Cop27: what’s on the agenda and will it be a success?

Summit is a chance to showcase implementation but reparation question could be key

More than 200 governments have been invited to Cop27
(Image credit: SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Stock Photo)

Boris Johnson has told the Cop27 summit that now is “not the moment to abandon the campaign for net zero”.

Speaking at an event hosted by The New York Times, the former UK prime minister said “it is incredible to think” how much “damage has been done in just one year to our great common purpose of tackling man-made climate change”.

Johnson ridiculed people who want to “frack the hell out of the British countryside”, which, observed Sky News, “some might say is a criticism of Liz Truss” who had proposed a resumption of fracking. In a headline-grabbing address, he even alluded to his own recent woes by joking that the summer heatwaves had contributed to the “political turmoil”, when he was evicted from Downing Street.

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Johnson’s speech came as more than 40,000 attendees descended on the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, for the 27th round of global climate talks.

What’s on the agenda for Cop27?

The summit has made a delayed start, due to “extremely challenging” negotiations over what should be discussed, Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at the non-profit Climate Action Network International, told Reuters.

Eventually the UN said the crucial goals of the summit are to “review the implementation of the convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement”, and “adopt decisions to further develop and implement these three instruments”.

Structurally, the first two days are dedicated to the world leaders’ summit and there are also theme days to come, including finance, biodiversity and decarbonisation.

As the conference is being hosted in an African country, “issues that are of particular importance to the continent, such as adaptation to climate change and climate finance, are expected to be a priority”, said The New Statesman.

Will it be a success?

Simon Stiell, the executive secretary of UN Climate Change, has described the summit as the world’s “first opportunity in this new era of implementation to demonstrate progress”.

However, the talks will be “more fragile than ever after year of turmoil”, said The Guardian’s environment editor, Fiona Harvey. The war in Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis and the fact that the world’s two biggest emitters, China and the US, are “now at loggerheads”, makes progress harder than ever.

Indeed, said Politico, the “inconvenient truth” is that “climate change won't be solved in this desert” because “events elsewhere in the world are pushing in the opposite direction”.

The events “spoiling the vibe before the event has started” include “soaring energy costs and Russia’s war in Ukraine”, with the resultant “renewed push” to produce fossil fuels, as well as “the rise of far-right politicians who oppose taking action on global warming”.

Nevertheless, the organisers are determined not to let these issues get in the way. “We have to try to isolate these geopolitical tensions, disagreements, and focus on how do we move forward together,” said Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister who will chair Cop27, “because we can’t move forward independently – we won’t be successful”.

The success or failure of Cop27 is “likely to depend on getting wealthy countries to deliver on reparations”, said CNBC. Reparations, sometimes referred to as “loss and damage” payments, are “likely to dominate proceedings”, said the broadcaster. Diplomats from more than 130 countries are “expected to push for the creation of a dedicated loss and damage finance facility”.

Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Maldives are among the nations pressing for compensation from richer countries responsible for most of the world’s pollution. Disagreements over reparations “threatened to derail the success of last year’s climate talks in Glasgow”, said The Telegraph.

Was Cop26 a success?

A “deal of sorts was hammered out” at the Cop26 talks in Glasgow last November, said The Times. This, “on paper at least, kept the 1.5 degree goal on track”.

“Yet already it’s as if Cop26 belonged to a different age. The fight against climate change has been overshadowed by war, soaring energy prices and a global cost of living crisis,” said the paper.

Last month, the UN warned in a new report that the world is “nowhere near” hitting its targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

It said that under current national emissions targets from 193 countries, global temperatures are set to rise by 2.5C. While countries were “bending the curve of global greenhouse gas emissions downward”, current efforts “remain insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century”, said the report.

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