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COP27 looking to deliver the promises of Paris


View of packed audience listing to COP27 address from podium and shown on two large TV screens Photo: UN Climate Change
UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell speaking at the opening session of COP27

Photo: UN Climate Change

The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 opened in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on 6 November 2022 with the key aim of ensuring full implementation of the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by the end of this century.

Three days in and the scene has been set by UN Secretary General António Guterres, suggesting that the world is on a ‘highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator'.


Discussions at COP27 began 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 (GHG) emissions. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), CO2 emissions need to be cut by 45% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels to meet the Paris Agreement goal. Indeed, a report published in late October 2022 by UN Climate Change, shortly before COP27, shows that whilst countries are bending the curve of global GHG emissions downward, efforts remain insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C  by the end of the century.


Since COP26 in Glasgow, only 29 out of 194 countries are reported to have come forward with tightened national plans.


In his opening address, the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell asked governments to focus on three critical areas at COP27:

  • A transformational shift to implementation of the Paris Agreement and putting negotiations into concrete actions.
  • 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.
  • Enhancing the delivery of the principles of transparency and accountability throughout the UN Climate Change process.


Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and COP27 President, added: ‘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.’


Indeed, the opening day of the conference set a positive note after developing nations successfully lobbied to have discussion of ‘loss and damage’ caused by climate change specifically added to the agenda for the first time ever.


The scale of the investment needed was indicated in early November, following publication of the UN’s Adaptation Gap report, which says developing countries need $160–340bn/y by 2030 and $315–$565bn/y by 2050 to adapt to climate change, some 5–10 times current levels of funding.


Noting that progress on cutting GHG emissions had been woefully inadequate since COP26 in Glasgow last year, UN Secretary General António Guterres issued a stark warning to COP27 delegates, stating: ‘We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator’ and calling on world leaders to ‘co-operate or perish’.


Guterres also added that ‘loss and damage’ could ‘no longer be swept under the rug’. Calling for ‘universal early warning systems coverage within five years’, he stated that all governments should tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies, redirecting that money ‘to people struggling with rising food and energy prices and to countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis’.


Guterres went on to say that COP27 must agree on a clear, time-bound road map ‘reflective of the scale and urgency of the challenge’, and that must ‘deliver effective institutional arrangements for financing’. He said: ‘The good news is that we know what to do and we have the financial and technological tools to get the job done. It is time for nations to come together for implementation. It is time for international solidarity across the board.’


However, despite such calls for ‘international solidarity’, several key world leaders are not attending COP27, including President Xi Jinping of China, the world’s largest emitter, and Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, whose emissions are expected to grow sharply alongside its economy.


Unsurprisingly, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, whose war on Ukraine is heavily financed by fossil fuel revenues, is also not attending the event. The war was addressed by some world leaders in their speeches, with French President Emmanuel Macron, stating that it shouldn’t change commitments on climate. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak added that investing in green infrastructure was ‘morally the right thing to do’ and that Russia's invasion of Ukraine was a ‘critical moment’ and should prompt developing countries to ‘go faster’ on delivering clean energy.