments adopted by the COP and to promote effective implementation of the Convention, including institutional and administrative decisions.
Officially, the meeting in Egypt is called the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP 27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The 'parties' in question are the 198 countries that have signed the Framework Convention. The Framework Convention is an international agreement agreed upon at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The enduring focus of the agreement is to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at levels that prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
Concerns about climate change were on the rise at a time when public awareness of the fragility of nature was growing, as evidenced by holes in the ozone layer, polluted seas, and vanishing rainforests. Youth Activist Severn Suzuki captured the world's attention at the summit with her impassioned plea famously stating to speak for 'all generations to come'.
The Framework Convention came into effect in 1994. The first COP meeting was held in Berlin, Germany in March 1995. At this first Conference Of the Parties (COP 1), it was agreed to meet annually to discuss actions on climate change and emission reductions. Over the next two years, an agreement was developed obliging developed countries to reduce emissions of the six most important greenhouse gasses. This is the 27th time countries have gathered under the convention — hence, COP27.
COP 27 - Objectives
Given that it will be held in an African country, the geopolitics surrounding the region will also play a key role in deciding the objectives to be explored at the conference. Also one of the main objectives will remain the pledge to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius and keeping it at 1.5 degrees celsius should be the target.
Taking into account the decisions from the last COP (COP 26) and based on what experts in the field are discussing, the following should be the key points to be discussed in this COP summit:
1. LOSS AND DAMAGE
Loss and damage (L&D) refer to the impacts of climate change that cannot be (or have not been) avoided through mitigation or adaptation. It is a general term used in UN climate negotiations to refer to the consequences of climate change that go beyond what people can adapt to.
2. CLIMATE FINANCE
Closer to COP27, the focus on Climate Financing has increased. The UNFCCC refers to Climate Finance as local, national, or transnational financing—drawn from public, private and alternative sources of financing—that seeks to support mitigation and adaptation actions that will address climate change.
3. TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT AND TRANSFER
Technology development and transfer have been receiving increasing attention to aid adaptation efforts. The Paris agreement identified the importance of this for improving resilience to climate change and reducing Green House Gasses.
Blockchain for efficient energy consumption, machine learning for flood forecasting, and Clean energy equipment like wind turbine generators all fall under Climate technology. The UNFCCC has noted in the past that large-scale deployment of affordable and better-performing technologies is important for developing countries to improve their adaptation to climate change.
COP 27 is likely to build on the outcomes of COP26 to deliver action on an array of issues critical to tackling the climate emergency including adaptation efforts.
According to the UNFCCC - countries, and communities need to develop adaptation solutions and implement action to respond to the impacts of climate change that are already happening, as well as prepare for future impacts.
5. FOOD SECURITY
Food supplies and prices are very vulnerable to climate change across the world and especially in Africa, where the COP is to be held this year. The dependence on food imports, lack of resilience to climate events and government interventions are all factors that accelerate insecurity in the continent.
The Russia-Ukraine war has created further stress on food security in the continent. According to World Bank experts, Russia is the world's largest exporter of wheat, accounting for about 20% of global exports in 2021 while Ukraine accounts for 10%. While India and China may be the largest producers of wheat, still Russia and Ukraine, remain as largest exporters.
Egypt, according to experts, is the world's largest wheat importer, thus coming directly in the line of fire due to delayed shipments of wheat from the warring nations. The compounding shock of the war is thus increasing the vulnerability of the Middle East and North African countries.
Having previously announced he would not go, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted that he would attend the summit, "to deliver on [COP26's] legacy of building a secure and sustainable future".
Vladimir Putin is not due to go, although Russian delegates are still expected to take part. Other countries, including China, have not confirmed whether their leaders will attend. Host Egypt has called on countries to put their differences aside and show leadership on the greater crisis the entire globe is facing.