What is COP?
The Conference of the Parties or COP is the banner under which countries convene to negotiate and evaluate the progress of the adopted international treaties for climate change. It is hosted in a different country each year.
- The first treaty backed by the countries was the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1922. Its main aim was to prevent “dangerous” human interference with the climate system and set out the basic legal framework and principles for international climate change cooperation.
- The second treaty was the Kyoto Protocol, established in 1997. It prioritised the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions based on the belief that responsibilities towards this were common but differentiated. It recognised that countries with higher levels of economic development should take greater responsibility to reduce emissions that resulted from their development.
- The third and most recent treaty is the 2015 Paris Agreement. It covers climate change mitigation, adaptation, and financing and aims to limit the rise in temperatures to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
As we can see here and from other forums about climate change, they started by exploring the fundamental questions: Why are we here? And Who is responsible? But once those were answered, the two important questions became: What does it mean? and What can we do to change course?
With more extreme weather events happening more often, this last question has taken center stage.
Current Pillars of Climate Action
- Mitigation- by doing things like replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, utilising circular economies where there is less production and more reuse and repurposing of existing materials, or developing electrified public transport systems, countries can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to stabilise the climate.
- Adaptation- setting up interventions to support climate resilience and reduce vulnerability. Such activities include livelihood diversification (not dependent on the environment), seasonal climate forecasting, community-based disaster risk reduction, famine early warning systems, building resilient infrastructure, and initiatives to improve food security and support for biodiversity.
- Loss and Damage- one of the least prioritised areas refer to “the economic and non-economic damages associated with slow onset events and extreme weather events caused by global warming and the tools and institutions that identify and mitigate such risks.” It facilitates pre-emptive action to protect communities through activities such as risk management support and finance.
These pillars provide the foundation for the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Egypt from the 6th to the 18th of November 2022.
COP27: ‘Delivering for people and the planet’
A report published by UN Climate Change shows that whilst countries are bending the curve of global greenhouse gas emissions downward, efforts remain insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Furthermore, since COP26 in Glasgow, only 29 out of 194 countries have presented tightened national plans.
The significant issues for COP27, according to the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, will therefore be:
- A transformational shift to implement the Paris Agreement and create concrete actions.
- Cementing progress on the critical pillars of mitigation, adaptation, finance, and loss and damage, while substantially increasing finance to tackle the impacts of climate change.
- Enhancing transparent and accountable delivery throughout the UN Climate Change process.
Placing human needs at the heart of our global efforts, the COP27 Presidency will host a series of events in thematic days to highlight practical solutions to climate change. They will also explore how to turn climate pledges into climate action in pursuit of net-zero emissions, enhanced resilience for the most vulnerable, and aligning financial flows with these goals.
At the opening ceremony, Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and COP27 President said, “We’re gathering this year at a time when global climate action is at a watershed moment. Multilateralism is being challenged by geopolitics, spiralling prices, and growing financial crises, while several countries battered by the pandemic have barely recovered, and severe and depleting climate change-induced disasters are becoming more frequent.”
So, where does Africa fall in all this? Find out in the next COP27 breakdown.