Tens of thousands of people from around the globe will descend on Egypt starting Sunday for the annual United Nations climate change summit.
What is COP?
This year’s meeting marks the 27th gathering of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — or COP27 for short.
The international forum also attracts environmental groups, scientists, business leaders, celebrities and journalists — and protesters demanding that governments speed up and act on their pledges.
Where is COP27 this year?
The conference will take place in the Egyptian coastal resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh from November 6 to November 18.
Since Berlin hosted the first summit almost three decades ago, the location has rotated among five U.N. regional groupings: Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe, and Western Europe and Others.
Why is COP important?
The high-profile summit is an opportunity to get world leaders in the same space to discuss protecting the planet. Themes include biodiversity, water, gender and transport.
Climate change has risen up political agendas as floods, drought, wildfires and extremes weather hurt millions of people, homes, and economies across the globe.
Under a 2015 Paris accord, countries agreed to keep global warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial levels and, more ambitiously if possible, to stop at 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).
But a U.N. report last month warned the world could be on track for a 2.5 degree Celsius (4.5 degree Fahrenheit) rise in global temperatures by the end of the century.
The U.N. has cast COP27 as a critical platform to catch up as “the work ahead is immense.”
Who will and won’t attend COP27 in Egypt?
According to its organizers in Egypt, about 100 heads of state and government will travel to the Red Sea resort.
President Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley are among those planning to attend. Notable absences include Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping, although Chinese climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua is expected to participate.
Britain’s new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made headlines when he said he would stay away from COP27 to focus on pressing domestic challenges. He has since made a U-turn and confirmed he will attend, while Britain’s King Charles III will be missing the event despite his previous work as an environmental advocate. British monarchs are expected to stay out of politics, and Buckingham Palace said he will not be there based on government advice.
Another noticeable absentee this year is Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, who denounced this year’s event as a forum for “greenwashing” by corporations and countries, with “extremely limited” space for civil society. “As it is, the COPs are not really working,” she said, “unless we use them as an opportunity to mobilize.” Thunberg became a household name after energizing students to walk out of school on Fridays to protest the climate emergency.
Human rights groups and celebrities have urged attendees to draw attention to thousands of political prisoners in Egypt — in particular, the case of Alaa Abdel Fattah, a British Egyptian computer programmer and activist who has been on a partial hunger strike for over 200 days. Thunberg visited his family’s protest in London ahead of COP27.
What is expected at COP27?
Governments are expected to evaluate progress on climate pledges centered around cutting emissions, phasing out fossil fuels, ramping up renewable energy use and ensuring that richer countries support poorer nations bearing the brunt of climate change.
In a significant step at last year’s COP, world leaders acknowledged that progress had been slow, agreeing to “revisit and strengthen” their national climate targets if possible. But as they prepare to reconvene, almost none of the globe’s biggest emitters have made stronger commitments, The Washington Post has reported.
This year, activists have voiced concerns that government restrictions and the conference’s location on the highly secured Sinai Peninsula will curtail campaigning efforts. At last year’s COP in Glasgow, Scotland, about 100,000 people marched for climate action, whereas a clampdown on public gatherings and dissent have made demonstrations in Egypt essentially nonexistent in recent years.
Can I watch or get involved with COP27 where I live?
No matter where you are, you can tune into public debates and forums at COP27 online, with live streams, blogs and virtual events on the official website here. Much of the decision-making and political wrangling, however, remains behind closed doors.
The U.N. is also running a campaign promoting “individual actions” to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint, for example by recycling, taking public transport and changing their energy use. Nonprofits and charities will share their impressions of the conference on social media and call for public involvement to raise pressure on world leaders to meet climate goals.
Source: The Washington Post