Controversy around the host country and event sponsor
COP27 got off to a rocky start when it became publicly clear that this year's event would take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt and was sponsored by Coca Cola. While the Egyptian government is known for its human rights abuses (in particular political prisoners), Coca Cola is reported as the world's top plastic polluter. Before the start of official negotiations, this was already cause for debate and petitions called for Coca Cola to be removed as the official sponsor. One signficant story thoughout has been about the imprisoned British-Egyptian pro-democracy activist Alaa Abd el Fattah, whose sister has attended COP27 to call for her brother's release.
UN Secretary General António Guterres warns that we are on a "highway to climate hell" in his opening speech
Day 1 and 2 of COP27 were dedicated to the so-called "World Leader's Summit", the part of COP where political leaders make their opening speeches. Historically, this time sets the tone for the rest of the COP event. One of the speeches with the strongest tone was held by UN Secretary General, António Guterres.
Guterres explained that, very soon, our population will reach 8 billion (it has by now). He asks:
"How will we answer, when baby 8 billion is old enough to ask: what did you do for our world and our planet when you had the chance?"
And he voiced a warning reminder to all attendees:
"We are on a highway to climate hell, with our foot still on the accelerator."
Tuvalu and Vanuatu are the first countries to call for a treaty to end the use of fossil fuels
Tuvalu and Vanuatu - two island nations in the South Pacific who are among the most vulnerable to rising sea levels - are the first two countries to call for an international fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. Such a treaty would phase out the use of coal, oil and gas. As explained in the latest IPCC report, an end to fossil fuel usage is needed to stay within a 1.5°C rise of global temperatures. The main emitters so far are not supporting their call, however they have received support from the Vatican, the WHO and several city mayors, such as the mayor of London.
Note: do you want to learn more about common climate jargon, understand the significance of the 1.5°C goal and how to reach it? The environmental documentary streaming platform WaterBear has launched the mini-series "1.5 Degrees of Confusion", to help clear up all the climate complexity.
Activists and writers report of human rights concerns and overall negative conditions for protestors
Climate activists and reporters, such as Naomi Klein and Greta Thunberg, raised awareness for the human rights concerns around the event, as protesters are being arrested. At the event location, protest are forbidden in the conference centre and can only take place in an official protest area, which is reportedly far away from actual negotiations. According to one youth climate activist, Alexandra Villaseñor, many websites on-site are blocked, impacting their ability to operate.
20-year-old UN advisor Sophia Kianni is asking leaders to "stop lying" about their climate action
Another powerful speech came on day 4, from the young UN advisor Sophia Kianni:
"What language do we need to translate the climate data into, for you to take action? (...) I have to believe the only reason you are not taking climate action at the pace and scale required is because you do not have the information. Because if you did (...), and were only pretending to take action, that would be unforgivable. (...) that would be lying."
Kianni urged leaders:
"Start taking real action. And start right now."
Biden apologises for past actions of the US and makes promises for increased climate action, but misses one key point
On day 5 of COP27, the US President, Joe Biden, held his speech. Here, he voiced criticism about Russia, apologised for US' withdrawal from the Paris Agreement under previous US President Trump, and promised increased climate action from the US. In particular, under the Global Methane Pledge (launched at COP26), he promises to reduce US methane emissions by 87% by 2030.
However, there was one key thing that was left out. Biden voiced no clear support of a dedicated fund for those nations most vulnerable to climate change - in other words: no support for a dedicated fund for loss and damage.
The African Women's Climate Adaptive Priorities (AWCAP) initiative is launched
The focus of day 8 of COP27 was gender. Not only developing countries, but also women and girls are disproportionately affected by the negative effects of climate change. For this reason, a highlight of day 8 was the launch of the African Women's Climate Adaptive Priorities (AWCAP) initiative. This initiative focuses on increasing opportunities for women and girls in a just transition to a green economy, and promoting gender-sensitive perspectives in adaptation and mitigation.
