What is Cop27 and why does Egypt's landmark climate summit matter?

Coastal resort of Sharm El Sheikh will welcome 35,000 people to discuss the challenge of global warming

Inside Sharm El Sheikh the city that will host the upcoming climate summit COP27. Mahmoud Nasr / The National
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The UN released a chilling report on climate change and global efforts to counter the warming planet earlier this year.

Extreme weather is on the rise, the UN said, with up to a billion people at risk of losing their homes as storms intensify and sea levels rise due to melting ice.

Some of the world's most precious ecosystems are dying, while people who live near areas hit by forest fires — now more common amid extreme heat — face respiratory problems.

As temperatures rise, tropical diseases spread. Hundreds of millions of people will be forced to migrate as agriculture collapses, the UN report said.

That's why Cop27 this year — held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt — is one of the most important to date. A gathering of tens of thousands of officials, experts and influencers to refocus efforts on reducing emissions and managing climate change.

When is Cop27?

Cop27 began on Sunday 6 November and ends on Friday 18 November.

Where is it being held?

The conference is being held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, at the International Convention Centre, which is close to the resort city’s international airport and can accommodate 20,000 people, with a main event hall that has a 7,000 capacity. The conference website says the venue is also accessible for “those with reduced mobility needs”.

Why Sharm El Sheikh?

Sharm El Sheikh is no stranger to hosting international conferences, having been the venue for the World Economic Forum twice, once in 2006 and again in 2008.

Located on the shores of the Red Sea, it houses one of the world's most unique marine ecosystems, which conservationists say is under threat. Local activists told The National they thought it apt to have a climate conference in the city because it represents one of Egypt's most pressing environmental crises.

The coastal city has also hosted a long list of peace summits, including a 1999 meeting where an agreement to restore Palestinian autonomy over the Gaza Strip was signed, and a number of other meetings related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The prevalence of such conferences has shaped the city's infrastructure to accommodate such events, making it easy to secure and navigate for the often high-profile attendees of such events.

Why is it called Cop27?

A UN climate summit is known as a Conference of the Parties (Cop). There have been 26 so far. That makes this one Cop27.

The “parties” in the name are the 197 signatories to a UN climate treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Which countries are attending Cop27?

The UNFCCC, the UN branch which manages climate change matters and organises the Conference of Parties each year, says 35,000 people have registered to attend the conference.

Attendees will comprise world leaders, government officials, policymakers and experts. The conference's schedule includes a long list of talks and meetings expected to tackle all aspects of climate change.

One of the most important issues is climate finance — ensuring developing countries have access to the latest low-carbon technology. Another is water security, including improving efficiency in water treatment and distribution.

Others are protecting wetlands and river systems, adapting to climate change and making farming more water efficient.

These issues are particularly pressing for countries in the global south who are less financially equipped to deal with environmental disasters.

Pakistan, already financially strained, suffered $10 billion of damage after recent floods which killed 1,300 people.

Germany has also suffered, with $40 billion in losses from floods in 2021, while the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says extreme weather costs the US around $24 billion a year.

The conference will also be attended by representatives from private enterprises and initiatives working in climate change. Businesses with cutting-edge environmental solutions will be given the floor to showcase their goods. A large number of climate change NGOs are expected to be present.

Artists, designers and celebrities are also expected to attend, as the conference will feature performances and fashion shows, according to its website.

Why is Cop27 so important?

In 2022, some of the most severe climate disasters for years hit many parts of the world, events which have underscored the need to tackle a growing issue.

With wildfires and droughts breaking out all over Europe and a third of Pakistan under water following the melting of glaciers, climate change activists are more anxious than ever to make more meaningful progress.

Additionally, Cop27 holds a special significance because of its focus on the African subcontinent, home to some of the world's poorest countries, ill-equipped to handle environmental disasters.

What is the programme for Cop27?

The programme for the conference will feature events taking place in two zones. In the Blue Zone, the majority of the policy-related meetings and talks by world leaders and government officials will be held. The Green Zone will see events involving private sector organisations, civil society and NGOs, artists and fashion designers.

Cop26, which took place last year in Glasgow, Scotland, culminated in the Glasgow Pact which was signed by all participating parties and involved commitments related to carbon emissions.

An agreement was also signed by 141 leaders to mitigate forest loss.

Similar agreements are expected to be signed at Cop27.

What are the priorities?

The conference's presidency has chosen to focus on four areas of the climate crisis: mitigation, adaptation, finance and collaboration.

Finance in particular will be key because an emphasis on Africa is expected at Cop27. Financial mechanisms to help the world's poorest continent combat climate change are essential.

According to a statement by Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry during a press conference at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in July, collaboration is also going to be an essential aspect of the conference.

The expertise of richer nations will be instrumental in helping poorer countries fight against environmental disasters, he said.

Updated: November 07, 2022, 3:51 AM