By KATERINA BOZHINOVA, U.S. Green Building Council
The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) will take place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Nov. 6–18. Engaging government representatives and observer organizations from around the world, COP 27 focuses on climate change solutions.
This year’s conference is defined by expectations that COP27 will move beyond ambitious pledges to elevate the urgency of global cooperation and climate action. More specifically, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi expressed that ‘’COP27 is an opportunity to showcase unity against an existential threat that we can only overcome through concerted action and effective implementation.’'
Here are key highlights of what is at stake during COP27:
Can we keep hoping for 1.5 degrees Celsius?
Six years ago, at COP21, world leaders adopted the “Paris Agreement,” articulating the common intent to keep global warming below 2 C (3.6 F) above pre-industrial levels, and preferably limiting warming to an increase of 1.5 C (2.7 F) to reduce the harmful effects of climate change.
Currently, we are not on track to meet this goal, even if all countries manage to reduce their national emissions to the levels they have pledged, according to the The State of NDCs: 2022 report by the World Resources Institute and the International Energy Agency’s Tracking Clean Energy Progress update. Although countries are not formally due to share updated targets at COP 27, the event may bring announcements of more ambitious commitments, as world leaders accelerate their climate plans, realizing the urgency of limiting global warming.
The U.S. participation in COP27 is expected to contribute to advancing the climate action agenda. The recent passing of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the largest climate investment in U.S. history, strengthens our country’s commitment to meeting the Paris Agreement targets. The IRA will provide economic opportunities for a just climate transition and scaling the clean energy transition, while also demonstrating on the international stage the role that financing can play in confronting the climate crisis.
We need to step up adaptation to climate impacts.
The Paris Agreement commits to a "global goal on adaptation" to climate change, which was highlighted at COP 26 through the establishment of a two-year program to better define this goal. The COP27 president-designate, Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs Sameh Shoukry, will be expected to ensure the progress of this effort by prioritizing areas where action and funding for climate change adaptation are most needed.
Amid worsening impacts worldwide brought about by numerous extreme climate events in Pakistan, the Philippines, Europe and many other regions, COP27 will test how seriously governments take the growing climate toll on vulnerable geographic areas.
COP27 is likely to focus in part on solutions for adaptation, including strategies for managing climate risks and building resilience. There will be a specific focus on how we scale the solutions required to meet our growing food demand, address water scarcity, and build climate-resilient cities and infrastructure.With regard to climate-related risks, the World Meteorological Organization will present an action plan to ensure every person in the world is covered by early warnings within the next five years.
Climate finance commitments are due to be redefined and implemented.
Climate finance, drawn from public, private and alternative sources of financing, seeks to support both mitigation and adaptation actions that will address climate change. In 2009, wealthy nations promised to provide $100 billion a year to developing nations by 2020. This has not been delivered, with OECD calculations showing the total about $17 billion short and a prevalence of loans, not grants.
The Glasgow Climate Pact, the agreement reached at the culmination of COP26 last year, acknowledges that the pledge has not been met, urging parties to act and increase financing levels substantially beyond 2025. COP27 is widely seen as being the first "COP of implementation," gauged by a strong push for climate finance. Success at COP27 will rely on more tangible progress to deliver the $100 billion as the need for climate adaptation grows.
Experts observe that fulfilling promises made by wealthy nations is also important for developing nations’ confidence and trust in the process. Issues such as financing the transition to cleaner energy and scaling clean energy solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change will be pivotal to advancing the COP27 agenda. Talks on finance, however, could be complicated by the energy and inflation crises that many countries are facing.
Climate-vulnerable nations await dialogue on climate injustice.
African countries, contributing less than 4% of current global emissions, hope that COP27 will tackle climate injustice. During Africa Climate Week this past August, Shoukry said, “Africa is obliged, with its already limited financial means and scant level of support, to spend around 2–3% of its GDP per annum to adapt to these impacts, a disproportionate responsibility that cannot be described as anything other than 'climate injustice'.”
Thus far, the governments of Scotland, Denmark and the Wallonia region of Belgium have committed funds to help with loss and damage, totaling only about $15 million. Other developed countries have focused on expanding access to insurance against weather disasters in developing countries. It is expected that COP27 will attempt to develop a constructive dialogue to address loss and damage, including the central issue of new and adequate finance to help climate-vulnerable countries.
For more, visit the COP27 website here.