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The Future of Climate Change: Did COP27 Restore Global Climate Action? The 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2022, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Photo courtesy of the UN.

The Future of Climate Change: Did COP27 Restore Global Climate Action?

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The 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP27, was held between November 6th and 18th 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. As the world still battles the ongoing pandemic, a war in Europe, and an energy crisis, the conference’s topic was concerned with adapting, mitigating, and implementing change to solve an existential threat: the climate crisis. The climate crisis is an existential issue because human existence depends on the earth to be a planet capable of supporting a growing population.

For context, the Paris Agreement proposes a temperature goal of limiting global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius, and each country has to create Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are a vow to cut greenhouse gas emissions on a national and international basis. NDCs are subject to be renewed every five years by the countries themselves. During COP26 last year, the consensus was to keep the temperature goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius, which was extensively emphasized at COP27.

So far, the world is not on track to meet its reduction goals. Furthermore, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Sixth Assessment Report earlier this year, and its scientific findings made headlines worldwide, raising concern over the possible scenarios presented in the report. As a result, public outcry for improved climate mitigation spread like wildfires on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. The temperature goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius is ambitious and may be impossible to reach if global emissions are not cut back drastically. Thus, a central part of the vision for COP27 was focused on climate change mitigation, adaptation, and implementation of the NDCs, to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, preferably by meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Unfortunately, the urgency in addressing climate change has been sidelined over the past few years, as COVID-19 stole the world’s attention in March 2020. COVID-19 was a massive setback for government action on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and implementation. Thus, the world is halfway to 2030, and most countries are on track to fail the goals of the Paris Agreement. Moreover, armed conflicts in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East exacerbate challenges in achieving global sustainability. For countries to move in the right direction after COP27, and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, which were agreed upon during COP21, they must take into consideration the years lost due to the pandemic and geopolitical tensions.

Additionally, another important topic of this year’s climate summit was loss and damage. This has previously been a heated topic of discussion, formally introduced by small island nations located in the Pacific because these island nations experience the adverse effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and extreme weather. Historically speaking, the Global North is responsible for most of the world’s excess emissions, and will therefore contribute the most financially. Therefore, the fund established for loss and damage allow low-income countries affected by climate-related issues to receive financial compensation. Another victory for COP27 was the diplomatic climate negotiations between China and the U.S., the two biggest polluters in the world. The countries have agreed to work together to address the climate crisis and its impact on global temperature rise, which is a step in the right direction for global climate cooperation.

COP27 provided a foundation for future climate cooperation. However, the climate crisis is far from resolved, and the consequences of our collective failure to address it are coming to the forefront. Energy shortages, armed conflict, extreme weather, food security, and the rise of global temperature are prominent issues that will become more extreme in the future. Annual climate summits are beneficial to some extent and create a common arena for negotiations and international cooperation, but they are insufficient on their own. To create real change, in addition to policy solutions, countries should consider investing more in innovation around technological solutions. The world needs greener alternatives to coal and other fossil fuels, and as such, should consider significant investment in new technology research and development, including future tech such as fusion energy. Moreover, investing in clean-powered technology to clean the atmosphere, possibly by utilizing carbon capture, can help the margins reach net zero by 2050. By shifting towards sustainable energy and creating technology that supports growth and development, long-term changes can be implemented to create a greener and a safer world.