What is COP27? Key issues, what to expect, and why it matters
What is COP27?
The acronym COP stands for Conference of the Parties. COP is where major decisions are made by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Once a year, signatory governments gather to discuss and negotiate how they are going to work together to combat climate change. Each UN member state is a signatory, plus Palestine, the Cook Islands, and Niue. This year will be the 27th time signatories have gathered for this conference, hence the moniker COP27.
If you follow climate change news, you’ve likely heard reference to some of the agreements signed at past COPs. For example, at COP21 in 2015, The Paris Agreement was signed by 196 countries, a legally binding international treaty on climate change. Its goal is to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, but preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
It isn’t just governments that attend the two week conference however; COP is a major climate change event that brings together media, businesses, and activists. Notable last year at COP26 were powerful speeches from those sharing diverse personal experiences of climate change, from broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough to Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti. And as would be expected with any gathering about a critical global issue, COP isn’t without its controversies, like accusations that it is exclusionary and elitist.
A different country hosts the conference each year, and this year it will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6 to November 18. It is significant that COP27 is taking place on the African continent, where citizens in many countries are already disproportionately facing the effects of climate change.
What are the key issues to be discussed at COP27?
The main outcomes of COP26 in Glasgow were that all countries committed to continue with the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and agreed that climate action needs to be scaled, fast1. COP27 is about implementation, essentially exactly how countries are going to meet Paris Agreement targets2. This is centered around five key issues:
- Shifting from making pledges to actually accelerating and implementing the measures that came out of COP26.
- Delivering on adaptation in the face of climate change, especially for the most vulnerable communities.
- Action to clarify support for loss and damage from climate change-related events, like extreme weather events and drought.
- Implementing new strategies and mindsets to make finances flows a reality for developing countries.
- Ensuring a managed and just transition that meets the needs of all those impacted2.
One topical and complex issue that will likely be discussed at length concerns the use of coal. In Glasgow, a pact was made to significantly decrease the global use of coal, which is the fossil fuel with the highest carbon intensity1. Unfortunately, the current energy crisis has drastically mitigated the ability for the global community to meet this goal. The International Energy Agency has estimated the demand worldwide for coal is actually set to return to its all-time high in 20221.
So, why should you care about COP27?
At Zerofy, we firmly believe effective climate action can happen at the household level. This is why we empower our app users to get real-time and automated insight about their carbon footprint, and then make household swaps to low carbon energy and products. So, you may be wondering, why should we, or anyone else focusing on individual action, care about a global conference on climate change?
At COP27, governments report on and make plans related to their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Each country has a NDC that essentially is its plan for how it is going to meet their emissions reductions targets they agreed to. At COP27, countries will present their plans and report on the progress they have made since Glasgow. While these global discussions might at first seem abstract, what each country is doing and plans to do to work towards Paris Agreement goals affects citizens in every country.
At an individual household level, how your country is approaching its emissions reductions commitments can have tangible effects for you because it can result in new or amended policies. These policies can range from funding for more renewables, subsidies that support decarbonisation, and stricter regulations and taxes on the biggest emitters. These can trickle down and affect you at a household level. Think things like subsidies for installing a heat pump, grants for installing residential solar, timelines for phasing out internal combustion engines, or investment in renewables that increases how green your electricity is. If you’ve been considering making low-carbon household swaps, or adding more, the roadmap your country has for meeting goals could affect these intentions.
You can learn more about COP27 and access documentation related to each scheduled session here.