Section 1 – Working together to help the planet
In November, senior leaders from almost every country are due to meet in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for one of the most important meetings for the future of our world. It’s the annual UN COP – the meeting where countries come together to see how they are progressing towards the target of limiting climate change.
With droughts, wildfires, and heatwaves cascading, it’s clear that progress is limited. That’s why the theme of this year’s COP is “Together for Implementation”. Or put simply, time for action.
As country leaders gather to talk about the climate, it’s easy to feel that the solution is “for them to sort out”. But what we do as individuals matters too. Use your voice and influence to encourage your employer, community, friends, and colleagues to follow your lead in living more sustainably and raise awareness of those more vulnerable to climate change.
In this guide, we detail how every individual can get involved in helping achieve the aims of COP27. Not only are the four key aims of COP27 crucial for governments, but they are also relevant to every citizen of the world.
And it all starts with taking a step.
Section 2 – Background to COP
Each year the UN holds the COP climate conference, where countries, companies, and citizens come together to assess the progress on fighting climate change and work out what to do next. The first COP was held in Berlin in 1995, and in November, Sharm El-Sheikh will host COP27.
In recent years there have been 2 particularly important COP meetings.
Paris (COP21) in 2015 was a milestone because countries agreed to limit warming to 1.5C, review commitments every five years, and provide finance to developing countries so that they can not only cut emissions but also adapt to climate impacts.
Glasgow (COP26) in 2021 was another big meeting because the rules and systems to reduce emissions were agreed upon. Countries also committed to checking back every year, rather than every five years, on their targets which are called their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), intended to increase the much needed pace of change.
Normally the ‘big’ COP meetings are every five years, but with this new annual checkback, each COP has taken on new importance and that’s why Sharm El Sheikh (COP27) is so vital. For the meeting in Egypt, the key topics are how the world will implement everything that governments have been talking about and how to make progress on climate finance.
COP27 is also important because it’s hosted in Africa, which accounts for just 4% of emissions but is among the worst hit by climate change. As a result, there will be discussion about adaptation, loss, and damage. ‘Adaptation’ is how communities can respond to the effects of climate change. The issue of loss and damage deals with the controversial issue of how countries should be compensated for the harms caused by climate change. It is controversial because the countries most affected have historically had far lower emissions and have played little part in causing the current climate crisis.
Section 3 – Why COP27 is so important
In August 2021, a momentous scientific report was published that drew together research from the world’s most eminent climate scientists. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the body that reports to governments on climate change, and this summer they produced their sixth assessment report looking at scientific, technical, social, and economic knowledge on climate change. It ran to 4,000 pages, but within the text, there were four clear messages.
As a previous IPCC lead author, Professor Michael E Mann, said in a recent interview: “The scientific community is literally yelling from the rooftops… [the report] drives home the unprecedented impact we are having on this planet.”
The key take-home is one of certainty and urgency. It is very clear from the findings that we must do everything we can to address the causes of climate change. With almost three in four global greenhouse gas emissions coming from households, this includes action not just from policymakers and businesses but also from people – that means every single one of us!
A working group report from the IPCC in 2022 provided, for the first time, a focus on the role of individuals. By 2050 changes to our lifestyles and behaviour can cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 40-70%.
To address this challenge, we need to cut emissions globally in half this decade to achieve a 1.5 °C world. We will only achieve this if we change the way we do things.
Section 4 – The four goals of COP27 and how we can get involved
COP27 has four overarching goals that will act as a common thread for all the meetings, sessions, and debates. In the guides below we explain them and how individuals can get involved in each one.
All goals sit under the overall conference mission, to achieve “ambitious, substantive outcomes commensurate with the challenge based on science” and the tagline, “together for implementation”. It can be hard to fathom what this means but, in short, we need to work together to do something right now because we’re deep in trouble!
As the Egyptian Minster for the Environment has put it, “COP27 is the COP for action”.
Thank you to our partner Giki for their contribution to this guide to COP27.