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As world leaders meet in Egypt for the UN’s 27th annual climate conference, we bring you everything you need to know about this crucial meeting
Next week, world leaders will gather in Egypt for a crucial UN Climate Change Conference (COP27). It follows a year of climate-related disasters and broken temperature records.
For almost three decades, world leaders have met annually to address and respond to the climate emergency.
Under the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), every country is treaty-bound to “avoid dangerous climate change” and to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally in an equitable way.
COP stands for Conference of the Parties under the UNFCCC, and the annual meetings have resulted in both disasters and triumphs.
Notable COP meetings include COP3 which took place in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and led to the Kyoto Protocol – which outlined the greenhouse gas emissions reduction obligations.
COP21, which was held in Paris in 2015, led to the Paris Agreement – which is a legally binding international treaty on climate change which was adopted by 196 parties with the goal to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
This COP will be the 27th meeting and will be held in Egypt from Sunday, November 6 to Friday, November 18.
About 90 heads of state have confirmed attendance at COP27 where they will address issues including energy transition and food security at opening sessions. Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan, will lead Ireland’s delegation.
Environmental charities, community groups, think tanks, businesses and faith groups will also take part.
As the Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report said, we are facing a “code red for humanity”.
Global emissions must be halved by 2030 and “net-zero emissions” achieved by 2050 to have any chance of containing temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial times.
The COP process is the only established global mechanism for such collective action. Good COP outcomes show it’s possible to act in unison despite political tensions and economies operating at different paces.
The UNFCCC process as a consensus-based process among all governments per se is not designed to correct all the failures, lack of climate action and dangerous inconsistencies in national climate policies (and in the speeches of national leaders), so this one COP will not ‘solve’ the climate problem, as previous COPs have not been able to do. But it has a key role to play, within the wider sphere of international policy moments and processes, to advance the finalisation of the Paris Agreement rulebook and strengthen its implementation architecture.
COP is also vital to generate attention of policymakers as well as media and the public, both globally and nationally, to the continuously large gaps between the required actions, and which policies have been put on the table so far.
Ahead of the meeting, countries were asked to submit ambitious national climate plans. Only 25 have – so far.
COP27 will focus on three main areas:
Some areas not fully resolved or covered at COP26 which was held in Scotland last year will be picked up:
There will also be themed days for focused talks and announcements on issues including gender, agriculture and biodiversity.
Loss and damage – compensation to climate-vulnerable countries already suffering from climate-related weather extremes – will be at the front and centre of discussions. At last year’s COP26 in Glasgow, the United States and the European Union rejected calls for a fund to compensate for such losses. Campaigners are determined to see their demands for a loss and damage finance facility met at COP27.
The question of whose voices will be heard – and whose won’t – is an especially contentious one this year.
COP27 will take place in Sharm El Sheikh, an upmarket resort city between the desert of the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea. It’s a place where some of Egypt’s most pressing climate and environmental problems – rising sea level, water scarcity, and over development – can be found, yet delegates are unlikely to hear from Egyptian scientists, advocates or journalists on these topics.
A recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report found that the Egyptian government has severely curtailed environmental groups’ ability to carry out independent policy, advocacy, and field work essential to protecting the country’s natural environment. HRW said that these restrictions violate the rights to freedom of assembly and association and threaten Egypt’s ability to uphold its environmental and climate action commitments.
Last year at COP26 in Glasgow the legitimacy of the talks was questioned due to the exclusion of civil society and Indigenous peoples from the negotiating.
Across all the 24 countries that Trócaire works in, we are seeing how the mounting effects of climate change are putting millions of lives at risk. Homes have been washed away by more intense and frequent floods and livelihoods destroyed by long and recurrent droughts. People have been displaced and forced to rebuild their lives.