The conference of parties (COP27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) was held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, between 6 to 18 November 2022.  However, negotiations on some of the key issues did not conclude until 20 November.

The conference saw the handing over of the COP presidency from the UK to Egypt and also marked the 30th anniversary of the UNFCCC.

Four key themes were identified for COP27: mitigation, adaptation, finance and collaboration.

The headline agreements from the conference were the establishment of a loss and damage fund and finalising the details to implement the Santiago Network. It was also the first time food security was recognised.

What were the goals of COP27?

Prior to COP27, the Egyptian Presidency called for an acceleration in global action on climate mitigation and adaptation. It also called for a “just and managed transition to a new sustainable economic model” with a responsibility on developed nations to help developing nations with appropriate finance. On this point, it noted countries must first meet the current commitment to secure $100 billion of climate finance a year and double global adaptation finance.

A further goal of the conference was greater collaboration between nations and to start implementing the outcomes from COP26.

What was agreed?

The final decision text, known as the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan was published on 20 November after negotiations overran the conference. The text reaffirms the commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However, “a clear emissions gap between current national climate plans and what’s needed” to meet this target remains.

Finance was at the centre of negotiations at COP27. One of the headline outcomes was reaching agreement to compensate nations for loss and damage caused by climate change through the establishment of a fund.

According to the UNFCC, there was “significant progress on adaptation” with more than $230 million of new pledges made to the Adaptation Fund. A mitigation work programme was also launched which will start immediately after COP27 and continue until 2026.  Governments were also asked to strengthen their national climate plans by the end of 2023.

What is the loss and damage fund?

The idea of a fund to compensate for loss and damage was first proposed over three decades ago when Vanuatu and the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) called for an international insurance pool for sea level rise in 1991.

Agreement on this idea was finally reached at COP27, when a specific fund for loss and damage was created. This aims to provide financial assistance to countries most vulnerable and impacted by the effects of climate change.

There is currently no globally agreed definition however the climate science and policy website Carbon Brief  defines loss and damage as “a term used to describe how climate change is already causing serious and, in many cases, irreversible impacts around the world – particularly in vulnerable communities”.

Despite the establishment of a fund, the United Nations Environment Program notes ”no decisions have been made on who should pay into the fund, where this money will come from and which countries will benefit”.

What is the Santiago Network?

The Santiago Network, was previously established at COP25 in 2019 with the aim of providing technical support to help developing countries  deal with loss and damage from climate change. However, final details of the network and how it will be run were only confirmed at COP27.

The Santiago Network differs from loss and damage funding as its aim is to provide technical support rather than direct funding for loss and damage. As an example, in the case of flooding, this might include “improved systems to prepare and implement early warning systems and evacuation processes”.

Were there other developments?

Further progress was made on the first Global Stocktake (GST). This process, which was initiated at COP26, aims to assess the world’s collective progress on cutting emissions and adapting to climate impacts.

The final decision text of the conference, the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan, saw several new issues begin to be formally recognised such as water, food security and forests.

Recognising the link between climate change and food security for the first time, the text emphasises geopolitical situations should not be used as an excuse for reducing efforts on tackling climate change.

The Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation Initiative (FAST) was also launched by the Egyptian presidency and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Forests were also given a stand-alone section in the final decision text which highlights the need “to slow, halt and reverse forest cover and carbon loss”. Several new initiatives were launched including the UK’s forests and climate leaders’ partnership.

What were the UK’s commitments at COP27?

The UK Government has outlined £5 million of funding for the Santiago Network along with further commitments on loss and damage it made at COP27.

The Climate Change Committee report on COP27 also highlights the UK would triple its contributions to adaptation finance by 2025, based on 2019 levels. However this is to come from existing official development assistance budgets.

As part of its work on the forests and climate leaders’ partnership the Government announced £90m for conservation in the Congo Basin and £65 million in funding for the Nature, People and Climate Investment Fund.

How was COP27 received?

The UNFCC welcomed the “ground-breaking decision to establish new funding arrangements, as well as a dedicated fund, to assist developing countries in responding to loss and damage”.  In his closing speech, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, described the actions at COP27 as “an important step towards justice”.

The United Nations Development Programme also welcomed the developments on climate finance but cautioned against solely “treating symptoms, not causes” of climate change and set out what it considers crucial for successfully implementing the loss and damage fund.

Global poverty charity Oxfam described the loss and damage fund as “a monumental win”. However, on other aspects of COP27 the organisation said it was “dismayed by the discussions”, noting gender was only marginally mentioned during COP27.

Further reading

About the author: Dominic Carver is a researcher at the House of Commons Library, specialising in issues on the Environment, Water and Climate Change.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

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