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COP27 has begun: Everything you need to know

COP27 has officially begun, with the biggest climate conference in the world opening in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt yesterday.

Crucial talks are set to place on a range of topics, as delegates negotiate the steps the world can take to prevent climate catastrophe and protect humans and animals from extreme weather events.

44,000 people are attending the event, which runs from November 6th – 18th, including businesses, civil society groups and representatives from just under 200 governments.

It comes at a pivotal moment when scientists say the opportunity we have to reach the 1.5°C target, set out under the Paris Agreement in 2015, is closing.

With so much at stake, here’s everything you need to know about COP27 and what you should keep your eye on as the talks take place.

women holding signs during daytime

Who is attending COP27?

High-profile government representatives and officials will be attending the key event, as nations grapple with the challenge of the climate crisis.

After a last-minute U-turn, prime minister Rishi Sunak is in attendance to represent the UK, alongside COP26 president Alok Sharma. The PM claimed he was a ‘clean energy champion’ the day before the conference began, despite the government having committed to 100 new North Sea oil and gas licenses and a current ban on onshore wind. Former prime minister Boris Johnson is also there, hoping to preserve his legacy from last year’s COP26, held in Glasgow.

President Joe Biden is also going to be at COP27, after his recent passing of the biggest climate bill in US history, the Inflation Reduction Act. However, the president is likely to be distracted, as he currently faces the midterm elections, with Donald Trump’s rhetoric still looming large.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen will also be there, as well as Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua, COP27 president Sameh Shoukry and UN secretary-general António Guterres.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin will not be at the conference, having soured relations on the world stage with his invasion of Ukraine. The war has caused havoc, hiking up energy and food prices across the world, pushing countries to increase their reliance on fossil fuels for the time being.

What are the key topics of this year’s event?

Some of the biggest topics to be discussed this year are likely to be climate finance and loss and damage. Nations agreed to fund $100 billion of climate finance each year by 2020 at a UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen in 2009. But this target was missed and richer countries like the UK, US and Australia are yet to pay their fair share to cover the amount of carbon emissions they have created.

white clouds and blue sky during daytime

Loss and damage will also be central to the talks, as poorer nations call for climate reparations to help them mitigate the worst of the effects of the climate crisis. The global south is largely experiencing the worst of climate breakdown, with extreme flooding Pakistan and devastating droughts in Africa, despite these areas contributing the least to global carbon emissions. Denmark has agreed to pay £11.7 million to cover climate losses, while Scotland and Wallonia in Belgium have also agreed to contribute. Many richer nations will be harder to convince, however, with COP27 likely to see plenty of discussion on the topic.

With a recent UN report finding that current climate pledges will not be enough to keep the world on track for 1.5°C of warming, but rather 2.5°C, the pressure will be on to set more ambitious targets. Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change who will also be at the event, has warned pledges are ‘nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world.’

What’s on the agenda?

A range of topics will be discussed over the course of the two-week event, with themes scheduled for each day. November 7th and 8th will see the Climate Implementation Summit take place, with a family photo of delegates and an opening ceremony set to officially open the conference. Round-table sessions will then follow, with discussions covering: a just transition to a low-emission society, food security, finance for climate resilience, investment in renewable energy, water security, and climate change and the sustainability of vulnerable communities.

A different theme will then be covered each day for the rest of the event:

  • November 9th – Finance Day: Climate finance will be on the agenda, with negotiations on scaling up finance and financial tools which could drive the transition to a low-carbon world.
  • November 10th – Science Day and Youth & Future Generations Day: Scientists will put forward their recommendations, while young people will also get a chance to make their voices heard.
  • November 11th – Decarbonisation Day: Delegates will discuss ways to decarbonise the economy and technological solutions which could help to achieve this.
  • November 12th – Adaptation & Agriculture Day: Talks on food security, sustainable farming methods and investment in agricultural adaptation will take place.
  • November 13th – Rest Day
  • November 14th – Gender Day and Water Day: Discussions will centre on how gender equality can combat the climate crisis and how to manage water sources sustainably, as the world is set to experience more water scarcity.
  • November 15th – Ace & Civil Society Day and Energy Day: Negotiations will focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency and will explore new energy sources, such as green hydrogen. Civil society groups will also be able to put forward their perspectives, network and show how they can contribute to climate action.
  • November 16th – Biodiversity Day: Natural and ecosystem-based solutions, halts to biodiversity loss and the impacts of the climate crisis on animals will be addressed.
  • November 17th – Solutions Day: A broad range of possible solutions to combat the many challenges ahead will be discussed, such as sustainable transport and cities, green building methods and waste management.

Photos by Callum Shaw and Matt Palmer

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