COP 27: Slow progress in Egypt
Elizabeth Barber outlines the key debates and impacts of Egypt’s 2022 COP27 in key areas including climate finance and commitment to the 2015 Paris Accord to assess whether the summit was a substantial contribution to climate action or an empty gesture.
Despite the lukewarm impact of last year’s Glasgow UN climate summit, Egypt’s Conference of the Parties (COP27) aimed to make progress on the long-standing debate on ‘loss and damage’ climate finance for the Global South. However, the summit was met with several challenges, including accusations of censorship and surveillance, the relative influence of fossil fuel actors and climate and Indigenous activists, and a lack of attendance from world leaders.
Indeed, the increasing gulf between developed and developing countries has been a key feature of these talks. From the outset, there were disagreements about the goals of the conference – while wealthier nations want to focus on aiding developing countries to phase out fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy sources, developing countries argue that they need money to address the disasters like floods, storms and heat waves that they are already experiencing. One of the key issues at the summit was the ongoing debate over the financial responsibility of developed countries in addressing the impacts of climate change on developing nations. Developing countries argue that they need financial assistance to address the disasters such as floods, storms and heat waves that they are already experiencing. However, developed countries, including the United States, have resisted this fund, in part because of concerns that they will be held liable for the damages caused by climate change.
In addition to these financial challenges, the summit also faced accusations of censorship and surveillance, with some participants reporting that their communications were being monitored and restricted. Furthermore, the relative influence of fossil fuel actors and climate and Indigenous activists also had a significant impact on the progress of the summit.
Despite these challenges, the conference opened with the aim of ensuring full implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Aside from the u-turn in the UK about whether or not PM Rishi Sunak would attend, a number of world leaders were missing. Outgoing Brazilian President and climate change denier Jair Bolsonaro was not in attendance, nor was Australian PM Anthony Albanese, who blamed his parliamentary schedule. Chinese president Xi Jinping, Indian PM Narendra Modi, and Russian President Vladimir Putin were all absent from the summit, despite China, India and Russia being the first, third and fourth highest-emitting countries. While Putin’s absence is unsurprising given the war in Ukraine, the absence of Jinping and Modi raised concerns how much progress discussions at the summit will be able to make.
Despite these challenges, the conference opened with the aim of ensuring full implementation of the Paris Agreement. A report published by UN Climate Change ahead of COP27 shows that whilst countries are bending the curve of global greenhouse gas emissions downward, efforts remain insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
There were 11 themes for different days of the conference: finance, science, youth and future generations, decarbonization, adaptation and agriculture, gender, water, ACE (Action for Climate Empowerment) and civil society, energy, biodiversity, and solutions. In terms of progress, the conference was able to make some strides in the areas of finance and science. However, there were still significant gaps in other areas, such as adaptation and agriculture, and progress towards the Paris Accord goal of 1.5 degree warming by 2100 remains elusive.
Next year’s summit, COP28 will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates, in what has been described as an attempt for the oil-rich country to showcase its efforts to transition to a more sustainable future. It remains to be seen if COP28 will be able to achieve more progress on the pressing issues of climate change, but it is clear that the international community must continue to work together to address this global crisis.
Overall, the COP27 summit in Egypt faced several challenges, including accusations of censorship and surveillance, the relative influence of fossil fuel actors and climate and Indigenous activists, and a lack of attendance from world leaders. Despite these obstacles, the conference was able to make some progress in the areas of finance and science, but much more needs to be done to address the ongoing challenges of climate change.