COP27: Why Are We Here Again?

Will Dyson

Head of Sustainability &Urban Infrastructure

The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) is taking place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 6-18 November 2022.

The conference is set against the backdrop of major global crises, particularly Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has led many countries to expand fossil fuel exploration and production. The past year has also seen intensifying humanitarian emergencies because of the climate crisis, from floods in Pakistan, to drought and famine in Ethiopia.

The Context: Why Are We Here Again?

At COP26 in Glasgow last year, negotiations among record numbers of delegates resulted in the Glasgow Pact, which reaffirmed the 1.5C heating limit enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Pact also included the commitment to double adaptation finance, and a request for countries to bring more ambitious climate pledges next year.

However, some of the language from the Pact became watered down during final negotiations, most notably the “phasing-down of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels”. Some felt this did not go far enough to signify the rapid cuts in coal and other fossil fuel use required to stay below 1.5C. Poorer countries also felt that the issue of the “loss and damage” they disproportionately experience because of the climate crisis had not been sufficiently addressed. Analysis has shown that governments have failed to implement their COP26 pledges – global fossil fuel subsidies have continued to rise, and many countries including the US, China, and European Union, have yet to submit new national climate commitments in line with limiting temperature rises to 1.5C.

Much rests on the success of COP27. The UN warned in October that current carbon reduction pledges would lead to global heating of 2.5C, condemning the world to “catastrophic climate breakdown. Considering this, the UN has urged greater action from non-state actors, including the private sector, and local government.

Key Issues for COP27

Create a financing mechanism for addressing loss and damage

At Glasgow, developing countries called for a formal finance facility to repair the damages caused by extreme weather events. Negotiators agreed to establish a Dialogue on Loss and Damage, to culminate in 2024. However, the humanitarian crises seen in recent months have intensified calls for “climate reparations” and this is likely to feature strongly on the conference agenda.

Scale up support for adaptation

A recent IPCC report noted that escalating climate change impacts require more rapid and extensive adaptations to address the needs of vulnerable communities. Many countries have established National Adaptation Plan documents, but this year’s extreme weather has highlighted the need to move from planning to implementation. This will require international financing.

Strengthen national emissions-reduction targets

The Glasgow Climate Pact appealed to governments to revisit and strengthen their 2030 emissions-reductions targets to better align with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting heating to 1.5C. There is concern that some countries have reopened coal plants and committed to expand oil and gas exploration in response to energy security uncertainties – which could signify a backsliding on previous targets.

Assure that the $100 billion climate finance promise will be met and move forward on new commitments

In 2009, developed countries committed to provide $100 billion per year to developing countries to support their climate action. OECD analysis shows that this provision has not been met in recent years. COP27 needs to provide certainty around delivery of the $100 billion by 2023 to help build climate resilience where it is most needed.

Convert the Glasgow climate commitments into action

Glasgow delegates made significant pledges – on halting deforestation, curbing methane emissions, aligning the finance sector with net-zero by 2050, and ending international financing of fossil fuels, to name a few. At COP27, signatories of these pledges will be expected to disclose progress and step for future action.

The UK’s stance

Despite originally confirming that he would not attend COP27, the Prime Minister U-Turned and confirmed his attendance this week. The UK will also be represented at the conference by outgoing COP26 President Alok Sharma alongside other Ministers. Mr Sunak has reinstated the fracking ban recently repealed by his predecessor, Liz Truss, but appears to support Truss’ policy of expanding oil and gas exploration in the North Sea. Sharma has called for the government to explain how this policy is consistent with the UK’s legally binding targets to reach net zero by 2050. King Charles II, having reportedly been ‘banned’ from attending COP27, will host a pre-conference reception at Buckingham Palace on Friday (4 November), bringing together “200 business leaders, politicians, and campaigners".

One of our key takeaways, as mentioned above, is that there will be much more pressure on private sector and local Government delivery. This was a theme that came up time and time again COP26, and as the representatives for the centre of a global city, we are pleased to see this momentum continuing. Here in London's West End, businesses represent key sectors that all have a critical role to play in the transition to a sustainable future and as a world-renowned international centre. It is fantastic to see the leadership our members and partners are taking in our District’s journey toward being a more sustainable destination. Convening and campaigning through public-private sector partnerships to implement activities that have the greatest contribution to our overall goal of becoming a net zero carbon destination is a key priority for us at New West End Company and is embedded within all that we deliver with and for our members.