The coastline of Sharm El-Sheikh, with beach umbrellas giving way to buildings and moutains in the distance

COP27 will see world leaders and diplomats come together in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Image © Nataliabiruk/Shutterstock

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COP27: What to expect from 2022's climate change conference

World leaders and diplomats will descend on Egypt over the next two weeks as climate change takes centre stage at COP27.

With new technologies, adaptation and water among the topics to be discussed, here's a guide to this year's climate change conference.

Demands for climate action are stronger than ever as the world comes together once again to discuss the rapidly warming world.

It will be the 27th time that 198 nations have met since a landmark environmental treaty was signed at the Earth Summit 30 years ago. Since then, they have agreed legally binding targets to combat climate change, but progress towards the goal of just 1.5⁰C of warming has been slow.

While the world is starting to bend the curve of greenhouse gas emissions, a recent synthesis report from the United Nations' (UN) climate body warned that cuts are not happening fast enough. At present, the world is on track to warm by around 2.5⁰C.

Simon Stiell, the executive secretary of UN Climate Change, says, 'The downward trend shows that nations have made some progress this year, but the science is clear that we are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track for 1.5⁰C.'

'To keep this goal alive, national governments need to strengthen their climate action plans now and implement them in the next eight years.'

COP27 is the first major opportunity since this analysis for nations to demonstrate their commitment to cutting their emissions. The decisions they make will affect our lives, and those of future generations, for decades to come.

A flag with the COP27 logo

COP27 is the latest meeting of the nations of the world which began following the Earth Summit in 1992. Image © rafapress/Shutterstock

What is COP27?

The 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), or COP27, is taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. It is a meeting between all the nations that have agreed to prevent dangerous climate change from taking place.

Currently, this includes every UN member state, as well as the European Union, UN observers, and a couple of non-UN nations as well. The members most recently met in Glasgow, UK at COP26 in 2021, where agreements including those on reforestation and the phasing down of fossil fuel subsidies were reached.

One of the most significant outcomes of this meeting was that the parties should agree to improve their climate targets every year, rather than every five. As a result, COP27 has taken on increased importance as the first test of this climate 'ratchet', but only 24 nations have submitted their new plans to date.

What's happening at COP27?

The conference runs between the 6 and 18 November, though the majority of activities will be taking place between the 7 and 17. Most days of the conference will focus on a specific theme, where delegates will address certain topics related to the climate crisis.

Running alongside the themed days is also a formal agenda, where diplomats will discuss more technical points relating to climate finance, carbon emissions, and possible amendments to the UNFCC and try to reach a new agreement between countries.

Here's what can be expected on each day of the conference:

Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 November – The first two full days of the conference will host the World Leaders Summit, with leaders likely to set out where their country stands on tackling climate change, and perhaps make pledges ahead of the formal negotiations.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will be one of the leaders at the conference, after initially saying he wouldn't go. Other countries including China and India are expected to be represented at the conference by senior officials rather than their leaders.

Wednesday 9 November – The first thematic day of the conference will focus on the thorny issue of finance.

While COP26 agreed a $100 billion a year fund to allow developing countries to adapt to climate change, this was around a year later than wealthy nations first promised. Debate over 'Loss and Damage' will also continue, with wealthy nations being called on to provide compensation for the fossil fuels they have already used and the climate damage caused.

COP27 will discuss new ways to fund climate action, following innovative biodiversity pledges that have seen national debt swapped for the protection of new conservation areas. 

Thursday 10 November – The second thematic day has more than one theme, of which the first is science. This aspect of the day will see discussions and panels surrounding recent reports from UN Climate Change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others.

The day will also see discussion over how best to direct scientific research to help the world mitigate the effects of climate change, and how to adapt to rising temperatures.

The other aspect of the day focuses on 'young people and future generations', as climate change is an issue that affects not just those alive today, but also those yet to be born.

