Takeaways from COP27

25 November, 2022

The United Nations Climate Change Conference ended on Friday 18 November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, after two weeks of events and discussions. COP27 is the last high-level meeting to tackle climate change.

A few weeks ago, we predicted in broad terms how this meeting would go. Now, after the meeting has concluded, we can assess what this meeting has meant for sustainability. There was a great sense of urgency at the meeting, and while some progress was made, the agreements reached did not live up to expectations.

Achievements after COP27

Extending previous agreements

COP27 was important for consolidating or extending agreements from other years. For example, the Glasgow Accelerating to Zero (COP26), which aims to make road transport emission-free from 2035 and to which Spain and France have signed up, or the agreement to reduce methane emissions (30% by 2030), to which 150 countries have signed up, including the United States.

COP27 was important for consolidating or extending agreements from other years

In the right direction

The European Union finally agreed on a document that references the goal of limiting warming to 1.5ºC, after being on the verge of breaking off negotiations due to fears that this objective would be cast aside. The document emphasises the need for funding for adaptation, loss and damage. It was decided to establish a fund to help countries that are struggling the most with the effects of climate change. These are typically countries that have done the least to contribute to the problem.

At the end of the day, everyone was pleased with what had been accomplished. Even the European Union, which believes that the results are not enough, sees them as being important and heading in the right direction.

Conference highlights

The main agreement: working with developing countries

It is excellent news that, for the first time, there has been an agreement on the financing of loss and damage. Developed countries realise and accept that they must do more to mitigate emissions. Least developed countries have a lot of work to do in terms of improving living conditions for their people. However, they need to do so in a more sustainable way that doesn’t put so much strain on natural resources. In order to achieve this, they will need financial support from wealthier countries. However, despite the historic agreement, for the time being the fund has no clear roadmap.

Developed countries realise and accept that they must do more to mitigate emissions

Notable absences

While some people contribute very little to the problem of climate change, others are responsible for causing it on a large scale. These major actors, who bear greater responsibility, kept a low profile at Sharm el-Sheikh, and such important countries as China, India and Russia did not even attend.

Obstacles left behind by COP27

Almost everything remains to be done

There is a general sense of lack of ambition at the last COP. The powers and the scientific world expected the Egyptian sessions to mark the beginning of the end of the climate emergency… and that did not happen.

The summit was dominated by the war in Ukraine, which highlighted major global problems such as resource scarcity and energy dependence. These problems in turn threw into relief the fault lines between developed and emerging economies.

The summit was dominated by the war in Ukraine, which highlighted major global problems

No progress on core issues

The goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5ºC from Glasgow remains unchanged. However, few countries have set concrete targets — only about 30. There are also calls to accelerate the coal phase-out and remove subsidies for inefficient fossil fuels.

So… what now?

It is quite difficult to reach a consensus between such different parties with conflicting interests, even though for the most part they all agree on the importance of tackling climate change. In this edition, it seems to have been even more difficult to reach important decisions by consensus.

Spain has said that COP27 has served to further accelerate the process, but that it has fallen short of expectations. For its part, the EU describes the summit as disappointing. However, it welcomes the progress made.

COP27 has been a mixed bag – while there have been some positive developments (such as the extension of the agreement to reduce methane emissions), progress has not been as expected given the urgency of the situation. The most important agreement on cooperation with the countries suffering most from climate change is only a declaration of intent, and we must wait to see how it is implemented. There are only a few conferences left until 2030, the key date for working on all actions, and the UN calls for climate ambition to make “a big leap” by then.