Next week, the 27th Conference of Parties of UNFCCC (COP 27), the annual summit of world leaders, scientists, activists, and businesses will commence at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt to find a way forward to tackle the climate crisis. The agenda for COP27 includes four main items: climate finance, adaptation, loss and damage, and increased ambition for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. COP27 has been dubbed as an ‘African COP’ by some, and as an ‘Implementation COP’ by others, but it’s mainly going to be ‘Show me the money COP’.
COP27 is being held in the background of unprecedented global crises — rising fuel prices, high inflation rates, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the slow economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many leaders, especially in developed countries, see this as an excuse to delay climate action, and to renege on the meagre promises made at COP26 in Scotland last year, as is evident from United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s inexplicable decision to skip COP27.
Meanwhile, Climate Change-induced extreme weather events have left a trail of devastation across every continent, resulting in thousands of deaths, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, and causing billions of dollars in economic losses. Despite these grim circumstances, delegates from the global south are coming to COP27 with great expectations, hoping that this pile-up of crises will spur real change.
Top of the agenda is climate finance, specifically the demand that developed countries fulfil their $100 billion per year financing pledge to developing countries, as promised at COP15 in Copenhagen. As of now, there hasn’t been a single year where this target has been met. The closest the world has gotten towards the target was in 2021, when $80 billion were raised through public and private sources. In Egypt, the developing world is calling on the developed world to deliver the $100 billion annual average (i.e. $600 billion total) over the period 2020-2025 with 50 percent of that going to adaptation.
On adaptation, the Paris Agreement committed to a Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), to help countries to adapt, increase resilience to Climate Change, and reduce their vulnerability through, and complementary with, sustainable development. At COP26 a two-year Glasgow Sharm-el-Sheik (GlaSS) programme was set up to better define this goal and developed nations promised to double adaptation support to $40 billion a year by 2025. Incidentally, this amount is only a fraction of the $300 billion that will be needed annually by developing countries for adaptation by 2030. COP27 is likely to focus on this demand, and in part on solutions for adaptation, including strategies for managing climate risks and building resilience.
Loss And Damage
The discussion of who should pay for loss and damage caused by Climate Change is expected to be high on the agenda at COP27. Loss and damage refers to destructive impacts of Climate Change that cannot be avoided either by mitigation or adaptation. Developing countries, who contribute least to Climate Change, are seeking financial support towards the cost of loss and damage from developed countries whose current and historic activities have largely contributed to the climate crisis.
By 2030, vulnerable nations are likely to face $290-580bn in annual climate ‘residual damages’. While it seems unlikely that consensus will be reached on establishing a new finance facility in Sharm El-Sheikh, climate campaigners are confident that there will be a real breakthrough as the European Union and even the United States are showing a willingness to at least come to the table.
On increased ambition, last week UNEP's Emissions Gap Report analysed the gap between the CO2 cuts pledged by countries and the cuts needed to limit any rise in global temperature to 1.5C, the internationally agreed target. The report found that existing carbon-cutting policies would cause 2.8C of warming, while pledged policies cut this to 2.6C. Further pledges, dependent on funding flowing from richer to poorer countries, cut this again to 2.4C.
New reports from the International Energy Agency and the UN’s climate body reached similarly stark conclusions, with the latter finding that the national pledges barely cut projected emissions in 2030 at all, compared with 2019 levels. The greatest expectation then at COP27 is that developed countries take lead on climate ambition, and accelerate energy transitions, phase out fossil fuels, and undertake bold sectoral actions.
We will know in two weeks whether COP27 lives up to these great expectations. After all, fulfilling promises made by wealthy nations is important for developing nations’ trust in the process, and the co-operative intent to combat the common challenge of Climate Change.