COP27 – or the Conference of the Parties – was the 27th United Nations Climate Change conference. Held from November 6 to November 18 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the conference was an important forum for tackling climate change. At COP21, almost every country entered a legally binding commitment, vowing to ensure temperature change does not become higher than 2°C, or ideally 1.5°C, above pre-industrial levels. This is now known as The Paris Agreement and was a historic turning point for global climate action.
Find out more about what COP is and why it matters in last year’s GreenSeas blog about the conference.
Highlights From the COP27 Conference
G20 leaders agreed to keep the 1.5°C warming target. Some countries had objected to including this target in the official COP27 text produced at the end of the conference, but in the end, leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and the 1.5°C target. That being said, the language in the COP27 text was weaker than some countries had hoped for, potentially allowing room to shift to a higher warming target of 2°C
Brazil came to the forefront with a renewed commitment to the climate. Brazil’s president-elect Lula da Silva was welcomed to the conference as he pledged to build a healthier planet, starting by protecting the Amazon and getting deforestation down to zero. This is more important than ever as data showed earlier this year that the Amazon is reaching a tipping point – after this, additional lost rainforest would have a profound effect on the global climate and biodiversity.
The EU agreed to a loss and damage fund for vulnerable countries. Financing for loss and justice was a key theme at this year’s conference and it closed with a breakthrough agreement to provide funding for poorer countries where climate disasters affected their physical and social infrastructures. The creation of a specific fund for this was a major breakthrough, with some countries questioning whether it was needed and arguing that it would take a long time to set up. Governments agreed to establish a transitional committee to make recommendations, with the first meeting expected to take place before March 2023.
S.-China climate talks will resume. Joe Biden and Xi Jinping agreed to resume stalled talks on issues including climate change, global economic stability and food security following a meeting at COP27. The U.S. also had strong words for world leaders as president Joe Biden told them they can no longer plead ignorance, plus he announced a plan to cut methane emissions, support for an extreme weather early warning system in Africa and backing for solar and wind energy projects in Egypt.
World Bank reform. This was widely discussed at COP27 and could involve recapitalisation of development banks, meaning they could provide more financial assistance to developing countries. Developed and developing countries are looking for changes to the World Bank and other institutions, claiming that they are failing to help poorer countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions and deal with the impacts of climate crisis. A climate economist has estimated that the World Bank could provide half of the funds needed to support the developing world – if reform happens, that is. The exact form of these reforms remains to be seen and the conversation looks set to continue.
A Loss of Momentum for Phasing Out Fossil Fuels
At COP26 in Glasgow, countries resolved to phase out coal usage in a first-of-its-kind agreement, which was included in the final text. While some countries – in particular India – were hoping to make further commitments at COP27 and extend this agreement to the use of other fossil fuels, negotiations hit a brick wall. There were many intense conversations on the topic right up until the end of the conference but ultimately, talks failed and the resolution from Glasgow was carried forward rather than expanded.
Looking Beyond COP27: What Will Drive Future Climate Action?
As much as COP27 is an important platform for making progress on climate change, the conference wasn’t without its controversies. Prominent climate activist Greta Thunberg publicly denounced COP27, accusing it of “greenwashing” and saying that leaders and people in power were using it as an opportunity to gain attention. Could there be some truth in that? Quite possibly – many have been completely baffled by COP27’s sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola, the largest plastic producer in the world. The sponsorship drew heavy criticism and prompted a high-profile petition calling for the partnership to be ended, but it still went ahead.
While it was not organized by COP27, a plastic waste pyramid unveiled to serve as a stark message to attendants has also made headlines. A movement called 100YR CLEANUP built the pyramid – the world’s largest – out of 18 tonnes of plastic water bottles and rubbish collected from the Nile in a bid to highlight the scale of the plastic problem. The initiative wants to raise enough money to continuously remove plastic from the environment over the next 100 years. Its sculpture is impactful and its mission powerful, but is it missing the point? Some environmental advocates say it is, as the real focus should be stopping plastic entering the environment in the first place. In particular, advocates believe public pressure on policymakers is needed to curtail plastic production.
It’s an important reminder not to take anything at face value and to always dig below the surface, especially when it comes to the most important issues of our time: climate change and plastic pollution. At GreenSeas Trust, we are always advocates of tackling issues at the root cause, namely human behaviour.
When we stop thinking and start doing, that’s when the world can really change.