What is COP?
COP stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’ which is a phrase in international relations meaning a committee created after a treaty is signed. The committee is tasked with making decisions about how the treaty is implemented. COP is most associated with the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), although the acronym is used for many other international agreements.
154 countries signed the UNFCCC in June 1992, agreeing to collectively fight against harmful human impacts on the climate. Since 1992, COP meetings have been held almost annually to discuss the achievement of the goals they set at the signing of the treaty. They also monitor the progress of how each battle has been tackled to make room for new issues to be resolved. Each COP is referred to by its number in the series.
Each year a different country becomes the COP president, responsible for organizing and running that year’s meeting. This means that the host city changes every year the meeting is held. Any new agreements made at COP tend to be named after the host city. This year the meeting is held in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, and the theme is ‘humanity has a choice’.
Who is invited to COP?
The main attendees at COP are politicians, diplomats and representatives of national governments, however, they are not the only ones who determine the outcomes of the conference. Individual policy makers in industries that directly influence fossil fuels and climate change also attend to discuss the outcome. The individuals join the talks to attempt to protect their industries such as coal, oil, and gas in circulation, even though they are the greatest contributors to fossil fuels.
The other attendees are on the opposite end of the spectrum, such as land and environmental defenders. They call for greater protections for their territories against environmentally exploitative industries such as mining, fashion production and oil extractions from the Earth. These representatives stand in for their organizations to advocate for actionable policies against climate crises.
Although it might seem natural to allow environmental and social groups to attend a climate crisis conference, there are many inherent problems there. Large corporations have financial and political advantages over small organizations because they have more resources than them. Large corporations can use their money to influence the outcomes of the conference to protect their interests. There are less opportunities for environmental organizations to further their climate crisis combatting efforts. For example, at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, many environmental activists could not attend due to travel restrictions, high costs and vaccination inequities.
How will COP27 be different from COP26?
There were many structural issues seen at COP26, but there were still outcomes to report on. Fossil fuels were mentioned as one of the greatest obstacles to climate progression, and participating countries agreed to accelerate the phasing out of coal power and fossil subsidies. All the countries agreed to align with the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regulations, which are to reduce their carbon emissions to keep the world below 1.5°C of warming. In theory, all countries attending in Egypt this year have achieved great emissions reduction. However, due to the ever-increasing temperatures on our planet, it is clear that COP26 was just a discussion.
COP27 is set to look at how to achieve the goals set at COP26. This year’s president, Egypt, has stipulated that it aims to move from negotiations and planning to implementation. In COPs’ history, goals have been relatively vague and easy to commit to without really committing. COP27 plans to achieve more concrete details on how to achieve the goals set for climate action and to hold members accountable for the promises they have made.
Climate finance will be the key topic of discussion, with Wednesday 9 November 2022 declared as finance day in the COP27 schedule. Finance has long been an issue throughout COP’s history. For example, the pledge of $100bn per year to poorer countries is yet to be implemented. Poorer countries, including this year’s president, will want to have firm details on when these plans will be materialized, so as to ensure that the deadline do not get over-shadowed by other world events.
Global politics have a tendency to favour large corporations and developed countries when discussing worldly issues, because of money. This makes it difficult for developing countries to believe in the usefulness of parties such as COP and to trust that their issues will be considered urgent. There is a risk that COP27 might not yield the results that developing countries and environmental activist groups are hoping for. Attendees this year might be more invested in world events such as the Ukrainian war or Covid-19 vaccines, making the entire conference less worthy of attention and longevity.