World leaders have gathered in Egypt for the 27th annual UN climate summit to discuss policy, initiatives and actions that can help mitigate environmental issues, including rising global temperatures. Let’s take a look at the key outcomes from the first week of COP27.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly known as the ‘Conference of the Parties’ or COP, is an annual meeting of world governments to discuss and plan responses to the ongoing climate emergency and rising global temperatures. Since the first UN climate agreement in 1992, leaders and heads of state have convened to set initiatives, establish targets and discuss policy related to our shared environmental challenges, a theme that continues with COP27. As the name implies, this is the 27th event, held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt and has seen participation from over 190 countries, although there are some notable absences. Leaders from China and Russia are not attending, due in part to ongoing political factors, along with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who opposes the conference, arguing that it is a forum for greenwashing.
This year, the overarching goal of the two-week long COP27 has been hotly debated, with tensions rising between two camps. The first is made up of wealthy nations, who have focussed on plans to transition to renewable energy and phase out fossil fuels. This contrasts with the values of poorer countries and developing nations, who place greater importance on the ongoing impacts of climate change, specifically the mounting costs associated with global warming and whether they alone should have to bear them.
Now that we’ve arrived at the half-way point of COP27, let’s take a look at what has been announced so far, the main issues that have been discussed and the big wins that happened.
Key Things That Happened
The nations unveiled a plan to help safeguard against climate catastrophes, known as the ‘Global Shield’ initiative.
Developing nations have been heard. Many countries are feeling the impact of climate change, but not all of them have the resources to address the full force of nature when it hits. As sea levels rise and floods wreak havoc on poorer nations, the concept of a ‘loss and damage‘ fund, reparations made by richer countries that make up the largest share of emissions pollution on the planet, have taken another step forward. A top political agenda and one that contentiously strains international relations and climate solidarity, this concept of climate compensation has seen a mixed reception. Whilst US officials have not ruled out helping poorer and smaller nations, they have so far dismissed the established of a dedicated fund, arguing that existing mechanism should be invested in.
The good news is that the international community is stepping up to lead the charge, fulfilling the intent of universal support that the fund aspired to. Other UN member states, including Germany and Pakistan, have sought to push the agenda forward. Together with the G7 countries and the group of climate-vulnerable countries (known as the V20), the nations unveiled a plan to help safeguard against climate catastrophes, known as the ‘Global Shield‘ initiative. The forthcoming strategy ties together several social protection schemes alongside pre-approved disaster financing, with the aim of providing swift international aid in times of climate disasters. Whether this strategy, or an uplift of existing funds is what is ultimately delivered, the final product will require sign off from the largest emitters if it is to be successfully implemented.
Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met. The leaders of the two biggest emissions emitters held a joint meeting to discuss climate efforts among other geopolitical items. Both countries have signalled a willingness to cooperate on a number of international issues, including climate change, and a closer working partnership between the US and China on environmental issues would benefit every nation on earth. President Biden also took the stage at COP27 to announce a string of new environmental initiatives and re-position the United States as a climate-ally by pledging international support and doubling down on efforts to transition to clean energy.
The three countries that are home to the largest rainforests have formed a protective alliance. Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have agreed to form an alliance to protect their countries rainforests. The three nations combined make up over half of the world’s remaining rainforests, which form a natural carbon-capture process and is home to a wide spectrum of endangered wildlife. A strategic partnership would signal that the nations are taking deforestation seriously, helping to curb the release of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and is a boost to achieving the already imperiled global warming targets.
Hope (and action) for a climate breakthrough. Week 1 also saw the launch of the Breakthrough Agenda, a collaboration between several nations to improve the equity of access to green technology. The plan calls for countries that comprise over 50% of the global GDP to help scale up low-emission hydrogen production, decarbonise power, transport and steel and ramp up the shift to sustainable agriculture by COP28 next year. The ambitious agenda will seeks to rapidly reduce emissions, boost food security and help make clean technologies cheaper and more accessible for governments worldwide and the population of billions they serve.
Climate Activists Voice Concerns
Protests have often accompanied major gatherings of industrialised nations, especially when their agendas are filled with topics that touch the lives of the general population. At COP27 activists were out in force, voicing concerns around who should pay for the rising cost of environmental destruction, arguing that poorer nations and those that contribute fractional emissions counts should not be held as responsible as larger polluters and developed nations. These gatherings were largely muted, civil and held outside in designated zones, although some did campaign close to where President Biden gave his speech and were removed from the hall.
Although Greta Thunberg was not in attendance, the climate activist’s impact was still felt. Fellow climate campaigner Vanessa Nakate from Uganda spoke out about Germany’s environmental policy, supported by fellow Fridays for Futures members. Another hopeful changemaker is Ayisha Siddiqa, 23, who made the trip from Pakistan to speak at the Youth Pavilion about the rural and indigenous communities and the younger generation impacted by the effects of climate change. It’s a landmark occasion itself, as for the first time there is a dedicated space for young, eco-conscious speakers to voice their concerns about the lack of progress on the climate front.
What We Expect From Week 2
The second week will see several important topics discussed including biodiversity, green & renewable energy, sustainable water issues, citizen involvement and gender responsive policies to climate change. Underscoring its growing importance as an area of concern and a significant resource for addressing climate change, COP7 Week 2 will begin with ‘Water Day’. It’s expected that speakers will map out the interdependencies between water, food, energy and climate, highlighting the challenges we face and suitable actions to address concerns of pollution, flooding and species loss stemming from water-related climate change. ■