Presidents and prime ministers will fly into Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh this week for Cop27, the latest in a series of discussions aimed at halting climate change, following the Cop26 Glasgow summit last year.
The United Nations Climate Conference is entering its 30th year, with this year’s gathering focusing on climate financing and the environmental consequences of climate change. More than 90 heads of state and representatives of 190 countries are expected to attend.
Cop is an acronym for Conference of the Parties, and it refers to a series of United Nations climate change conferences. The governments represented at Cop have all ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, or the Paris Agreement.
Cop is held once a year in a different city; Cop26 was held in Glasgow in 2021. Cop27 will take place from Monday 7 November to Friday 18 November.
But just how important is this year’s summit? What’s on the agenda, and will it actually make any real difference?Here is everything you need to know about it.
What does Cop27 hope to achieve?
Cop27 has been dubbed an "African Cop," and it is predicted that the severe impacts of climate change on African countries, including droughts, floods, erosion, and deserts, will be important topics of debate.
The conference has set out key objectives to be explored during Cop27. One of the main objectives will be the pledge to limit global warming to below 2C and how to keep the 1.5C target.
Other key areas include addressing extreme weather events such as flooding or forest fires, with the objective to enhance “global agenda for action on adaptation”, climate finance and support and collaboration to turn what was discussed at Glasgow Cop26 into action.
The conference will begin with a World Leaders Summit on 7 and 8 November, followed by debates on issues such as climate finance, decarbonisation, climate change adaptation and agriculture during the first week.
The second week will focus on gender, water and biodiversity. An event will be hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Senegalese President Macky Sall to accelerate action on climate change in Africa.
Will Cop27 make a difference?
However, Cop27 has been met with cynicism from some climate activists, including Greta Thunberg, who has called the forthcoming climate summit in Egypt, which she will not be attending, a “scam”.
The activist said: “It’s very symbolic that it’s being held in a tourist paradise in a country that violates many basic human rights.”
There have been concerns about Egypt’s human rights record following a report from Amnesty International that claimed Egypt was in the midst of a “human rights crisis”.
“Many world leaders are too busy to go there because they have their own problems,” added Thunberg. “With that mindset we’re not going to be able to solve many of the problems that we face.”
The Human Rights Watch has voiced concern about the level of freedom of expression in Egypt, as well as the overall human rights situation, and questioned the extent to which it will be possible to hold protests around the summit.
The group also released a report based on interviews with more than a dozen Egyptian environmental activists, professors, scientists and journalists, which concluded that the Egyptian government’s harsh restrictions on independent nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), particularly environmental groups, will severely limit theirability to carry out independent advocacy and field work crucial to conservation and environmentalism.
What difference did Cop26 make?
Thunberg’s comments came as other activists staged climate strikes to highlight the “failure” of the Cop26 summit, a year on from the event.
In Glasgow, where last year’s summit was held, traffic was stopped by police as protesters marched towards the city centre holding signs reading “the kids are not alright”, “there is no planet B” and “people over profit”.
Organisers said the purpose of the march was “to highlight the failures of Cop26, as well as the UK Government’s ‘greenwashing’, and the links between the climate crisis and the cost-of-living crisis”.
Event organiser Amy said: “We’re here today, a year on from Cop26, to say that we’re not accepting the empty promises that were made a year ago, and we’re certainly not going to accept them in a couple of weeks at Cop27.”
The UN has warned that the world is on the verge of "climate catastrophe," as a report revealed how far off track nations are from their pledges to reduce global warming pollution.
A recent UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report found a large disparity between the action needed to limit global temperature rises to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and what countries are actually doing and have pledged to do.
As a result of climate change, the globe is already experiencing more floods, storms, heatwaves, and wildfires. Beyond 1.5C of warming, more destructive weather extremes, crop damage, and losses of important ecological systems such as coral reefs are projected.
Countries meeting at the UN Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow last year promised to evaluate and reinforce their national climate policies in order to keep the aim of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C alive.
But the UNEP report said new and updated climate plans submitted since Cop26 would reduce projected greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by only 0.5 billion tonnes, or less than 1% of the total 58 billion tonnes of emissions expected under current policies.
Overall, climate plans – known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – are estimated to reduce global emissions in 2030 by between 5% and 10%, three to six billion tonnes, compared with policies currently in place.
That leaves a gap of 20-23 billion tonnes of extra emissions cuts in 2030 needed to meet the 1.5C goal and 12-15 billion tonnes to stay within the 2C limit. Countries are off track to achieve even their globally “highly insufficient” climate plans, warned the report.