The UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) will begin in just over a week on Sunday the 6th of November. Negotiations and talks will last for just under two weeks, concluding on the 18th of November. These annual conferences have led to both hope and disappointment for many since they began in in 1995. The international discussion generated at COP focus on increasingly urgent issues facing the worlds environments and cultures. The most famous outcomes from COP history have been the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement. This article will serve as a brief roadmap to gain a better understanding of COP and the hopes for Sharm el-Sheikh.
What is the COP?
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is a supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Global circumstances allowing, COP meetings will take place annually with the venue typically rotating among the recognised UN regions – that is, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe, Western Europe and others. The first COP session (COP1) was held in Berlin, Germany in 1995 and has been held in cities all over the world for the last 26 years. The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) is hosted by the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Sharm el-Sheikh this year.
Who is part of the COP?
The UNFCCC which entered into force in 1994, has a near universal membership of 197 parties. This includes 196 countries and the EU. The 197 Parties have ratified the Convention and are called the Parties of the Convention.
What is the reason for the COP summit?
The annual COP is held to bring the countries of the world together and reach agreement on how best to tackle climate change. The Conference provides a transparent and inclusive space for all to share grievances and strategies to other Parties and aims to reach a solution that incorporates the needs and capacities of every country. The ultimate practical objective of COP meetings is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere by setting global targets for Parties to achieve within their own country, or within the EU; this reflects the need to acknowledge that some countries are not as well equipped as others to handle the extreme changes being brought on by climate change.
The 2015 Paris Agreement is one of the most notable and significant outputs in COP history, it maps outs the worlds first collective commitment to venture towards a low-carbon future through policy obligations for all countries, to yield no more than a 2°C global temperature increase, and to strive to limit any global temperature increase to 1.5°C. To achieve this goal each country put forth a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). An NDC embodies the efforts of every Party to reduce national emissions in line with Paris Agreement targets and to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
What was and was not achieved in COP26
COP26 was largely viewed as a failure due to its inability to reach the lofty standards expected of it. However, this does not mean that COP26 went the way of previous COPs, such as the Copenhagen Accord in 2009. In Glasgow the final results at the end of the Conference were described as a ‘mixed bag’ with the overall consensus being that while numerous pledges and promises were made by different nations, there was a lack of details to achieving what was promised and a lack of ambitious language.
The Glasgow Climate Pact was signed by nearly 200 countries. This Pact called on the wealthiest nations to double their funding to protect poorer nations from the devastating effects of climate change, exemplifying the principle of common but differentiated responsibility formalised in Rio in 1992 at the UNFCCC Earth Summit. However, the Pact did not discuss how climate targets would be achieved nor did it secure a loss and damage fund; developed countries are still waiting on the $100 billion per year to fight and adapt to climate change promised in 2009.
This Pact does stand to reiterate the importance of taking the climate threat seriously and did lay out how currently, no nation is doing enough. It urged all Parties to re-submit their NDCs with an increased ambition and solidified the process for reporting and submitting NDCs. As well, the Glasgow Climate Pact integrated the inclusion of ocean-based climate action under the UNFCCC and emphasised that this mandate needs to be implemented holistically within national planning and action, financial commitments and in annual reports to the UNFCCC under the new ‘Ocean Dialogue’.
Other Promises and Pledges
- More than 40 countries pledged to phase out fossil fuels and have it completely out of their energy use by the 2030s
- Commitment to end deforestation by over 140 countries
- Global Methane Pledge was proposed to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030
- Phasing out new gasoline-powered vehicles – six major automakers and 30 national governments have pledged to phase out gasoline- and diesel- powered cars and vans by 2040
- Increase in net-zero pledges – nearly 90% of countries now have net zero pledges, and while this is progress, there needs to be materialisation on these pledges before there is success
COP26 continued on the much-needed conversation on how to face this global problem, and while it may not have the teeth many wanted, it served to keep the conversation alive and every year we can continue to hope for more strength and delivery of promises given. Now looking to COP27.
What are the hopes for COP27?
The Egyptian presidency is keen to ensure that COP sessions provide a space for serious interaction and engagement amongst all Parties with the view to integrating all views and contributions into overall global efforts towards combatting climate change. In keeping with this aim, the incoming Egyptian COP27 Presidency has identified a range of topics focused on enhancing implementation and raising ambition, mainly surrounding the broad ideals of mitigation, adaptation, finance and collaboration.
