November 07, 2022
By Peddy Hashemi
By Peddy Hashemi

Here are the five key themes to keep an eye on.

As world leaders gather in Sharm-El-Sheik, Egypt, for the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), they can at least console themselves that the weather will be better than its last meeting in rainy Glasgow.

Otherwise, it’s a gloomy picture greeting delegates.

On the geopolitical front, there is little prospect for an end any time soon to the Russia-Ukraine war and the energy crisis that’s come with it. The ongoing protests against the Iranian regime also show no signs of slowing down.

The macroeconomic environment is similarly unforgiving, with persistently high inflation and the cost of living soaring across the developed world. Alongside increasing interest rates, businesses and communities alike are feeling the squeeze.

Taking place amid this complex web of interlocking challenges, COP27 will be an important indicator of how much global leaders, governments and corporates are keeping climate action as a priority in relation to all the other problems they face.

We have identified five key themes to focus on as the conference proceeds:

1: The year of the implementation COP

The host of this year’s conference, President Sisi of Egypt, made it clear in his welcoming message that he expects COP27 to focus on implementing commitments and fulfilling pledges. This contrasts with last year’s conference where the focus was on climate ambitions.

The key focus of this will be the efforts by delegates to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions). Agreed in Glasgow last year, these are something many campaigners have been pressuring for [1].

This will run in parallel with the first annual high-level ministerial round table. This will be where key decisions on the scaling up of the Mitigation Work Programme (MWP) are agreed. This broad-based Programme was created to facilitate collaboration and investment between countries. The MWP focuses on climate-critical initiatives and technology development, as well as providing a forum for contributions by the private sector.

Some campaigners are calling for reports from the MWP to feed into the ministerial round tables, an example of the drive to link up COP’s disparate elements to speed up delivery.

2: Increased focus on climate finance

Financing for climate mitigation and adaptation has been a thorny topic for years.

At COP15 back in 2009, developed countries committed to providing an annual $100 billion for developing countries. Thirteen years later and the target is still being missed. One of the goals set by the Egyptian Presidency for COP27 is to address this.

This initial commitment of $100 billion is set to run until 2025. This year’s delegates will negotiate a collective qualified goal on climate finance (NCQC) for the years that follow. It’s a safe bet that the figure they arrive at will be higher than the one negotiated in 2009.

One key variable is the proportion of the money that goes towards mitigation and adaptation; previously, the political aspiration was 50/50, with the most vulnerable countries receiving priority. Yet, at COP26 developed countries were urged to at least double their adaptation financing from 2019 levels by 2025.

However, campaigners argue that current pledges are less than half what is needed [2]; finding ways to bridge that gap will be a key issue at COP27.

3: Development of the Santiago Network on loss and damage

COP26 saw the establishment of the Santiago Network. This initiative is to create a forum for the encouragement of developed countries to provide tools, support and technical assistance to developing countries, many of whom are already undergoing the adverse impacts of climate change.

Established last year, the network has not yet come fully online. With many key pillars still to be confirmed, including governance structures, processes, operational structure and – most critically – funding. One of COP27’s goals is to establish the scope of this network and how it will be operationalized.

The creation of a loss and damage fund is a priority for many developing nations. A coordinated group of 77 countries requested that this be added to the agenda for the first day of talks. Any concrete action will require a consensus on how to move forward, however.

4: The Global Stocktake (GST)

The GST was established by the Paris Agreement in 2015 and assesses global progress in mitigation, adaptation, and implementation of support for climate action. It’s an effort to help policymakers to evaluate success (or otherwise) on a broad range of indicators, including greenhouse gas emissions, the impact of NDCs, the mobilization of finance around climate goals, and many other factors.

At COP27 the first GST will be brought nearer to completion, with the collection and preparation of information and its technical assessment already underway. The final stage – consideration of outputs – is set for COP28 in the United Arab Emirates in late 2023.

The GST is set to be a priority under the Egyptian Presidency, given that many African countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change.

5: Famous faces, world leaders and no-shows

COP is now a major diplomatic media event, which means that who does and does not attend can be telling.

Initially, the new British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, bowed out of attending, claiming he was too busy preparing for his upcoming budget. He has since yielded to pressure from campaigners and will now make his way to Egypt alongside around 90 other heads of state and government.

French President Emmanuel Macron will convene a session on speeding up climate action in Africa – a key topic of the conference. Much interest will surely focus on the arrival of newly elected Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva.

One famous face who won’t be attending, however, is environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg, who has criticized the summit as a little more than a forum for “different kinds of greenwashing”.


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