What is COP27?
Since 1995, world leaders have met every year for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. It is known as Conference of the Parties or COP for short. At the conference, they work to find global solutions to tackle climate change and it's consequences. This year is the 27th COP and is taking place in Egypt.
The aim is for world governments to agree steps to limit global temperature rises and climate change due to carbon emissions created by human activity.
Why is this important?
Global temperatures are rising because of emissions produced by human activity, mainly from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. Average temperatures have already risen 1.1C and will rise further as carbon emissions are still rising.
To prevent a more catastrophic rise, 194 countries signed the Paris Agreement in 2015 to limit global rises to 1.5C.
A rise of 1.7 to 1.8C above the standard pre-industrialised average (circa 1850) is estimated to put half of the world's population at life threatening risk (IPCC).
Increased global temperatures lead to:
- Hotter temperatures - Europe, including the UK has seen hottest ever days this year
- More severe storms - like the devastating floods seen in Pakistan and parts of Africa this year
- Increased drought - devastating droughts across much Africa have lead to crop failures
- A warming, rising ocean- sea level rises threaten hundreds of millions of people
- Loss of species - populations of animals are declining at an alarming average rate of nearly 70% (WWF)
- Not enough food - 20 million people in East Africa alone are facing food insecurity
- More health risks- extreme temperatures led to wildfires in Australia, creating air pollution, damaging ozone layer and increasing local heat spikes
- Poverty, war and displacement - population movement and competition for scarce resources often leads to conflict
What are they doing at COP27?
COP27 discussions and decisions will focus on three key areas:
- Reducing emissions
- Helping countries to prepare for and deal with climate change
- Securing technical support and funding for developing countries for the above
The goals of COP26 were partially derailed by the war in Ukraine and increasing fuel instability, so these goals are also included in this year's COP:
- Loss and damage finance - money to help countries recover from the effects of climate change, rather than just prepare for it
- Establishment of a global carbon market - to price the effects of emissions into products and services globally
- Strengthen the commitments to reduce coal use
The loss and damage financial payments are hotly debated. It is a fact that less well developed nations are more at risk of, and already suffering from the effects of climate change. They are asking the more developed nations who emit more carbon emissions to pay for losses and damages already incurred.
What are the intended outcomes?
A commitment to reduce emissions. Only 23 of the 194 Paris Accord nations have submitted plans to reduce emissions towards the aim of 1.5C.
Nations are being asked to plan towards 'net zero' which is where their carbon emission are equal to or less than the amount of carbon they remove from the atmosphere.
A commitment to deliver climate finance. $100 billion has been promised by developed countries to aid developing countries to mitigate their emissions and adapt to climate change. Why? Simply put - we, Europe and the western world, have already passed through a highly damaging industrial revolution and gained all the financial, health and social benefits from industrialisation and development. If all developing countries were to treat global resources in the same way, the results would be absolutely catastrophic for the whole world so we need to help them develop more sustainably.
Prioritising people, currently 40% of the world's population are living on the frontline of the climate crisis. Loss and damage has been discussed for years and treated as a side topic. With 2022 being one of the most devastating years in terms of extreme weather events and people affected, it is now becoming a critical topic for discussion.
What can we do - if anything?
We can educate ourselves. Follow the news and keep an eye on commitments and developments at this years' COP.
If we feel that our country's government is not committing we can take steps to let them know we want more action.
We can modify our behaviour too.
Vote with your:
- Vote - is your Government/MP in line with these goals?
- Voice- Sign petitions against further oil development & fracking & further exploitation of fossil fuels that will slow down the goal to net zero. Email/write to your MP requesting the same.
- Choices - choose renewable energy with your provider. Most electricity providers have a 'green energy only option'. Push them towards renewables. If not, ask them to, if not, change supplier (when you can!)
- Choices - diet, think climate when choosing your meals. Plant based, local or seasonal are good options for lowering carbon emissions.
- Pocket - purchase wisely. Fast fashion, disposable, and cheap all feed the linear and disposable economy driving climate change and producing unmanageable amounts of waste.
We may not think we can make a difference but if we just buy less of the things we dont need it will help! For instance:
China is the world's highest producer of carbon emissions (USA second) and during COP26 they committed to using less coal, the worst polluting fossil fuel. Due to global fuel instabilities since then, they have been developing new and larger coal fields. One of their reasons is they manufacture 20% of the world's goods, and we (the western world) are their main market.
"Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world"
Stay tuned to our social media for more updates as COP27 progresses.
Here are some useful petitions and resources: