The upcoming Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known simply as COP27, comes at a critical time. It is ‘now or never’ to successfully limit global warming to achieve a 1.5 degree climate scenario, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The inequitable impacts of the climate crisis are already being felt, with the sad irony being that the most affected communities, primarily under developed nations, typically contribute least to the global emissions responsible for climate change. A recent example of this can be seen in Pakistan, where 1,700 people have died and millions more displaced due to flooding which began in June of this year. As extreme weather events like this sweep the planet, the need for climate action becomes more apparent. Unfulfilled promises and bureaucracy will continue to fail the most vulnerable communities. With this in mind, COP27 is an eagerly anticipated event, but will it spark the action needed?
COP has met every year since 1995 with the goal of advancing the decisions of the previous session. COP acts as an essential framework for climate change negotiations and global cohesion in tackling the climate crisis, and has resulted in key agreements. One of the defining beacons of hope associated with the climate crisis is a treaty known as the Paris Agreement. This treaty marked the first time that every country pledged to take action to limit global warming to a well below 2 degree scenario, aiming for 1.5 degrees, and was born out of COP21 which took place in Paris, 2015.
By this standard, it would appear that COP has value in uniting nations and working towards a common, humanity-defining goal. But unfortunately, as it stands today, the world is not on track to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, with some even questioning the relevance of the treaty amidst ongoing failure to reduce global emissions.
The most recent COP session, COP26, took place across October – November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland and it was a divisive one. The much anticipated session resulted in some notable achievements – such as India setting a net zero target for the first time (albeit a 2070 target rather than a 2050 one) and 110 world leaders promising to reverse deforestation by 2030. The highlight of COP26 was the Glasgow Climate Pact, through which nations agreed to strengthen efforts to build resilience to climate change, to curb greenhouse gas emissions and to provide the necessary finance to achieve both of these commitments. The agreement also saw nations complete the Paris Rulebook, which is designed to ensure accountability under the Paris Agreement, and reaffirm the pledge for climate finance, in which developed nations provide $100bn worth of financial support to developing countries annually to fight climate change.
However, the conference was also surrounded by criticism. Activist Greta Thunberg implied that COP26 fell short of achieving any real progress, branding it “a global north greenwash festival”. Some analysts have even labelled COP26 a failure, highlighting that it was unsuccessful in meeting the goals it set, including an agreement on accelerating the phase-out of coal which was diluted to an ambiguous ‘phase-down’ instead. A major disappointment for developing countries was the lack of clarity around the definition of climate finance and how it would be provided. Other criticisms included the lack of diversity in representation at COP26, the large business presence, and the mismanaged organisation of the event as a whole.
#COP26 has been named the must excluding COP ever.
This is no longer a climate conference.
This is a Global North greenwash festival.
A two week celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah.— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) November 4, 2021
Overall, COP26 left many with a bad taste in their mouths and the overwhelming feeling that while some emissions reduction agreements had been reached, they were not ambitious enough to achieve a 1.5 degree climate scenario. The fallout, which feels miles off the inspiring outcome of COP21, is worrying as we edge closer to 2030.
COP27 is fast approaching. The conference is scheduled to take place from 6th-18th November 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The upcoming session has a lot to answer for and has been dubbed the ‘implementation COP’ – simply put, people are calling for action rather than a plethora of agreements that lack ambition. Reassuringly, this sentiment is echoed by H.E. Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and COP27 President-Designate, who stated:
“We must work together for implementation. We need to act, and act now, to save lives and livelihoods”.
A lot needs to be accomplished at COP27 to enact any real change, with scientists stating that global emissions must peak by 2025 and be halved within the decade if we are to keep a 1.5 degree scenario within reach. With climate justice serving as an integral point of discussion, central and interlinked issues for COP27 will be climate finance and the Just Transition – a framework for ensuring that vulnerable communities are not left behind as society adapts to climate change.
So, what would a successful COP27 look like? The outcomes need to include:
- more ambitious emissions reduction to limit warming to 1.5 degrees;
- defined financial flows to support vulnerable countries;
- enhanced adaptation measures to create resilience in the face of climate change;
- loss and damage (unavoidable impacts of climate change) funding; and
- implementation of the Paris Agreement Rulebook.
However, COP27 is already receiving significant backlash after announcing that large scale plastic polluter Coca Cola is sponsoring the event. Pollution is one leg of the triple planetary crisis that our planet faces alongside climate change and biodiversity loss. With this backdrop, associating the most notable climate conference of the year with a company that produces 120 billion single use plastic bottles per year calls into question the credibility of COP27. The ‘greenwashing’ narrative that is now being associated with the event has certainly set it off on the wrong foot – one which we can only hope is not foreshadowing what is to come.
COP27 serves as a make or break event in the climate crisis timeline, both for limiting global warming and for supporting developing countries who shoulder the burden of climate impacts. Will the conference achieve what it needs to? Or will it serve as an event in which empty promises can be made and sluggish action applauded?
A failed COP27 will be one wrapped in red tape and a reflection of society’s lack of action in the face of climate change. COP26 may have offered an incremental advancement in global efforts, but this will not be enough for those already suffering.