Summer 2022 was highlighted by extreme weather events from heatwaves in Europe, China, India, Iran, and other places around the globe, to droughts, wildfires, heavy monsoon seasons, and floods in Pakistan, Nigeria, and others. Not to mention the energy crisis due to the war in Ukraine. Therefore, the world is pinning high hopes on the UN Climate Conference to address these challenges and commit to implementing the solutions. From the 6th to the 18th of November, the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh will be hosting world leaders, NGOs, businesses, and civil society groups from 197 countries that have signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
What are the main topics on this year’s agenda and what should we expect from COP27?
In November 2021, the COP26 in Glasgow reaffirmed the Paris Agreement goal of “limiting the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C”. World leaders and representatives also committed to phasing out coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, reducing methane emissions, halting deforestation, and financing developing and underdeveloped countries most affected by climate change.
This year, COP27 will follow up and evaluate last year’s commitments of countries, discuss specific themes like industry decarbonization, food, water, youth, and future generations. It will most importantly pay particular attention to 3 main objectives: mitigation, adaptation, and climate finance.
– Mitigation: for years, countries have been committing to report and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by switching to renewable energy sources, using new technologies, changing the efficiency of their old equipment, and other measures. This year, these countries are expected to show how they implemented these measures and the progress that they have made. These national targets are known as “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs). Unfortunately, since COP26, only 23 countries have reported their NDCs so far, and the others missed the deadline to be included in the COP27 report. However, the energy crisis made several countries, especially European countries, scale up their investments in renewable energies to reduce their energy dependency.
– Adaptation: besides the financing that is going for mitigation, developing countries are requesting dedicated funds to enhance the adaptation of vulnerable communities to the consequences of climate change, such as early warning systems and climate-resilient infrastructure. In 2021, COP26 adopted a program that helps countries adapt and move towards a more climate-resilient future. This year, COP27 is expected to assess the progress of this plan and elaborate an updated adaptation roadmap.
– Climate finance: wealthy industrialized countries have a share to pay for developing and underdeveloped countries that contribute the least to global emissions and suffer the most from the consequences. “Loss and damage” refers to the payments that these developed countries commit to paying for nations that lost lives, lands, and infrastructure due to tropical cyclones, desertification, rising sea levels, and other natural disasters.
In 2021, some developed nations disagreed with the “Loss and damage” fund, which resulted in the establishment of the Glasgow Dialogue on Loss and Damage as a compromise. Believing in the importance of big countries standing up and being held accountable for their practices, the Group of 77 and China, which is mainly constituted of developing countries, requested to add the Loss and damage subject again to this year’s agenda to discuss the willingness of developed countries to commit to the promise of $100 billion per year they made in 2009. On the first day of the talks, all countries should consent to this addition to the agenda, otherwise, the progress on this subject won’t move any further.
In September 2022, Denmark became the first country that pays a “loss and damage” amount of $13 million to support countries damaged by climate disasters like the Sahel region in north-western Africa and other impacted areas.
Despite all the previous commitments, the UN Climate Change said that countries are not putting enough effort to meet the Paris Agreement goal and the world is heading towards undesirable scenarios. While COP26 committed last year to reduce methane emissions, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed days ago that methane concentrations in the air came in with the biggest year-on-year increase in 2021 since regular measurements began four decades ago. These are only a few examples among many others that indicate the shortening of the different parties in meeting their climate promises. That’s why COP27 might be the last chance and urgent call for countries to meet their pledges on a very tight deadline.