s Cop27 gets under way in Egypt, here are answers to some of the key questions about the climate conference.
– What is Cop27?
It is the latest set of UN climate negotiations which take place every year, and this year is taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, following last year’s conference, Cop26, which the UK hosted in Glasgow.
– What will be discussed?
One of the central issues is that action is needed to cut fossil fuels and the greenhouse gases driving climate change, as we are currently on course for 2.4-2.6C of warming – which the UN warns would be catastrophic.
Developed countries are also under pressure to deliver the levels of finance promised – and needed – to help poorer nations adapt to climate change and to invest in clean technology.
And a key issue up for debate is addressing loss and damage – the now unavoidable consequences of climate change such as the destruction of crops, homes and infrastructure, which are being felt worst by vulnerable countries who did least to contribute to the crisis.
– These issues feel familiar. Haven’t we made any progress since Glasgow?
There has been some progress, with countries including Australia bringing in new climate plans, as all countries pledged to at Cop26.
But the latest assessments from the UN show climate action plans fall far short of what is needed to limit dangerous climate change, bringing down emissions by only 5-10% by 2030, compared to the 45% cut needed to keep temperatures rises to the 1.5C threshold countries have signed up to.
Greenhouse gases continue to rise, and there is no credible pathway in place to meeting the 1.5C goal, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) warns.
Levels of finance for adapting to climate change are also falling far short of what is needed, UN analysis shows, and loss and damage must be addressed.
– What can be done to tackle loss and damage?
Many vulnerable countries and campaigners want an international loss and damage finance facility to help developing countries with the loss and damage they suffer.
A “polluter pays” principle would require developed countries – most responsible for the pollution driving climate change – to pay into the fund.
Developed countries have historically been reluctant to agree to such a mechanism, but as the impacts of extreme weather worsen around the world – most vividly with the devastating floods in Pakistan this year – the pressure is rising to deliver finance for loss and damage.
– What about the UK?
Once Alok Sharma, who presided over the Cop26 talks last year in a neutral chairing role, hands over the gavel to the Egyptian Cop27 presidency, it will be the first time the UK has negotiated at climate talks on its own, rather than as part of the EU.
While the UK aims for a global leadership role on climate and is urging action at Cop27 to cut emissions and address loss and damage, the Government is facing criticism for pushing ahead with new offshore oil and gas licences, late payment to climate funds and gaps in policies to tackle the crisis.
The decision the King, a long time campaigner for the environment, should not attend the climate summit, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s initial decision to skip the talks before a last-minute U-turn have also prompted criticism.
– How can we negotiate on climate when the world is facing an energy crisis fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – while leading to a short term increase in the use of coal – has prompted an acceleration in countries taking up clean tech, with the International Energy Agency suggesting it could prove to be a historic turning point for the world.
But when it comes to the international negotiations on climate, where decisions are made by consensus, it seems inevitable the international dispute provoked by the war will cast a shadow.
That will prove another challenge for making progress on the climate crisis, just as the increasingly severe floods, droughts, storms, melting ice and rising seas make it clear that there is no time to lose.