The pitfalls of COP26 – can COP27 actually put us back on track?

For almost three decades, UN member states have attended annual climate summits - ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP). COP is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Convention on Climat


For almost three decades, UN member states have attended annual climate summits - ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP). COP is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and measures each countries contribution to wider climate change targets. COP26 (November 2021) was the most recent iteration in the series, COP27 is due to take place on the 7th-18th November 2022.

The failures of COP26

Despite the positive attention COP26 received, several short fallings have since been identified:

  • Key commitments such as limiting the use of domestic coal fossil fuel financing have been hindered by the war in Ukraine’s impact on the global energy landscape
  • Nations committed to reviewing their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) submit new plans by September 2022 and align closer to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s requests - however, 173 countries out of 193 have not submitted an update, read the CAT Climate Target Update Tracker to find out more
  • COP26 did not manage to secure the $100 billion per year in climate finance by 2020 as promised at COP15 (2009) in Copenhagen, instead delaying the finance to 2023

This not only fails to urgently provide resources to countries most vulnerable to climate change, but also logically raises the question as to whether similar long-term commitments made at COP26 will be delivered on time.

Has COP27 been lined up for similar events?

With less than a month until COP27, reports are suggesting that the short fallings of COP26 are at risk of remerging and becoming a common theme.

Positioned amid a cost-of-living crisis, governments across the world have fallen short with their progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UK Government’s decision to remove the green levy on gas bills in efforts to lessen the burden of rising costs is a prime example.

The potential to drive the ESG agenda forward lies in the hands of the countries attending. Where most have already pushed ESG into the backseat, tangible change from COP27 won’t be made unless current economic pressures alleviate.

COP27’s potential to drive change has also been dismissed by many, including advisors to the White House and UK MPs, due to its location – Sharm-El-Sheik, Egypt. Questionable environmental policies can discredit the hosts for having limited social standards. If Egypt, as the host, is notoriously known for not driving the ESG agenda forward itself, the incentive for other countries to continue this progress will certainly diminish.

The choice in sponsorship has also been criticised. Break Free Plastic have claimed that “Coca-Cola sponsoring the COP27 is ‘greenwash’. As the world’s top polluter of plastic, this message could become conflicting to the wider audience?

Is there anything that will set COP27 apart from last year?

Whilst COP26 was characterised by under delivery, the Egyptian presidency is emphasising the importance of implementation at this year's COP. In particular, there will be a significant scaling up of financial support in order to help the most vulnerable countries mitigate against and adapt to climate change.

Egypt may be a controversial host, yet positives still lie in the broader significance of an African-hosted COP. Six out of the previous ten COPs have been held in Europe - so this year’s North African COP should serve to platform the needs of emerging markets and globalise the transition to net zero.

Climate finance and climate justice are expected to be at the top of the agenda, with developing countries seeking the official creation of a Loss and Damage facility at COP27. The finance facility would likely come in the form of a fund, with hopes that the wealthiest nations will take financial responsibility for climate destruction as a result of industrial action.

Whilst resistance from Europe and the US is expected, the lack of progress regarding Loss and Damage at COP26 means that developing countries are especially determined to push the issue forward this year.

As Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has said that “COP27 is an opportunity to showcase unity against an existential threat that we can only overcome through concerted action and effective implementation.” Read the full statement here.

How DC can help?

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