From “really bleak” to “close to catastrophe” – scientists find alarming words to describe where we are in the climate crisis. According to the most recent UN report on the matter, the world is moving towards warming by 2.4 to 2.6 degrees by the end of the century, and only rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can “avoid an accelerating climate disaster.”
But in order for the UN climate change conference COP27 to enable the systemic transformation that is needed, COP27 first and foremost needs to build trust. Trust that countries reduce emissions to the extent they pledged to do. Trust that net zero pledges result in rapid and deep emission cuts instead of overly relying on technical solutions to net emissions in a more distant future. Trust that richer nations deliver on their promises to mobilise the money that developing countries need to embark on zero-carbon development pathways, and to adapt to the ever more devastating impacts of climate change. Trust that the multilateral system does not leave behind the most vulnerable that are the hardest hit, have the least capacity to adapt, and that have themselves emitted least to the emissions causing climate change.
The issue of trust as key theme of COP27 plays out in different areas that we take a closer look at on this page. First, we set out SEI’s priorities for this COP.
SEI's media contact throughout COP is Senior Press Officer Ulrika Lamberth in Stockholm ([email protected]). On-site in Sharm el-Sheikh (6–18 November 2022) are Senior Communications Officer Andrea Lindblom ([email protected]) and SEI Africa Communications Coordinator Lawrence Nzuve ([email protected]). We'll be tweeting @SEIclimate and @SEIresearch.
COP27 has also been named the “African COP” – a term that summarizes the hope and expectation that the international climate community acts on the needs of African countries. Africa is home to some of the most climate-vulnerable countries and communities, to many of the least-developed countries with least capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and to countries that have contributed extremely little to the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change. The current economic, energy, and food crises compound the challenges Africa is facing.
But in addition to the expectation that COP “delivers for Africa”, COP27 also offers an opportunity for African countries to show the way on how to achieve climate-friendly environmental, social and economic development.
Air pollution and climate change are a deadly duo for Africa. Air pollutants and greenhouse gases often share the same sources and can be even more dangerous when combined.
The new Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution and Climate Change for Sustainable Development in Africa from the African Union Commission, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, and the UN Environment Programme, developed by African scientists in a process led by the Stockholm Environment Institute, shows how African leaders can act quickly across five key areas – transport, residential, energy, agriculture and waste – to fight climate change, prevent air pollution, and protect human health.
Climate finance is central to everything this COP is supposed to be about, be it African priorities, implementation of climate pledges, or adaptation. As such, all finance questions will be contentious – with the question of finance for Loss and Damage likely the most contentious one.
The previous UN climate change conference saw a proposal for a new facility to address finance for Loss and Damage tabled – and rejected. But climate impacts from heatwaves in India and Europe, floods in South Africa, Bangladesh and Pakistan and a drought in East Africa have resulted in losses and damages around the world over the course of this year, providing more cases in point for the argument that the current finance architecture is not able to address such losses and damages. With the UN Secretary General unequivocally calling for COP27 to become “the place for action on loss and damage,” the question of how to operationalise Loss and Damage finance is a key nut to crack.
Developed countries committed to mobilizing $100 billion in climate finance per year to support developing countries in choosing climate-friendly development pathways and adapting to the impacts from climate change, starting from 2020 and until 2025. But at COP26, a “delivery plan” requested from the UK COP Presidency concluded that it appeared “unlikely” the goal had been met in 2020. According to the most recent report of the UNFCCC’s Standing Committee on Finance, climate finance in the years 2019 and 2020 averaged no more than $40.1 billion per year.
With the $100 billion target sunsetting in 2025, negotiations are underway to define a new target kicking in post-2025, the so-called “new collective quantified goal.” COP27 will see the first ministerial meeting on this new climate target that’s faced with many question marks around how high it will be, and what it can look like in detail.
But climate finance also knows a target that’s qualitative rather than quantitative, enshrined in Article 2.1c of the Paris Agreement. This target has to do with making all finance flows, not just public ones but also those in the private sector, consistent with climate-friendly development. A ministerial dialogue at COP27 may contribute to fleshing out what this target means or how to achieve it.
Currently, climate finance is far from meeting both the needs and the priorities of developing countries as the bulk of it goes to mitigation (57% on average in the years 2019 and 2020), not to adaptation (28%). At COP26 in Glasgow, wealthy nations committed to doubling finance for climate adaptation by 2025. But SEI research has shown that adaptation finance is falling short in more ways than one.
Around the world, people are adapting to the impacts of climate change, but such adaptation is uneven, incremental and small in scale according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). With increasing global warming, the planet will reach limits to adaptation and experience increasing losses and damages, the IPCC warned, adding that adaptation needed to accelerate and become “transformational.”
The Paris Agreement does, in fact, recognize adaptation as a “global challenge faced by all,” and COP27 could see some progress on how this global goal on adaptation could be operationalised.
SEI’s work focuses on the transboundary, cascading nature of climate risk and how that makes a clear case for global cooperation to achieve systemic resilience and global, “transformational” climate adaptation.
With the Paris Agreement fully in place, the focus of the UN climate process is now on implementation, and COP27 has also been referred to as the “Implementation COP.”
But the state of implementation is dismal: The UN calls progress made since COP26 in Glasgow “woefully inadequate“.
SEI research supports implementation in several ways: work on transforming the food system, accounting for one third of all emissions, on improving net-zero targets that so far remain uncertain and delay action into the future that needs to happen now, on informing an accelerated industry transition and last but not supporting developing countries through the Initiative on Integrated Climate and Development Planning.
Contact details for SEI experts that will be at COP27.
Senior Research Fellow
Senior Policy Fellow
Energy Modeling Program Director
Senior Research Fellow
Team Leader: International Climate Risk and Adaptation; Senior Research Fellow
Head of Knowledge Management, Senior Research Fellow
SEI hosts the Secretariat for the Leadership Group for Industry Transition (LeadIT), that gathers 18 countries and 19 companies to achieve net-zero carbon emissions from industry by 2050. It was launched by the governments of Sweden and India at the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019 and is supported by the World Economic Forum.
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