Young people from around the world will take part in talks and lead sessions, including one panel focusing on African youth-led activism. One young climate activist who won't be attending, however, is Greta Thunberg, who has cited 'greenwashing' and concerns over human rights as among the reasons she won't be at COP27.

Young climate protestors demonstrate with placards in London

While some high profile activists will not be at COP27 in person, expect demonstrations around the world in support of climate action. Image © Ink Drop/Shutterstock

Friday 11 November – Next up is Decarbonisation Day, which aims to promote discussion on how heavily polluting industries such as oil and gas extraction, and construction, can reduce their emissions using innovative techniques.

The day will also highlight greenhouse gases aside from carbon dioxide, with hopes that more countries will sign up to cut 30% of their methane emissions by 2030.

Saturday 12 November – Midway through the conference is Adaptation and Agriculture Day. Food production is responsible for around 26% of greenhouse gas emissions, caused by factors such as livestock rearing and the destruction of carbon-absorbing habitats, and the day will aim to address how these emissions can be reduced.

The adaptation aspect of the day will look at how extreme weather such as droughts and floods can be anticipated, and how food systems can be made more resilient to these events as they become more common.

Sunday 13 November – This is a rest day. While some informal meetings may occur, and the work of negotiators will continue, public events are not taking place.

Monday 14 November – The second Monday of the conference also has a dual theme, with the first theme discussing gender. Women are often disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change, and this day will look at how those impacts can be reduced while promoting opportunities for female leaders in the fight against climate change.

The other half of the day looks at water, with the launch of a new water management initiative planned to kick off the proceedings. As well as looking at the lack of water climate change will bring, the day will also examine how sea level rises, caused by the melting polar ice caps, will affect the low-lying areas of the world.

Tuesday 15 November – While the majority of the conference focuses on policymakers, the ACE (Action for Climate Empowerment) and Civil Society Day looks at what everyone outside of government can do to achieve the widespread, systemic changes needed to combat rising temperatures.

It is also Energy Day, with delegates looking at how new and developing technologies, such as green hydrogen, could help in a transition to net zero. There will also be further discussion of how this transition, which is cheaper than continuing with fossil fuels, will be funded.

Wednesday 16 November – The penultimate day of themed discussions is Biodiversity Day. While COP15, taking place in December, will examine this topic more closely, climate change and biodiversity loss are inextricably linked.

The panels will examine the current state of the world's biodiversity, and how it is being affected by rising temperatures. It will also look at how nature can provide solutions to adapt and mitigate climate change.

The day will end with an update on the state of the formal negotiations, giving a preliminary idea of what a Sharm El-Sheikh climate pact could look like.

Thursday 17 November – The conference ends on a hopeful note with Solutions Day, looking at how we can limit global temperatures to 1.5⁰C if we put our minds to it. Elements of the day include panels looking at sustainable transport, green business models, and how cities can deal with climate change on a more local level.

Diplomatic negotiations on a climate pact will be entering their final hours, and depending on how they've gone, negotiators could continue into the night to find a wording that all nations can agree on.

An armoured vehicle drives over a dirt track

Scientists have called for COP27 to ensure militaries are included within emissions cutting goals. Image © Martin Hibberd/Shutterstock

What outcomes could we see from COP27?

While the exact outcomes won't be known until the conference ends, COP27's president has labelled it as 'the implementation COP', with the goal of holding nations to their pledges on carbon emissions cuts. 

'COP27 will be the world's watershed moment on climate action,' the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs adds. 'We are in a race against time, and the synthesis report's findings provide a sobering moment.

'Several of those who are expected to do more are doing far from enough and the consequences of this are affecting lives and livelihoods across the globe. I am conscious that it is and should be a continuum of action until 2030 then 2050, however, these alarming findings merit a transformative response at COP27.'

Meanwhile, a comment article written by a group of UK scientists and published in Nature has called for the conference to mandate that the world's nations report emissions from their militaries. At present, these figures are left out on the grounds of national security.

Some countries, such as the USA and UK, already have plans to cut the emissions of their armed forces, but the scientists have called for this to become standard practice across the world.