The 27th. United Nations Climate Change Conference, also called the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP27, was held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, between 6-18 November 2022, with the main objective of ensuring full implementation of the Paris Agreement. Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, parties meet regularly to advance the international framework to address climate change. The conference, which has been held annually since the first climate agreement of the United Nations in 1992, brings together countries of the world with the aim of discussing and agreeing on policies that help to limit global warming and deal with the effects associated with climate change. This, of course, requires decisive and concerted action at the international level.
The COP27 conference has come in a year that has witnessed many extreme weather events, including unprecedented heat waves, floods, severe droughts, and storms, all of which are signs and evidence of the climate emergency. At the same time, millions of people around the world are faced with the effects of simultaneous crises in energy, food, and water, as well as the rising cost of living, which have been further exacerbated by conflicts and severe geopolitical tensions. To add to this, some countries have stalled on climate policies or doubled down on the use of fossil fuels. Since COP26 in Glasgow, only 29 out of 194 countries have submitted robust national plans to tackle climate challenges.
A report published by the United Nations on climate change prior to COP27 noted that while countries are trending down the global greenhouse gas emissions curve, efforts remain insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C by the end of the century. Climate change is not just a future problem; the ramifications of climate change are already felt everywhere. Droughts have become more frequent and severe, and the losses and damages will worsen with each increase in global warming. Since COP26 in 2021, the effects have become more visible. Unprecedented monsoon rains have led to severe flooding in Pakistan this summer, negatively affecting 33 million people, killing nearly 1,500 people, and destroying more than 1.5 million homes and more than 1.2 million hectares of land in Sindh province. Undoubtedly, the devastating effects of climate change are exacerbated by the lack of investment in risk reduction and adaptation. For this reason, COP26 called for the parties to reconsider and strengthen their 2030 targets by the end of 2022. We have seen several reports stating that if we continue to implement the current targets, we will not be able to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. This underlines the importance of COP27 in reinforcing international dialogue and cooperation, and scaling up action to deal with the food, energy, and security crises, as well as to build resilience to climate impacts.
Financing issues and loss and damage funding
This year, for the first time, a proposal to address the issue of ‘loss and damage’ was included in the agenda of the Conference, which essentially entails developed, high-emissions countries providing financing to developing, low-emissions countries facing disasters due to climate change, and suffering huge losses and damages as a result. The issue of climate compensation and financing was a subject of intense debate, with discussions centering around innovative financing, equitable transformation financing, and the role of the private sector in mobilizing green investment resources. On the sidelines of the conference, 13 special sessions were held to discuss financing issues, ways to combat climate change, and the transition to a green economy, with a focus on reviewing measures to raise financing for climate mitigation and adaptation, especially in the field of water, food, and early warning systems. Proposals included financing development projects and risk management initiatives for clean energy projects in remote countries as well as creating partnership and investment opportunities between banks and the public and private sectors.
Rich countries, which have emitted half of all greenhouse gases, fear that compensating poor countries for climate disasters already underway could expose them to unlimited liability. While it is relatively easy to quantify damage related to the destruction of physical objects such as roads, bridges and buildings, it is difficult to quantify the economic impacts of lost working hours due to rising temperatures, the loss of agricultural revenue due to the loss of crops swept away by storms, or the loss of tourism revenue due to hurricanes and storms. Studies estimate that climate change will cost developing countries between $290 billion to $580 billion annually by 2030, and may rise to $1.7 trillion by 2050. A report issued by the COP27 organizing committee revealed that there is a need for one trillion dollars annually to counteract the negative effects of climate change. Since no country is immune to the risks of climate change, everyone needs to invest in adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Some countries will be more vulnerable than others, as they are more exposed to extreme weather events, more vulnerable to disasters, and have reduced adaptive capacity.
To this end, world leaders promised to increase climate finance and ensure that it supports the most vulnerable groups in adapting and preparing for these impacts. However, challenges remain in delivering funding for disaster risk reduction and adaptation to the most vulnerable countries and communities, and thus urgent action is required to ensure that these communities are prioritized and reached. This requires the collective efforts of all those involved in mobilizing, managing, and spending money to address climate risks. If the world fails to invest adequately in adaptation and disaster risk reduction, by 2050, 200 million people annually will need humanitarian assistance to survive due to climate and weather-related disasters.
A report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, identified 70 highly vulnerable countries. Of these countries, 37 faced humanitarian crises that were generally complex and protracted and 26 faced crises and challenges that lasted for at least five years. The results of the study indicated a clear pattern of mismatch between need and funding. It was noted that countries highly vulnerable to climate change received less than a quarter of per capita adaptation funding, compared to countries with low or very low vulnerabilities, and less than a thirtieth per capita funding for disaster risk reduction. Thirty-two countries, rated as either highly vulnerable or very highly vulnerable, each received less than one US dollar per person in funding for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Accordingly, it is necessary to identify priorities based on the most vulnerable groups and allocate funding based on risk and need.
