On November 6, world leaders will meet in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for two weeks of climate negotiations as nations struggle to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Faced with a weakened global economy, record greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing extreme weather events, COP27 seeks renewed solidarity between countries to deliver on the landmark Paris Agreement for people and the planet.
What is COP?
The 27th Conference of the Parties –COP27– to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aims to build on the outcomes of COP26 to deliver action on an array of issues critical to tackling the climate emergency – from urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building resilience and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change. Heads of States, ministers and negotiators, along with climate activists, elected officials, civil society representatives, business leaders and CEOs will meet for this event, which is the largest annual gathering on climate action.
Why is COP needed?
The leading voices in climate policy have been participating for decades in COP meetings to review the latest science and align on agreements and approaches to drive coordinated global action to address climate change, but the positive impact has been incremental. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report showed that while efforts had shifted the warming trajectory (prior to the Paris Accord, the world was on track for a 4°C warming increase) without “immediate and deep” emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible to constrain average global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – a threshold that if met would bring extreme impacts of climate change. With many parts of the world experiencing severe weather and climate disasters the realities of climate change have been felt by millions of people in recent years, and COP27 is yet another moment for collaboration to mitigate further challenges and address the realities of climate adaptation.
What are some of the topics on the agenda?
A major theme at COP27 will be the call to reimagine how energy is generated in the world. As the demand for energy grows, there is a need to decrease the emissions associated with electricity production. While there have been advancements in decarbonization of the energy supply, such as the passing of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), COP27 will attempt to advance systemic solutions across the public and private sectors. An International Energy Agency analysis suggests that the IRA and other recent policies announced by the United States, Europe, and other countries will help spur investments in clean energy and drive the phase out of fossil fuels at a faster rate.
As emissions continue to rise, countries need funding to help them adapt to the consequences of climate change. Climate change adaptation involves adjusting our behaviors and building improved infrastructure to better cope with changing weather patterns from installing heat shelters to protecting coastal wetlands to planting drought resistance crops. Global leaders at COP27 will explore how to further invest in systems that predict climate hazards and provide physical and financial protection to the most vulnerable.
Developed countries, such as the U.S. and U.K., have been criticized for years for the slow pace and small contributions being made to the Green Climate Fund, which was established to distribute funds from richer, higher-GHG-polluting nations to low-and middle-income countries to help adapt to climate change. At COP27, climate change finance for loss and damage will be on the agenda for the first time. This topic is highly relevant given the conference is being hosted on a continent that is facing the worst impacts of climate change: drought, hunger and natural disasters, despite producing less than 4% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Food systems are critical to achieving a more sustainable future and addressing climate change. The global food, land and ocean use systems represent over 12% of global GDP today, and roughly one third of global GHG emissions come from the food system. From agricultural production to the transportation of commodities and from the sale of food products to consumption and waste, there is an opportunity for this industry to play a critical role in mitigating the climate crisis. For the first time ever at COP there will be a Food Systems Pavilion specifically focused on how we scale the solutions required to meet our growing food demand in a climate-resilient manner.
A recent U.N. report found that current climate promises via Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) aren’t enough to stop the rise in emissions past 1.5 degrees (currently on a path to 2.4 degrees). The slow emissions reduction progress is prompting growing calls to create a reporting standard for NDCs. Some believe a “digital public infrastructure (DPI),” should be introduced at COP27 to establish an open-source, cohesive reporting structure across all NDCs that is measured, reported, and verified in a unified way. A recent impact study estimates that a cohesive set of measures across all NDCs could reduce carbon emissions by 3-4% by 2030, noting that without such consistent standards those emission reductions would otherwise take 5 to 10 years or more to achieve.
If COP26 was about rebuilding trust, COP27 may be about defending turf. Luke Sussams, Head of ESG and Sustainable Finance, EMEA at Jefferies said, “Geopolitical relations going into COP27 are at one of the worst levels in recent history.” COP27 is taking place amidst a backdrop of various global issues, including recent natural disasters, such as Hurricane Ian, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rising food and fuel prices, and low economic growth. There are tense relations between the two top GHG emitters, the U.S. and China, particularly around the exchange of science and technology research, and the activist voice is expected to be muted due to actions by the Egyptian government to curtail civil society participation at COP27 and lack of participation from major climate activists, including Greta Thunberg and Jerome Foster.
COP27 offers a unique moment for leaders, not just governments, from across the world and sectors to build pathways for a more resilient and sustainable agenda.
Jillian Semaan, Ketchum vice president, Sustainability, will be on-the-ground at COP27 taking part in panels and discussions around sustainable agriculture, ESGs, human rights and environmental and climate justice.