From nearly 150 mm of rainfall in one day to 40.3°C heat, the UK has already been subjected to the effects of climate change in 2022. Heatwaves have scarred the soil surface; droughts have caused water poverty and hosepipe bans; wildfires have devastated farmland, and storms have induced flooding. With all of this occurring within the last month in the UK alone, greater climate commitments are critical.
COP27 provides the platform to achieve these negotiations and curb emissions, invest in a more sustainable future, and ensure that the cataclysmic predictions for life on a 2°C planet are not endured.
However, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and growing tensions between the US and China, the 27th United Nations Climate Change conference may be shrouded by threats to international peace.
What is COP27?
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has held annual meetings whereby world leaders get together and discuss ways to tackle climate change. By providing a stage for these vital conferences, countries are committed to keeping the mean global temperature well below 2°C by virtue of the Paris Agreement.
Most pledges made at COPs are not legally binding, working by means of political pressure and accountability. However, there are cases of countries being sued for inaction, further encouraging decisive measures.
The upcoming addition to this string of discussions is COP27. It is scheduled to take place later this year, between 6th to 18th November, and will be hosted in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The country is set to host on behalf of Africa, helping to promote climate adaptation and mitigation in the continent.
Nearly 200 countries attended COP26, but with absentees at the last conference, intensifying global instability, and controversy regarding the host nation, time will tell how many actually send representatives.
What was agreed upon at COP26?
While two of the largest emitters, China and India, softened their commitments at the end of COP26, there were a few encouraging announcements. Firstly, over 120 countries, representing 90% of the world’s forests, pledged to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.
Additionally, there was a vow by more than 100 countries to cut methane emissions by the end of the decade. Coal was agreed to be phased out by more than 40 countries, and nearly 500 finance firms together committed $130 trillion towards the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Finance Day is the pinnacle of COP27. It will address green finance, implementation of climate action, and increasing commitments. Egypt’s finance minister has said that green finance will be the focus, and with Egypt as the host of an African COP, we can expect funding initiatives in Africa to be at the heart of the discussion.
Poorer countries will need help committing to climate action, and green finance from richer countries is the way forward in achieving a global reduction in emissions. However, the nature of this funding needs to be discussed and agreed upon, as loaning money with the same interest rate as traditional finance will disincentivise investment.
However, with COP15 also around the corner, which will directly address biodiversity, COP27 will emphasize tackling climate change. Nonetheless, due to the intrinsic relationship between climate change and biodiversity, COP27 will still see biodiversity loss, albeit to a lesser degree.
What would we like to see as conservationists?
COP27 is seen by many as the last chance to curtail emissions before the Paris Agreement is broken. The question now is: what should be done to address the biodiversity crisis?
Firstly, and most importantly, countries must agree to end practices that degrade ecosystems both on land and in the ocean. One simple example is a decrease in emissions by 5.8 gigatonnes of CO2e each year purely by reducing deforestation. Additionally, encouraging sustainable agricultural and forestry practices, similar to the successes seen in Zambia or as an uptake in silvopasture, could be influential at COP27.
Similarly, protecting coral reefs is vital to ensuring the safety of many marine species. Funding initiatives that build artificial reefs, coral nurseries, or remove ghost nets, will be a major step to achieving this. One such project is offered by WorkingAbroad in Thailand (more details can be found here).
However, we can do better than simply reducing environmental harm. Restoring and regenerating land, as well as expanding protected areas, is paramount in reversing the human impact on biodiversity. Scotland has even shown that the land used for an onshore wind farm can also house the regeneration of peatlands.