COP27: Main Takeaways

The 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Cop27, has recently come to an end after several days of negotiations in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The conference gathered representatives from nearly 200 countries, who sought to coordinate global climate policy for the following year. Given the catastrophic impact of climate change, and its growing rate of devastation, searching for collective solutions is a matter of urgency.

It is worth stressing that environmental degradation contributes to humanitarian crises worldwide, particularly by forcing the displacement of people and groups whose homelands have been affected by climate events such as drought or flooding. The UN has repeatedly highlighted the unequal burden imposed on different territories and populations as a result of climate change. In many regions, the rise in weather and climate extremes has had a substantial impact on food and water security, as current natural and human systems face increasing disruptions. Often, these regions lack the resources to rebuild and adapt to hostile environments.

Majority world countries have long sought financial assistance to revert the widespread loss and damage suffered as a result of the disproportionate climate devastation they face. At Cop27, a financial deal was finally struck, considered by many to be a historical milestone. This is an agreement that requires countries who have historically contributed the most towards global warming to financially compensate those bearing the brunt of climate change, despite barely having contributed to it. Some hope that this fund for loss and damage will become the first step towards a broader acknowledgment of the global inequalities underlining the climate crisis. The climate change minister of Pakistan, Sherry Rehman, a country recently struck by record flooding, remarked that it is “not about accepting charity,’’ but rather a ‘’down payment on investment in our futures, and climate justice.’’

While pledges to cut down greenhouse gases and boost low-emission energy continue, a resolution to peak emissions by 2025 was taken out of the agreement. In 2018, the UN report on Climate Change warned that CO2 emissions had to be reduced by 45% before 2030. Otherwise, the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century would be unattainable. Yet, a recent report from the same agency alerts that current political pledges are insufficient, as not only have they failed to reduce emissions but have led to a 10.6% increase. Among other experts, Professor McGuire has voiced his discontent with what he calls a ‘’bloated global talking shop.’’ In the course of the 27 different COPs, he remarks, there “has never been a formal agreement to reduce the world’s fossil fuel use.’’ Moreover, there were a record number of fossil fuel lobbyists present at the convention: 636 oil and gas industry representatives. Environmental groups like Kick Big Polluters Out denounced that at Cop27, ‘’the influence of fossil fuel lobbyists is greater than frontline countries and communities. Delegations from African countries and Indigenous communities are dwarfed by representatives of corporate interests.’’ Adding to the controversy, plastic campaigners have condemned the Coca-Cola Cop27 sponsorship, a company described as the ‘’world’s top polluter.’’’

Another important aspect to consider is that less than 34% of country negotiating teams were made up of women. This lack of representation is especially concerning given the disproportionate burden women bear from the environmental crisis. The UN has long warned about the interconnection between gender inequality and climate change: global warming amplifies existing gender inequalities and poses direct threats to women’s health, livelihoods and safety. Maternal and child deaths are a prime example of this, but also the fact that women constitute 80% of the people displaced due to climate change. Matcha Phorn-In, a feminist human rights defender, explained that “if you are invisible in everyday life, your needs will not be thought of, let alone addressed, in a crisis situation.”

The representation of young people, however, did see an improvement this year. Cop27 hosted the first Youth-led climate forum, which sought to ensure younger generations have a say in the conversation. Given that young people stand to be the most impacted by climate change, and thus, the decisions taken at Cop27, their input should be given appropriate recognition. Another interesting novelty is the focus on the right to “a clean healthy and sustainable environment.” The medical sphere has begun to have a bigger presence in climate talks, highlighting the link between global heating and human health. Natural disasters are on the rise and human suffering has taken on a new dimension as a result of the particular challenges ushered in by climate change. COPs present a great opportunity to bring people together and share ideas, foster partnerships and give different communities the chance to voice how the environmental crisis impacts their life. Nevertheless, we must ensure that the decisions taken at Cop27 materialise into real policies, guaranteeing that the people and the planet take precedence over corporate greed.