09 Nov 2022
What happened at COP26 and what’s in store at COP27
As the world convenes at Sharm El-Sheikh, in Egypt, for yet another climate conference, we look at what happened in last year’s annual summit and what’s in store for this year.  But before we delve deep, a background understanding of the climate conference is important. COP stands for conference of the parties. Every party/country, under […]

As the world convenes at Sharm El-Sheikh, in Egypt, for yet another climate conference, we look at what happened in last year’s annual summit and what’s in store for this year. 

But before we delve deep, a background understanding of the climate conference is important. COP stands for conference of the parties. Every party/country, under the 1992 UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC), is treaty-bound to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally in an equitable way. Even though countries were asked to submit their revised plans before COP27, only 25 out of 197 countries submitted it. Yet, the 27th iteration of COP which started on November 6 has so far been promising. 

Paris gamechanger

In 2015, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed under which countries committed to holding global temperature rise well below 2C above pre-industrial limits. It was for the first time that almost all of the world agreed upon to check emissions. Though the goals are legally binding, to achieve them, countries agreed upon non-binding nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that were targets to cut or curb the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, most notably by 2030.   

Some of the key discussions in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt will be about whether and how countries are building on what they promised in Paris.

Looking back, moving ahead

COP26 which took place in Glasgow last year was billed a success as it was one of the largest conferences that had been held till date where countries agreed on getting tougher around emissions. One of the key achievements at COP26, which marked five years since the signing of the Paris Agreement, was that countries agreed to a tougher 1.5C aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement. The annual gathering agreed how the 2C target would lead to massive climate-induced devastation. 

One of the notable accomplishments from Glasgow as highlighted by the UN relates to adaptation to the impacts of climate change. The global goal on adaptation measures now stresses as much importance as on reducing emissions. Another notable accomplishment was around the critical issue of finance where governments at COP26 agreed on greater support for developing nations. 

At COP26, many countries also updated their NDCs. Countries responsible for about three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions set out long-term targets to reach net zero carbon by about 2050. Another significant achievement includes the finalisation of guidelines for the full implementation of the Paris Agreement and the compromise reached on Article Six relating to carbon markets. At Glasgow, countries also agreed to come forward as often as necessary, with new NDCs until they are adequate.

The way forward

COP27 is expected to be a “working COP” where “implementation” is the key word. We are likely to see incremental progress on key issues rather than major announcements. 

COP27 is significant in many ways and it has started on a promising note. The inclusion of funding for loss and damage in the official agenda for climate talks, marks the culmination of efforts started by the developing countries in the early 1990s. A year of droughts, heatwaves and floods across Nigeria, India, Pakistan and several other countries had added to the urgency for finance. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the breakthrough was reached after 48 hours of intense talks. “The delegates would aim to reach a conclusive decision on loss and damage no later than 2024,” he said. 

COP27 will also host one of the three technical reviews as part of the ‘global stocktake’ (GST). The process, which intends to strengthen further action, reviews whether plans are strong enough to prevent temperatures rising above 1.5C. Developed nations will also be looking for more commitment from large developing countries– such as China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa–to move away from coal to clean energy.

COP27 will also look at strengthening commitments towards establishment of a global carbon market. At COP27, countries will continue efforts to make progress on the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) process, which is the only formal COP mechanism through which agriculture and food security are considered with relation to climate change. 

Small steps have already been taken and the way ahead is only through commitments and implementation by every country. Moving closer to the goal will be a successful outcome of COP27, which we will know in the next 10 days.

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