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What you need to know
- The 27th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 27) concluded over the weekend.
- COP 27 was held in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El Sheikh.
- It had been labelled the “implementation COP” for many of the points agreed during the Paris agreement.
- It was also dubbed “Africa’s COP” and boasted a record number of African attendees.
- COP 27 was the second highest attended COP in history after last year’s COP 26 in Glasgow.
- 33,449 participants from 196 countries including 90 heads of state attended the conference.
- The gender split of attendees was 63% male to 37% female.
- Attendees included a mix of government, science, NGO, business, lobbying, activist, and media representatives.
- 82 delegates attended from Australia, the 64th most of the 196 attending countries.
- Prime Minister Anthony Albanese did not attend.
- The key achievement from the meeting is the agreement from developed countries to establish a fund to assist developing countries with the effects of climate change.
- The conference also included an agreement on methane reduction, criticism of greenwashing, and setbacks in the ongoing battle to phase out fossil fuels.
What is COP
- COP stands for Conference of the Parties.
- The COP meeting is the annual meeting of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
- The UNFCCC was established in 1992 to combat “dangerous human interference with the climate system”.
- The UNFCCC is responsible for the signing of the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement.
- 195 states are now signatories to the Paris Agreement; it acts as the guiding principle for COP meetings now.
- Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Libya, and Yemen have not ratified the Paris agreement.
- COP27 is the 27th meeting of the now 198 parties to the UNFCCC.
Key announcements from COP 27
Developing countries climate fund
- Developed countries have come to an in-principle agreement to establish a fund for developing nations to assist in dealing with the effects of climate change.
- The landmark agreement is the first time developed countries have agreed to compensate developing countries for “loss and damage”.
- Developed countries, especially the European Union have long resisted such a fund.
- Many developing countries have felt aggrieved that they bear the brunt of many of the impacts of climate change despite developed countries being disproportionately large carbon emitters. For example, the US state of Wyoming emits 95 times the amount of Co2 as Kenya despite having a 100 times smaller population.
- No details have been finalised yet on who should finance the fund and to what extent.
US & China cooperation
- US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia (taking place at the same time as COP 27), they agreed to resume US/China cooperation on matters of climate change.
- The UN Net-Zero Expert group delivered their long awaited report on greenwashing. It was highly critical of corporations, calling for more accountability.
- Some of the recommendations included; companies cannot claim to be net-zero if they continue to invest in new fossil fuel infrastructure or deforestation, supply chain emissions should be included in net zero calculations, and 80% of global emissions are covered by pledges that commit to reaching net-zero. As such, accountability is necessary to ensure the achievement of these goals.
- The report was scathing against corporations using net-zero as a public relations exercise, claiming that many promises by companies, banks, and cities to achieve net zero emissions amount to little more than greenwashing.
- 150 countries have now signed a pact to reduce global methane emission by 30 percent by the end of the decade. More than 50 countries joined this pact at COP27.
- Reducing methane emissions is seen as one of the most effective ways to limit temperature increases to 1.5C.
- The final text of COP27 included a line that encouraged the boosting of “low-emission and renewable energy”, while not specific on what “low emission” means, it is speculated that this will open the door to natural gas developments. Natural gas has significantly lower emissions than coal. Some believe this is a major loophole.
- A number of African countries with large gas reserves came to COP27 hoping to gain more support for gas.
- Some developing countries and advocates had called for urgent reform to the World Bank, claiming the institution is not doing enough to assist developing countries with the impact of climate change.
- Criticism has been levelled at David Malpass, the Trump appointed President of the World Bank. Al Gore, former United States Vice-President and climate advocate called for Malpass’ removal, claiming that he “has been a climate denier for quite a long time. He ran for Congress as a climate denier. He’s made multiple statements over the years making it clear that he just has serious doubts that the climate crisis is real.”
- The Paris agreement included a goal to keep “pursuing efforts” to keep global temperature increases to 1.5C on pre-industrial levels.
- Some countries unsuccessfully attempted to remove this goal at COP27.
- However, they were successful in removing a resolution for emissions to peak in 2025.
- India and the European Union had pushed for the inclusion of a line demanding the phasing out of “all fossil fuels”, this was unsuccessful.
- Attendees claimed there was a large number of fossil fuel lobbyists in attendance. 636 attendees from the oil and gas industry were part of country delegations.
- The battle to phase out all fossil fuels will be ongoing.
World leader statements
“There can be no effective climate policy without the peace. There are still many for whom climate change is just rhetoric or marketing. But not real action. They are the ones who start wars of aggression when the planet cannot afford a single gunshot because it needs global joint action.”
- Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine
“Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”
- António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations
“The global fossil fuel crisis must be a game-changer. So let us not take the ‘highway to hell’ but let’s earn the clean ticket to heaven.”
- Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
“The climate crisis is about human security, economic security, environmental security, national security and the very life of the planet.”
- Joe Biden, President of the United States
“For them, for the Pacific family, for our farmers paying the price of climate change, for the Australians facing ever increasing risk of flood and bushfire. For everyone around the world facing natural disasters that are increasingly unnatural, Australia is acting,”
- Chris Bowen, Minister for Climate Change and Energy
“There is not an obligation on China [to support a developing countries fund] but we are willing to make our contribution … China has already been doing that, [providing] help to other developing countries. Our attitude [to loss and damage] is very supportive and understanding,”
- Xie Zhenhua, China’s Climate Envoy
33,449 participants from 196 countries including 90 heads of state.
Notable attendees included:
- United States President Joe Biden
- British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
- Australian Minister for Energy and Climate Change Chris Bowen
- Australian billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest
- European Union President Ursula Von Der Leyen
- United States Climate Envoy John Kerry
- Egyptian Foreign Minister and COP 27 President Sameh Shoukry
- UN Secretary-General Antóio Guterres
- World Bank President David Malpass
- Chinese Climate Envoy Xie Zhenhau
Who did not attend
Notable absentees included:
- Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
- Chinese President Xi Jinping
- Russian President Vladimir Putin
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
- British King Charles
- The next COP conference is scheduled to take place in the United Arab Emirates in November 2023. It will be hosted at Dubai Expo City.
- There have been reports that Australia is preparing a bid for the 2024 COP29 conference, potentially as a joint bid with a yet to be determined Pacific Island.
- Australia’s bid is not without its complications. Hosting duties are determined on a rotational basis between five groups of nations. Australia belongs to the Western European and Other States Group (Weog). The Weog is not scheduled to host a COP until 2026, and even then Australia would be competing against Germany and Switzerland.
- There is a possibility that Australia is able to negotiate with the Eastern European group (the chair in 2024) to relinquish hosting rights.
- Labor had made a pre-2022 election promise that it would host a COP conference in Australia.
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