What is the UN climate conference COP27 about and why is it important?

London — The scientific community and the majority of the world’s political leaders agree that climate change is one of the greatest threats to life on this planet, and the impacts are already seen and felt around the world in the form of droughts, more frequent and severe storms, widespread flooding, heat waves and wildfires.

While there is no doubt that the problem can only be solved through international cooperation, it can be difficult to keep up with global efforts to get there. Every year there is a major global event that seeks to put everything in one place.

Below is a breakdown of what to expect from the biggest international climate conference, COP27, ahead of its launch this weekend in Egypt.

What is a “COP”?

COP stands for “Conference of the Parties”. This happens every year, and this is the 27th time he has been summoned. It is a meeting of governments that have signed the main global agreements on climate change: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol or the Paris Agreement.

The gathering is hosted by a different country each year, and this year it will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6-18. It will be an opportunity for signatory nations to discuss everything from the steps they are taking to adapt to the impacts of climate change, to financing climate action.

But this year’s gathering is also seen by many as a critical test of whether the global community can or will do enough to prevent worst predicted outcomes of climate change.

A critical test for climate action

As part of the historic 2015 Paris Agreement, the first legally binding international treaty on climate change, 194 countries pledged to limit the increase in the global average temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius – and ideally below 1.5 degrees Celsius – compared to pre-industrial levels.

Under the treaty, each country decides for itself how much it will reduce its emissions each year to meet this target. Every five years, these objectives are revised and made more ambitious; this is called a “ratchet mechanism”.

COP26which took place in Glasgow in 2021, was the first test of the ratchet mechanism, and the results weren’t promising. The targets submitted by governments for this conference were insufficient to limit global warming to desired levels. Countries were therefore invited to revise their targets before COP27.

According to a UN report released in October, just weeks before COP27, the policies now in place put the world on track for a warming of 2.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and there is currently “no credible way” to the objective of limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“We are still far from the scale and pace of emission reductions needed to put us on track towards a 1.5 degree Celsius world,” said Simon Stiell, executive secretary of UN Climate Change, in October. “To keep this goal alive, national governments must strengthen their climate action plans now and implement them over the next eight years.”

Who is going to COP27?

President Biden, alongside US climate envoy John Kerry, will attend the conference, along with at least 90 other heads of state.

Britain’s King Charles III, who devoted great attention to environmental causes before inheriting the throne, will not attend, Buckingham Palace has confirmed. Britain’s new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak initially said he would not be able to attend due to the financial crisis in his country, but it was reported he was reconsidering after he was appeared that Boris Johnson, the former Prime Minister, could leave.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg has said she will not be attending the conference this year, calling the global summit a “greenwash” forum.

“As things stand, COPs don’t really work, unless of course we use them as an opportunity to mobilize,” Thunberg said.

Thunberg said on Monday that she also believed space for activists at the conference was limited and that she wanted to make room for other activists to attend.

“Commitments to net zero are worth zero without the plans, policies and actions to support it,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said ahead of the conference. “Our world can no longer afford greenwashing, bogus movers or laggards. We must close the emissions gap before climate catastrophe closes in on us all.”

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