What to expect at COP27

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The 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) on climate change (there are other COPs on biodiversity and desertification) will take place in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt for two weeks from 6 November 2022. It follows last year’s event in Glasgow for which a SPICe blog summarising the outcomes and what happened next has recently been released.

How has the global agenda changed

Due to its location, COP27 is set to have a greater focus on the impacts of climate change on African countries, with the Egyptian Environment Minister suggesting it is being hosted ‘on behalf of Africa’. It is the fifth COP to be held in Africa. Partly as a result of this (but also continuing a trend from previous COPs) the overall agenda has a greater focus on the financing of adaptation to climate change, with previous COPs principally concerned with mitigation. While Egyptian officials have stated that their priorities will be climate adaptation and finance, it has been observed that Egypt does not have a long-term decarbonisation strategy and its overall climate actions are deemed ‘highly insufficient’.

Although the COP is not the only opportunity for emission reduction or climate financing agreements, it is, at the very least, the annual occasion when the attention of every country in the world turns to climate change. At COP27, there are competing factors affecting the likelihood of any global breakthroughs. It is argued that the increasingly obvious impacts of climate change, but also the global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, have changed the framing of negotiations and given leaders greater license to act. But whilst the potential for disruption has become increasingly clear, other geopolitical events – the war in Ukraine, tensions between the USA and China over Taiwan – are acting to inhibit concerted global action

Although it has only recently been formally added, loss and damage from climate change is on the agenda with many parties (including the UN General Secretary) looking to amplify the topic.  Due to the better recognition of the impacts of climate change, some sources suggest it may end up dominating the agenda this time round. Part of the discussions will be whether a dedicated loss and damage fund – separate and additional to finance for adaptation and mitigation – should be created (as suggested by The First Minister). The Danish Government has recently followed Scotland by pledging £12 million loss and damage funding.

What needs to happen now

The COP has also been framed as an implementation COP, with the ‘Paris rulebook’ agreed in COP26, there will be more focus in Egypt on how countries are planning to actually reduce their emissions. Only a handful of countries (22 out of the nearly 200 countries taking part) have however, submitted an updated Nationally Determined Contribution (to emission reduction) (NDC) despite the agreement in Glasgow for this to be done by COP27. While the UK Government stated that their updated NDC has been ‘strengthened in several ways’, it is not thought to have increased in ambition. Both the First Minster and the new UK Prime Minister are now due to attend COP27.

COP27 will involve assessment of progress on the sector-specific deals on cars, coal and trees from Glasgow – with low emission vehicle sales rising fast around the world but coal back on the agenda in some countries due to the energy crisis. There will be further discussion on the doubling of adaptation financing with the host country (and many others on the African continent) considered to be highly-climate vulnerable. Adaptation accounts for much less of global climate finance than mitigation (4-8% of overall total) with governments tending to view mitigation financing as a more attractive investment. There is also a Global Stocktake between 2021-23, which is the formal, periodic review of the combined member states progress on mitigation, adaptation and means of support. The Global Legislators Summit, showcasing the work of different national parliaments on climate change (held in the Scottish Parliament during C0P26) will be taking place in Cairo.

Overall, the plethora of publications that have preceded COP27 report that much greater action is needed if the goals of the Paris agreement (‘well below’ 2oC of warming) are to remain achievable. For example, the influential State of Climate Action report from the World Resources Institute, concluded that none of their 40 indicators (relating to different sectors i.e. power, transport, industry etc.) of progress to net zero were on track. Current global policies are estimated to result in warming of 2.7oC  by the end of the century. Small differences in temperature increase will mean significant difference in forecast impacts:

SPICe will publish a further blog summarising the events of COP27 in the coming weeks.

Niall Kerr, Senior Researcher, Climate Change and Net Zero