Mitigation measures need to be ratcheted up in order to keep the 1.5°C temperature target in sight. This requires bold and immediate actions and raising climate ambition from all parties, particularly those with the highest capacity to do so. COP27 should witness the implementation of the Glasgow Climate Pact and continue to review the ambition of NDCs.
Over the past year the number of extreme weather events has increased drastically. A Global Goal on Adaptation was discussed in COP26, and it is critical that COP27 makes progress on the ambition of this plan and urges all parties to demonstrate the political will to increase adaptation measures and to aid others in this journey. COP27 needs to witness an enhanced global agenda for climate adaptation action, confirming Paris Agreement and Glasgow pact targets, while removing vagueness and implementing strong language on all Parties.
Finance is one of the key elements of tackling climate change, and in COP27 it is essential that progress is made on, at a minimum, contributing to the $100 billion per annum from 2020-2024 to support developing countries. This pledge is viewed as a floor rather than a ceiling and will need to increase over time in order to meet targets and to protect vulnerable communities. It is the hope that COP27 will revisit the topic of climate finance with renewed vigour and hopefully meaningful progress can be made in achieving those goals laid out in previous conferences. This will serve to increase trust and collaboration between developing and developing countries by demonstrating that actual commitments are being fulfilled.
To achieve any progress at these Conferences, collaboration and communication are required, along with political willingness to take action. The advancement of partnerships and agreements in negotiations will ensure that the world is adopting more resilient and sustainable economic models with people from every nation at the centre of climate talks. What occurred, or did not occur, in Glasgow needs to result in action. Collaboration is an essential component of climate talks and the President of COP27 will need to facilitate inclusive and active participation from all stakeholders.
COP27 being held on the African continent brings the hopes that vulnerable African communities, and other vulnerable communities throughout the world, will have a stronger lens placed on the crisis that is disproportionately affecting them.
With the above in mind and the window of opportunity to remain under 1.5 degrees diminishing, all eyes are on Egypt on November 6th.
To keep up top date with COP27, information and news can be found here: https://cop27.eg/#/
Members of MKO Environmental team attended the Environment Ireland conference in Croke Park, Dublin on the 4th and 5th October 2022.
The conference included focused sessions on climate, biodiversity, sustainability, circular economy and resource management, public health and the environment, water and planning and the environment.
The conference had a strong focus on the impact of the climate emergency on the health of people. International speakers covered topics which included a discussion around hotspots of high vulnerability, the loss of human habitat, climate change and increasing temperatures and heat stress.
The conference was opened with a presentation by Hans Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair IPCC Working Group II on the Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability of Climate Change. The message delivered by Hans was crystal clear in that the time for action was now. He also highlighted the significant potential for mitigation co-benefits, bringing together two of the key themes of the conference: the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis.
Johannes Klumpers of the European Commission spoke on adaptation to climate change and the EU Missions Adaptation Project which focuses on supporting EU regions, cities and local authorities in their efforts to build resilience against the impacts of climate change. This was pretty much in line with the opening talks by Hans Otto Portner.
Brian MacSharry of the European Environment Agency spoke about tackling the Biodiversity Crisis, the scale of the problem and the policies to address the problem. Brian noted that one of the key tools being developed to transform the state of biodiversity in the EU is the Nature Restoration Law which is likely to come into force in 2024.
Patrick Paul Walsh of the United Nations Social Development Network spoke on achieving the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) on an EU and national Level. He focused on three key areas that need to come together in order to achieve the SDGs: Education; Data; and Institutional Reform. This was corroborated from the business level perspective by Andrea Carroll who presented on her experience as Head of Sustainability for the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), adding further detail on the requirement for baseline data and monitoring programmes, and Transformational Change.
Aleksandra Klenke of the European Commission provided an EU perspective on the decarbonisation of transport at a policy level referencing the various frameworks and initiatives for sustainable and smart mobility. Once such framework is the EU Urban Mobility Framework which presents measures for EU cities to develop climate resilient and emission-free transport systems in order to achieve EU’s 2050 targets.
Minister Eamon Ryan TD spoke broadly about the action required to tackle climate change with a focus on the next 3 years. The Minister also spoke of the forthcoming National Land Use review and its role in the climate conversation.
A number of speakers spoke of the importance in regard to community engagement and the role of individuals in tackling the climate crisis and being the first responders. This was referenced in particular by speakers who shared information about community projects in coastal areas, public realm projects and the need to support community engagement in helping to manage local waters.
The conference programme can be viewed at the Website Link: https://www.environmentireland.ie/conference/
The MKO Environmental team are happy to discuss any of your Environmental queries. Please contact Eoin O’Sullivan or Owen Cahill at MKO.