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COP27 opens with focus to deliver on Paris Agreement promises

The 27th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Climate Framework Convention of Climate (UNFCCC) opened on Sunday, November 6, 2022, in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, with the key aim of ensuring full implementation of the Paris Agreement.

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell, speaks during the COP27 opening plenary in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Photo credit: UN Climate Change

Discussions at COP27 begin near the end of a year that has seen devastating floods and unprecedented heat waves, severe droughts and formidable storms, all unequivocal signs of the unfolding climate emergency. At the same time, millions of people throughout the world are confronting the impacts of simultaneous crises in energy, food, water and cost of living, aggravated by severe geopolitical conflicts and tensions. In this adverse context, some countries have begun to stall or reverse climate policies and doubled down on fossil fuel use.

COP27 is also taking place against the backdrop of inadequate ambition to curb greenhouse gas emissions. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, CO2 emissions need to be cut 45% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels to meet the central Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. This is crucial to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, including more frequent and severe droughts, heatwaves and rainfall.

report published by UN Climate Change ahead of COP27 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.

Since COP26 in Glasgow, only 29 out of 194 countries came forward with tightened national plans.

“With the Paris Rulebook essentially concluded thanks to COP26 in Glasgow last year, the litmus test of this and every future COP is how far deliberations are accompanied by action. Everybody, every single day, everywhere in the world, needs to do everything they possibly can to avert the climate crisis,” said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell.

“COP27 sets out a new direction for a new era of implementation: where outcomes from the formal and informal process truly begin to come together to drive greater climate progress – and accountability for that progress,” added Mr. Stiell.

In his opening address, the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary asked governments to focus on three critical areas at COP27. The first is a transformational shift to implementation of the Paris Agreement and putting negotiations into concrete actions.

The second is cementing progress on the critical workstreams of mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage, while stepping up finance notably to tackle the impacts of climate change.

The third is enhancing the delivery of the principles of transparency and accountability throughout the UN Climate Change process.

COP27 Presidency vision based on human needs

The Egyptian COP27 Presidency has set out an ambitious vision for the COP that puts human needs at the heart of our global efforts to address climate change. The Presidency intends to focus the world’s attention on key elements that address some of the most fundamental needs of people everywhere, including water security, food security, health and energy security.

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, spiraling 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.

“COP27 creates a unique opportunity in 2022 for the world to unite, to make multilateralism work by restoring trust and coming together at the highest levels to increase our ambition and action in fighting climate change. COP27 must be remembered as the ‘Implementation COP’ – the one where we restore the grand bargain that is at the centre of the Paris Agreement.”

Highlights of COP27

Following a procedural opening on Sunday, to enable work to begin quickly, Monday and Tuesday will be the World Leaders Summit with the presence of Royalty and more than 100 Heads of State or Government.

The World Leaders Summit provides all Heads of State or Government with the opportunity to set the stage for COP27. The two days will include the Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Implementation Summit and will feature important High-Level Side Events.

Other Key Events

A number of key Ministerial and other events around current climate change efforts will take place during the COP. These include a first ministerial round table on pre-2030 ambition and continued discussions on the global stocktake – a process for countries and stakeholders to see where they’re collectively making progress towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement – and where they’re not.

These discussions got underway at the Bonn Climate Change Conference in June 2022 and will pick up where they left off at COP27. 

Together, all events provide Ministers and participants with a space to have frank and open discussions on progress made to date.

A High-Level Segment mostly attended by Ministers will take place in the second week of the COP, from November 15 to 18.

Global Climate Action

Climate Action undertaken by a diversity of stakeholders working to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement will be showcased throughout COP27.

The COP27 Presidency will host a series of events in thematic days from November 9 to 17, which will highlight practical solutions to the challenge of climate change and explore approaches to immediately scale up the implementation of these solutions in key sectors with all stakeholders.

Under the guidance of two high-level climate Champions, Nigel Topping (UK) and Mahmoud Mohieldin (Egypt) progress, plans and targets for a range of sectors and initiatives will be presented in dozens of events in the Climate Action Zone in COP.

These events will focus on the overarching theme of turning climate pledges into climate action in pursuit of net-zero emissions, enhanced resilience for the most vulnerable, and aligning financial flows with these goals.

In addition, UNFCCC supported sectoral initiatives in sectors such as sports, fashion, tourism, events and aviation and will announce higher ambition and increased collaboration to align these sectors with the 1.5-degree Celsius target of the Paris Agreement.

In a related development, Egypt Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, was formally elected as the COP27 President by the Parties during the opening plenary, following which he called on countries to show faith in multilateralism over the next two weeks as they negotiate to deliver on the goals of the Climate Convention and the Paris Agreement.

Addressing climate envoys and delegates at what is considered to be one of the largest COPs ever in terms of attendance, Shoukry said: “It comes as no surprise to anyone that the COP is being held this year in a world which is witnessing political turmoil that cast a long shadow on all our nations and has resulted in energy and food crises; however these challenges should be no reason for delaying our collective effort to fight climate change. It is inherent on us all in Sharm El Sheikh to demonstrate our recognition of the magnitude of the challenges we face and our steadfast resolve to overcome it.”

Minister Shoukry highlighted that Egypt made sure that COP27 will provide the optimum setting to align and converge multiple views, and facilitate transparent, inclusive, and fruitful discussion to ensure the most positive outcome achievable. He stressed that albeit the challenging economic and geopolitical factors, external circumstances should not be allowed to negatively affect the negotiating process, adding that as a COP hosted in Africa, it must consider the needs of the developing countries and ensure climate justice through availing the appropriate finance and other means of implementation, as countries that are the least responsible for emissions are the most affected by climate change.

The new COP President acknowledged the tireless efforts of his predecessor, COP26 President Alok Sharma, and thanked Mr. Sharma and his team for their effort and dedication with everything they achieved in hosting COP26 and commended the outcomes and agreements their work helped to secure, reiterating the commitment of the Egyptian Presidency to deliver on an impactful and inclusive COP.

The conference of the parties adopted its agenda, and for the first time since the adoption of the UN climate convention, parties agreed to introduce loss and damage funding as an agenda item at the climate conference, after a yearlong work culminating in 48 hours of continuous informal consultations led by the Egyptian COP Presidency on the eve of the COP.

Shoukry lauded the sense of responsibility and commitment that parties showed, as well as the collective keenness on preserving the credibility and relevance of the climate process by making the right decision that responds to the suffering of millions of climate calamities’ victims around the world.

More than 50,000 attendees are registered and expected to participate at COP27’s Blue Zone and thousands of others at the Green Zone. The Egyptian Presidency has designated several key thematic days that will include pledging opportunities, discussions, roundtables, and side events. The thematic days are part of efforts to advance climate action that can address existing implementation bottlenecks and gaps and deepen engagement with youth, women, civil society and indigenous people.

The Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Implementation Summit will start on Monday, November 7, and runs for two days, bringing all participating heads of state and government. Following the summit’s inauguration, several roundtables led and attended by tens of world leaders will be held to focus on six key topics: Just Transitions, Food Security, Innovative Finance for Climate and Development, Investing in the Future of Energy, Water Security, and Climate Change and The Sustainability of Vulnerable Communities.

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