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COP27 - setting the scene

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Townsend Matthew
Matthew Townsend

Partner

London

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Jasmin Fraser

Associate

London

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Ming Zee Tee

Trainee

London

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01 November 2022

COP27 brings together governments from across the globe to discuss climate change action. It follows a mixed story of success from COP26. Coupling this with a complicated geo-political backdrop, COP27 faces some challenges. This blog outlines the conference agenda and sets out what to expect from the event.

COP27, or the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties, is taking place from 6 to 18 November in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The Conference is the highest decision-making forum of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The event takes place every year. Attendees include signatory governments of the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. The government hosting each COP rotates each year.

During 2021, COP26 in Glasgow marked the fifth Conference since the signing of the Paris Agreement. It was jointly hosted by the UK and Italy (further details and reflections on COP26 can he found in our blog). COP26 was seen as a significant milestone for assessing progress after the Paris Agreement and addressing some key outstanding themes.

What’s on the COP27 agenda?

The COP27 slogan “Together for Implementation” indicates the intended focus of this year’s Conference. Its geographical location, as well as the expectation that more financial resources must be committed to compensate African nations’ exposure to the worst effects of climate change, has led to some commentators to label this as an “African COP”.

The key agenda items for COP27 relate to loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, finance, and adaptation. Beyond this, there will be sessions focusing on:

  • the development and transfer of technologies
  • capacity-building, matters relating to least developed countries (LDCs)
  • a periodic review of overall progress towards the Paris Agreement with a particular focus on Article 6
  • gender and climate change.

A full agenda alongside related documents can be accessed here: COP27.

Moreover, the Egyptian COP27 Presidency has defined the Conference’s key goals as follows.

Mitigation

That “bold and immediate actions and raising ambition” is required, in particular, from parties “who are in a position to do so and who can and do lead by example”. 

Adaptation

Following COP26’s Global Goal on Adaptation, the aim is to make “crucially needed progress” towards enhancing resilience and assisting the most vulnerable communities.

Finance

Progress is needed on the delivery of the annual USD100 billion climate finance commitment by developed countries (of which see our previous blog), and to enhance transparency of finance flows and facilitate access to meet the needs of developing countries, especially Africa, LDCs and small island developing states.  

Collaboration

Ensuring “inclusive and active participation” from all stakeholders, especially vulnerable communities and representatives from countries in the African region whom are increasingly affected by the impacts of climate change, is seen as a critical step.

To enable a broad interaction across stakeholders, there are a number of key thematic days consisting of panel discussions and round tables. These will take place alongside the negotiations. 

Lessons from COP26

The successes and shortcomings of COP26 have set the stage for COP27. Glasgow produced several headline commitments, including:

  • phasing down coal-fired power generation
  • reducing methane emissions
  • decarbonising shipping
  • reversing deforestation and land degradation
  • pledging increased finance flows from developed to developing countries. 

This year, COP27 seeks to build upon those successes and focus on the effective implementation of countries’ commitments. This is important given the limited outcomes 2022 has seen to date. According to the World Resources Institute, only 15 out of 119 countries which signed the Global Methane Pledge at Glasgow have produced quantified reduction targets. China has since pulled out of the U.S.-China deal for cooperation on methane emissions reductions after speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

COP27 is also set to progress the areas where Glasgow failed to deliver. COP26 coincided with the first deadline for countries to submit their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This fell far short of the 1.5°C ambition. Taken collectively, the 140 countries’ NDCs submissions during COP26 would still lead to an estimated global increase of temperatures of 2.4°C by 2100.

COP26 also failed to promise sufficient amounts of financing to assist adaptation and mitigation efforts. Developed nations rejected the developing nations’ COP26 proposal for a dedicated loss and damage finance facility. They have also continued to miss the annual target of USD100bn climate finance to be delivered to developing nations between 2020 and 2025. Only USD83.3bn was delivered in 2020. 

What to expect of COP27?

The geopolitical situation has vastly changed since COP26. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has heralded huge volatility in energy prices and a high inflationary environment globally, and U.S.-China relations remain difficult. This creates a more challenging backdrop than for many recent COPs.

Reporters expect that contentious issues over who pays for climate change-induced loss and damage will dominate COP27 discussions. This issue may become the sticking point that reinforces progress on other items on the agenda. The largest negotiating bloc and one consisting primarily of developing nations, G77-plus-China, have reiterated the need for an international loss and damage financing facility. By contrast, the EU and the U.S. are expected to once again challenge this idea.

More encouragingly, the V20 group of ministers from climate vulnerable economies and the G7 Presidency have reached agreement on the “Global Shield against Climate Risks”. This consists of various global climate and disaster risk finance and insurance architectures.  The Global Shield against Climate Risks will be launched during COP27 in line with the loss and damage agenda.

For mitigation, the Glasgow Climate Pact requested that parties strengthen their 2030 NDC targets by the end of 2022. COP27 will also host a mitigation work programme for scaling up mitigation ambition and implementation. It is hoped that a decision that raises countries’ ambitions will be agreed, notwithstanding that pre-COP27 submissions of NDCs remain uninspiring. At the time of writing, only 24 nations have submitted new, revised or updated NDCs. Among them, Australia is the only country with a strengthened NDC.

Commentators expect renewed calls for developed nations to increase their levels of climate financing. These calls are based on the historic promise of an annual target of USD100bn, committed during COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. During recent pre-COP27 meetings, Egypt’s special representative Wael Aboulmagd has already openly criticised developed countries for failing to honour their Copenhagen commitments. This issue will continue to be a focal point in the Conference’s negotiation sessions.

Lastly, COP27 will continue the global stocktake that began in COP26. This process assesses the world’s collective progress in achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals. 

To stay up to date with COP27, subscribe to our Countdown to COP and beyond blog

Authors: Matthew Townsend, Jasmin Fraser and Ming Zee Tee.

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