Discussions to assess the current situation
The focus of this year’s conference was on climate negotiations to implement the Paris Agreement, which includes a work program to increase efforts toward mitigating and adapting to climate change, to provide support to developing countries, and to conduct the technical phase of the first global assessment process. The conference began with the World Leaders Summit and then proceeded with discussions on topics related to climate finance, carbon reduction, climate change adaptation, agriculture, and biodiversity. Some countries, such as India, sought to mobilize climate finance as well as motivate other countries to employ technology to combat climate change. Egypt’s COP27 presidency, on the other hand, set out its ambitious vision which puts human needs at the center of global efforts to address climate change.
Throughout the conference, attention was focused on key elements that address the basic needs of people everywhere including water security, food security, health, and energy security. In his opening remarks, Simon Stiell, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, stated that COP27 set a new direction for a new era of implementation. He stressed the need to shift towards implementing the Paris Agreement; put negotiations into concrete actions; drive progress in mitigation, adaptation, financing, and loss and damage; step up financing to address the damages of climate change; and apply the principles of transparency and accountability throughout the process.
During the conference, a full analysis of more than 100 projects presented in forums ahead of the conference were launched in addition to a review of the results of the five regional financial forums organized by the Egyptian Presidency of COP27 and the United Nations regional commissions, with the aim of advancing regional action and accelerating project financing in developing economies to promote the 2030 sustainable development goals. Parallel to the sessions of the Conference, several ministerial and other key events on current climate change efforts were organized and included a ministerial round table on “pre-2030 ambition”, which revolved around discussions on how to proceed towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement – a continuation of the discussions that took place at the Bonn Climate Change Conference held in June 2022.
Recent developments related to Russian’s war in Ukraine have affected climate action and the transition to low-emission energy systems, and has caused crises in energy markets, supply chains, and food security. In many countries, coal will replace gas as a fuel in the short term, which will increase greenhouse gas emissions. However, many economies, notably those of Europe, are aiming to make their energy systems more sustainable and less dependent on imports of fossil fuels from Russia.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted climate change action as a result of budgetary shortfalls. Climate spending was drastically cut due to reductions in government revenue and the need to redirect resources toward health and social services to cope with the pandemic. Nevertheless, the shutdowns during 2020 resulted in a modest drop in global greenhouse gas emissions of about 5% – though these emissions again reached record levels in 2021.
Climate challenges in Africa
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading international scientific body on climate change, has stated that the world is now in a high-risk zone. Every small delay in proportionate action on mitigating and adapting to climate change is a step closer to irreversible damage to the climate and its ability to meet human needs. In a report published in October 2021, the agency noted that Africa is the continent most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, although it is responsible for less than 4% of emissions, compared to China (27%), the European Union (17%) and the United States (15%). It is estimated that more than 100 million Africans will be threatened by global warming between now and 2030.
A study conducted by Christian Aid indicated that the continued use of fossil fuels at the current rate will have a significant impact on the economies of African countries. It is projected that African countries will face a 64% drop in GDP by the end of the year 2100, even if the world succeeds in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The study showed that the average damage to GDP per capita could be as high as 34%, while the impact on the GDP growth rate could decrease by 20% in by 2050. GDP growth is expected to decline by 75% for eight countries, Sudan, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, and Nigeria.
Organizing a summit in an African country may bring more clarity to the climate needs of African countries and the urgency to compensate developing countries for the catastrophic consequences they are suffering due to climate change. To this end, in 2021, the Netherlands hosted an online Climate Adaptation Summit, which convened world leaders and local stakeholders to discuss ways to accelerate adaptation to climate change in Africa. This came at a time when the leaders of African countries stressed that their countries did not have the necessary resources and would not be able to bear the costs of the damages caused to them or be able to mitigate disasters or adapt to climate change. In contrast, when Germany was hit by floods in 2021, for example, the government immediately pumped 30 billion euros into rebuilding the infrastructure destroyed by the floods, while Mozambique had to borrow from the International Monetary Fund to be able to pay for the damages caused by Cyclone Idai in 2019, forcing the country further into debt distress.
There is little hope for many African countries to survive the next few decades without the funds to recover from climate catastrophes. Therefore, it is the responsibility of rich countries to reduce global emissions and assist poor countries and those most affected by climate change. This calls for tangible progress in climate finance, adaptation, and loss and damage funding.
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 Anil Markandya and Mikel González-Eguino, “Integrated Assessment for Identifying Climate Finance Needs for Loss and Damage: A Critical Review,” in Loss and Damage from Climate Change: Concepts, Methods and Policy Options, eds. Reinhard Mechler, Laurens M. Bouwer, and Thomas Schinko et. al. (Cham: Springer Nature Switzerland AG, 2019), https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-72026-5.
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