Some loss and damage promises were made, but not nearly enough
New Zealand committed to provide $12 million USD of loss and damage funding to developing countries. Similarly, the G7, led by Germany, launched a 'Global Shield' initiative to provide $200 million to developing countries dealing with climate disasters. However, there are concern is that this could distract from the need for a formal loss and damage facility.
At COP15 in 2009, developed countries committed to deliver an annual $100bn of climate finance to climate-vulnerable developing countries by 2020. However, only $83bn were delivered in 2020 and it is not expected to reach $100bn until 2023. Now, it was reported that leaked draft texts seem to have even removed the mention of achieving the target by 2023.
Japan is considering supporting developing countries who experience loss and damage through funds to a World Bank framework, according to their environment minister. They are also planning to provide aid packages and assistance for introducing early warning systems for weather disasters in the Asia-Pacific region.
A UNFCCC published draft text says "Nations are split over whether to agree to a new fund". The draft explains countries will work out how to provide loss and damage funding over the next two years and that there are two possible results. Either funding plans are set by end of 2024, or the UN climate body's particular role in loss and damage funding will be decided on by 2023.
Indigenous Peoples are tirelessly fighting for their seat at the table
The UN recognises that Indigenous Peoples are among the most impactful solutions to stop the climate crisis. This includes their significant role in protecting our planet's biodiversity. While the indigenous community only have observer credentials at COP27, they are highlighting the importance of being involved in official negotiations from COP28 onwards. The community is also voicing their concerns about the fact that funding intended to support the indigenous in their climate action often does not reach them directly.
Indonesia is promised a support of $20bn for their move away from coal power
The US, Japan and other partner countries will provide $20bn to support Indonesia in shutting down their coal power plants. The climate finance transaction was named the Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) and will be financed by the public and private sectors equally. In line with the agreement, Indonesia has committed to peak the power sector emissions at 290m tonnes by 2030.
Promises to conserve the remaining tropical rainforests have been made
Some of the most significant countries in regards to rainforest protection - Brazil, Indonesia and Democratic Republic of Congo - have signed an alliance to conserve tropical rainforests in their countries. Brazil's newly elected President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has already made his intentions to protect the Amazon rainforest clear. However, the alliance was still signed by the current government of Jair Bolsonaro.
The Guardian and 30 other global news outlets release a joint editorial calling for action from world leaders on the climate crisis
On day 9 of COP27, the Guardian and 30 other news outlets from 20 different countries came together to take a stance. The editorial had the powerful title "This is no time for apathy or complacency" and, among other things, asked world leaders to tax major fossil fuel companies to help climate-vulnerable nations in their response to climate change.
Big fashion brands commit to increase their purchasing of low-impact fibers
The fashion giants H&M, Kering, Stella McCartney and Inditex, along with Ben & Jerry's and HH Global, committed to purchasing more than half a million metric tons of "next generation" fibers. These fibers, which include recycled fibers and agricultural waste, are labelled as low-carbon and low-footprint. The project is led by the forest nonprofit Canopy and is said to create important investments to scale up relevant businesses and technologies.
The GFA and UNEP are launching an initiative which will define targets for a net-positive fashion industry
The non-profit Global Fashion Agenda and the United Nations Environment Programme have announced that they will be launching a ‘Fashion Industry Target Consultation'. They aim to create concrete targets for a net-positive fashion industry (an industry with an overall positive impact). These targets will be based on topics such as respectful and secure work environments, better wage systems, resource stewardship, smart material choices and circular systems. A good step in the right direction!
The above are just some of the highlights of COP27, much more happened and not everything is decided just yet. If you would like to find out more, many sources brilliantly keep track of the events that are happening. The UNFCCC youtube channel lets you watch all COP27 side events and pavilion events, whereas sources such as the Carbon Brief and Ecologi update daily on the most notable happenings.