The United Nations Conference of Parties, or COP, held its 27th conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in November 2022. Consisting of thousands of delegates and representatives from 190 countries, COP demonstrates the need for global collaboration on environmental policy and climate action. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the president of Egypt, announces his support and believes that “COP27 is an opportunity to showcase unity against an existential threat that we can only overcome through concerted action and effective implementation.” COP27 encouraged global attention towards the urgent climate crisis, which is outlined in four different objectives: mitigation, adaptation, finance, and collaboration.
The four objectives of COP27 were determined by the Egyptian president to make significant progress in the foreseeable future. Compared to COP26 goals, the president took a more ambitious and redefined approach to provide comparable solutions to the rapidly evolving climate crisis. Looking at climate change through multiple lenses will hopefully address all areas of impact and demonstrate “actual success stories on implementing commitments and fulfilling pledges.” To make measurable progress, the four categories help align countries toward transformative solutions.
One of the continuous objectives of COP summits is keeping global temperatures below the 2-degree Celsius threshold, preferably striving for 1.5 degrees Celsius, as stated in the Paris Agreement. However, according to the UN’s 2022 Emissions Gap Report, there has been inadequate progress since COP26 on climate action, with some even describing it as a “wasted year.” European Union climate chief Frans Timmermans expressed his disappointment with this insufficient progress and said, “What we have in front of us is not enough of a step forward for people and the planet.” If countries fail to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals, an urgent system-wide transformation in the electricity supply industry, transportation, and building sectors, as well as the food and financial systems, are critical to avoid environmental disaster. As a response, immediate and bold actions and initiatives from all parties are required to fulfill the COP goal and promises stated in the Paris Agreement. To meet these goals, countries need to work towards an increase of 5-10% in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). NDCs are established to achieve long-term goals and recognize the efforts that reduce national emissions by each country. If each country works to improve its NDCs and meets the necessary targets, the possibility of keeping global warming below the 2-degree Celsius threshold can become a reality.
Extreme weather conditions have a large impact on vulnerable communities, and global action is required to close the adaptation gap and achieve a resilient and sustainable future. At COP27, the
Egyptian presidency introduced the Sharm-El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda to protect billions of citizens who are in climate-vulnerable communities. These communities face a variety of hazards, but the major threats include ocean warming and acidification, coastal flooding, extreme wet weather events (e.g. storms and cyclones), and extreme heat-caused wildfires. More specifically, the Adaptation Agenda is structured in seven impact systems to categorize initiatives: food security and agriculture, water and nature, human settlements, ocean and coastal, infrastructure, crosscutting-planning, and crosscutting-finance. Each system includes Adaptation Outcomes, which are trackable measures of progress that allow for the acceleration of adaptation toward resilience. Additionally, each aims to address at least one of the hazards to help reduce communities’ exposure and vulnerability to that hazard.
Adaptation Outcomes are produced through high-impact solutions on a large scale, which affect many people across the globe and call for collective action to deliver these solutions. For example, the outcome targets for food security and agriculture include increasing yields by 17% while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 21% without expanding the use of land and halving food production loss and food waste. Other targets hope to incorporate protein alternatives to make up 15% of the meat and seafood market and increase the consumption of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and legumes by 150%. These measurable outcomes will guide and promote progress to build a more resilient world.
The breakthrough on climate payments in a last-minute negotiation agreed to establish a loss and damage fund. The “loss and damage” fund refers to the “loss” of lives or species and the “damage” to infrastructure. The recent floods in Pakistan, which scientists say were supercharged by climate change, left a third of the country flooded for weeks and brought the debate for climate compensation to the forefront. Not only is Pakistan facing these destructive weather events, but many low-income and developing countries around the world are also at risk. These countries’ dependence on natural resources and their limited capacity to cope with climate extremes and variability puts them in a vulnerable position. So the question remains: who should pay the costs of climate change?
Historically, wealthy countries have resisted the conversation of climate payments as they fear liability for billions of dollars in the destruction linked to their emissions. But, with the urgency of climate relief and the escalation of extreme weather conditions, pressure on countries like the United States has shifted the conversation. It is only logical for countries that emit the highest amounts of carbon to be held accountable and pay for the reparations. The loss and damage fund aims to provide insurance and compensation, paid for by developed countries to developing countries who need those resources. There is no official cost estimate yet, but the floods in Pakistan alone cost $30 billion in damages.
The last objective of COP27 is to unite countries and parties across the world to combat the climate crisis. Conducting negotiations and reaching agreements ensures that no issues are left unresolved and that everyone’s voice is taken into account. It is necessary to remove barriers preventing anyone from participating and, for the first time ever, COP27 included the youth to speak in the speaker series and have their own youth-led climate forum. Youth participants demonstrated the relationships between climate change and the role of younger generations as a catalyst for ambition and climate accountability and justice. All sectors of society have to come together and commit to working as a single driving force to ensure a decent quality of life today and for future generations.
Looking forward, COP28 will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, between November and December 2023—and will contain more in-depth analysis about the loss and damage fund. COP28 discussions are also projected to encourage highly dependent fossil fuel economies to lead the conversation of transitioning to clean energy. It is expected to hold debates about emissions reduction and limiting fossil fuels, which will be an interesting discussion as the United Arab Emirates is among one of the largest oil-producing nations. U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry says, “I think it’s very exciting that the UAE is going to host COP and it’s so important that you have an oil and gas producing nation step up and say we understand the challenge of the climate crisis.” As more nations are joining the conversation towards solutions, COP28 will most likely set the stage for more ambitious actions and deliver more urgent targets. With insignificant progress made from last year’s COP, time is running out, and society needs to act now before it is too late.
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