COP27: Everything You Need to Know About the Global Climate Meeting


Roll up, roll up, it’s time for the 27th annual United Nations Conference of the Parties, or COP27. World leaders are gathering in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6 to 18 to dither and debate climate action.

Last year, at COP26 in Scotland, government representatives from around the world pledged to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions, stop deforestation, and give more to help developing countries transition to renewables. They also signed the Glasgow Pact, in which 200 nations agreed to revisit and strengthen emissions targets by the end of this year.

This year, after record-breaking heatwaves, forest fires, and floods across the world, the demands to do more are even greater. As this is the first COP in Africa since 2016, it’s hoped that a stronger African influence will be able to sway industrialised nations towards making bigger reductions and offering greater support to those most affected by climate change.

Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and local COP President, has said that he hopes nations will “jointly enhance and accelerate the implementation of climate action and follow up on our collective commitments and pledges”.

“We hope that the welcoming people and natural beauty of Sharm El Sheikh can provide some inspiration for us to take the very needed meaningful steps to fight for the people and planet and save lives and livelihoods,” Shoukry wrote in a statement.

With so much at stake, and the world hurtling towards the 1.5 degrees celsius target set by the UN to avoid catastrophic climate change, here’s everything you need to know about COP27.

When Does COP27 Start?

COP27 kicked off on Sunday, November 6 and will run until Friday, November 18.

Pre-sessional meetings, workshops, and events have been going on since October 30, with the work properly getting underway today.

Most of the big events happen in the first few days of COP meetings, as world leaders fly in to make headline commitments and speeches before flying out, leaving their subordinates to nut out the details.

What Does COP27 Stand for?

The United Nations Climate Change Conference is commonly known as ‘COP’, which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. This being the 27th Conference of the Parties, 2022 is COP27.

Confusingly, there is actually a bit more going on at COP meetings than just, uh, COP meetings.

So, the COP is the decision-making body of states that signed, and are, therefore ‘party to’, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This was a ground-breaking international treaty signed by 154 nations at the Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992 in which countries agreed to combat “dangerous human interference with the climate system.”

Since then, 197 nations have signed up to the framework which seeks to “stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.

At the same time, you have CMP and CMA meetings held in the same place at the same time. These are Conference of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol and Conference of the Parties of the Paris Agreement meetings. Both are treaties signed by 192 and 196 countries respectively and contain individual targets to limit greenhouse gas emissions as well as keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

All of these meetings are wrapped up under the COP label.

Since 1995, COP events have been held (almost) annually to implement and update commitments agreed upon at that 1992 meeting, but have since developed into further, more detailed meetings about specific targets and how to achieve them.

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Where Is COP27 Being Held?

This year, COP is hosted by Egypt in the city of Sharm El-Sheik.

COP meetings are held all over the world, rotated between the five UN-identified regions of the planet; Africa, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western Europe.

Countries within each region bid to host the event, which can bring international credit to the nation as well as tourism dollars and a boost to the economy.

Location is often important, as the quality of the venue, the weather, and even the catering are thought to have an impact on the decision-making outcome. COP15’s failure to achieve any significant agreements has been partially explained by the poor weather and bland food.

This precedent does not bode well for COP27, as reports of unfinished cafes, food shortages, and even raw sewage leaking into the conference centre have been made.

What’s Happening at COP27?

This COP has been unofficially called the “implementation COP” as the time for talk has passed and plans need to be drawn up as to exactly how we limit the devastating effects of climate change.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that only multilateralism and diplomacy can make COP27 one of the “turning points for hope”.

“COP27 must be the place to close the ambition gap, the credibility gap and the solidarity gap. The world must come together to support developing countries and vulnerable communities,” he said.

The world is not doing well when it comes to climate action. Although we’ve had three decades of COP meetings, the world is in a dire state, with environmental and climate thresholds close to being breached.

In the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, the UN sounded “code red for humanity.” Last week, they noted that the world was not even close to reaching that 1.5 degree target, and are likely headed for north of two degrees as emissions continue to rise.

COP27 is another attempt at solving some of these issues. Typically, governments pledge greater emissions reductions targets, talk about global unity, and then go home and… continue business as usual. Very little of what was promised at COP26 has yet been implemented, but at least we’re getting some discussion of the issues.

This year is going to focus heavily on finance, with developing nations seeking greater payments from industrialised nations to help them mitigate the effects of climate change. In 2009, $100 billion was promised to developing nations to help cover these costs but has largely failed to materialise. However, large industrial nations, like the United States, have said that they don’t want to pay more as they are worried that costs will get out of hand as climate change worsens.

Who’s Going to COP27?

There will be more than 45,000 participants attending the conference over the 12 days, including world leaders and their delegates, UN department staff, businesses, scientific representatives, and indigenous groups as well as civil society organisations.

More than 100 heads of state will be there, including US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, Indian PM Narendra Modi, and Italy’s PM, Georgia Meloni. The new UK PM, Rishi Sunak, wasn’t going to attend but changed his mind after being attacked by the press and his Conservative Party colleagues for sending the wrong message.

It’s a far cry from our own Labor Prime Minister, who has said that he won’t be attending as he “can’t be in all places at once”. The Climate Change and Energy Minister, Chris Bowen, will be there in his place. Albanese instead will be at the East Asia Summit, then the G20 meeting, and then the APEC meeting.

“I have a very busy schedule of parliament, then the international conferences, then back to parliament again. Making sure that our agenda gets through and that includes our agenda on clean energy and taking action on climate change,” he has said.

Australia, as one of the world’s largest coal and gas exporters, will more than likely come under renewed pressure to phase out fossil fuel use and having an absent national leader won’t be taken well.

Maybe Albo can play it off as a radical move, as even Greta Thunberg has said that she will not be going to COP27. The climate activist, who famously asked the UN “how dare you?”, has said that COP meetings are mainly greenwashing activities and that Egypt is a human rights abuser.

“COPs are not really going to lead to any major changes – unless, of course, we use them as an opportunity to mobilise, which we must try to do, and make people realise what a colossal scam this is,” she has said.

Other people not on the guest list include Indian climate activist Ajit Rajagopal, who was arrested over the weekend in Egypt for protesting the environmental crisis. Although he was detained for just 24 hours, it has drawn attention to the 60,000 other activists and political prisoners that the country keeps locked up on false charges.

Egyptian authorities have said that no protests will be allowed at COP27, except in a small, purpose built area away from the conference centre. Security forces have been ramping up checkpoints, searches, and arrests in the lead up to the event.

We’ll keep you posted next week about all the developments at COP27.

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