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What Is COP27? – The New York Times

World leaders will meet in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, on Nov. 6 for two weeks of climate negotiations as nations struggle to cut greenhouse gas emissions amid a global energy crisis, war in Europe and rising inflation.

The conference is convened annually by the United Nations. At last year’s summit in Scotland, countries agreed they must immediately do more to prevent a dangerous rise in global temperatures. But fast action has not materialized and the consequences of climate change — including deadly floods in Pakistan, drought in the United States, famine in Africa and heat waves across Europe — are painfully clear.

Tensions between rich polluting countries and poor nations bearing the brunt of climate impacts over the question of who should pay the costs of global warming are expected to mark this conference, known as COP27.

The conference officially runs from Nov. 6 through Nov. 18. But climate negotiations are famously contentious, so expect it to go into overtime.

The meetings are being held at the Sharm el Sheikh, an Egyptian resort town on the Red Sea coast.

There are two main sites for the event: the Blue Zone and the Green Zone. The Blue Zone, based at the Sharm el Sheikh International Convention Center just south of the town center, is where the official negotiations will be held. That space will be managed by the United Nations, and is subject to international law.

Across the road in the Peace Park Botanical Garden will be the Green Zone. That area will be run by the Egyptian government and will be open to the public.

COP stands for Conference of the Parties, with “parties” referring to the 197 nations that agreed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.

The 197 parties, including the United States, ratified the treaty to address “dangerous human interference with the climate system” and stabilize levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. The U.N. climate body convenes those governments once a year to discuss how to jointly address climate change.

This is the 27th time countries have gathered under the convention — hence, COP27.

The ultimate goal of this year’s conference is in dispute. Wealthy countries want to focus on ways to help developing nations phase out fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy.

Developing countries want a commitment on money they need to address the climate-fueled disasters they are already experiencing. Specifically, poor countries want to see a new fund to pay for things like relocating vulnerable villages or simply making up the economic growth lost to worsening floods, storms and heat waves. Industrialized nations, including the United States, have opposed a new fund in part because they fear being held legally liable for the skyrocketing damages caused by climate change.

This is the first climate summit in Africa since 2016. Many diplomats said they hope it will be an ‘African COP’ in focus as well as location, given that African nations face some of the worst impacts of climate change.

More than 35,000 delegates are expected to attend the event, including President Biden and more than 100 heads of state, according to the U.N. climate body. That’s smaller than last year’s summit in Glasgow, which brought together 120 world leaders and over 40,000 registered participants. But for a year in which no major decisions are officially expected, it’s still a substantial gathering.

Climate protests are part of the heart and soul of the annual negotiations. In previous years activists have held marches, hunger strikes, sit-ins and other forms of civil disobedience to stress the urgency of the climate crisis.

This year a growing number of Egyptians are calling for protests while world leaders are in Sharm el Sheikh to highlight Egypt’s abysmal human rights record. But given that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government has essentially banned all demonstrations and criminalized free assembly, those demonstrations appear unlikely.

In May, Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry did say that Egypt would allow some demonstrations at COP27, albeit in an “a facility adjacent to the conference center” and not in the negotiating halls or out in the streets of Sharm el Sheikh. Environmental activists said they remain fearful of crackdowns.

The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995, after a critical mass of nations ratified the climate convention. It was a milestone and set the stage two years later for the Kyoto Protocol, which at the time was a landmark global climate agreement.

But the Kyoto Protocol required only wealthy, industrialized nations to curb emissions while developing countries — including major emerging economies like China, India and Brazil — would reduce emissions voluntarily.

The United States Senate unanimously opposed it and so did President George W. Bush, setting in motion nearly two decades of wrangling over which nations bear the most responsibility for tackling climate change. In 2015, the Obama administration broke the impasse by leading nearly 200 countries to sign the groundbreaking Paris climate agreement. For the first time, rich and poor countries agreed to act, albeit at different paces, to tackle climate change.

The United States withdrew from the Paris accord under President Donald J. Trump but rejoined under President Biden.

Although leaders made big promises in Paris, countries have not taken enough actions to stave off the worst effects of climate change. In Glasgow last year, nations pledged to be more ambitious, and some have been. But a recent report from the United Nations found only about two dozen countries have followed through and pledged stronger action.

Scientists, activists and many world leaders agree that more ambition is needed even as countries start to make good on their plans to cut emissions.

COP26 produced the Glasgow Pact, an agreement among nearly 200 nations. It “requests” countries to “revisit and strengthen” their emissions targets by the end of 2022 in order to bring them into line with the goal of constraining global temperature rise to under 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with levels before the Industrial Revolution.

It also noted that rich countries have failed to meet a now decade-old promise to help deliver $100 billion annually by 2020, and urged them to “at least double” finance for adaptation by 2025.

On the sidelines of the formal negotiations dozens of agreements were struck by countries and corporations. More than 100 countries agreed to cut emissions of methane, a potent planet-warming gas, by 30 percent this decade. Another 130 countries vowed to halt deforestation by 2030 and commit billions of dollars toward the effort. Dozens of other countries vowed to phase out their coal plants and sales of gasoline-powered vehicles over the next few decades.

No. But some have begun to do so. The United States, for example, passed a law this year to invest $370 billion to pivot the country away from fossil fuels and toward emissions-free energy like wind, solar and nuclear power. It is expected to get the U.S. close — though not all the way — to its target of cutting emissions at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

It’s the threshold beyond which scientists say the likelihood of catastrophic climate impacts — such as deadly heat waves, water shortages, crop failures and ecosystem collapse — significantly increases. The planet has already warmed by about 1.1 degrees Celsius.

Constraining warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius requires all countries to cut emissions faster and deeper than they already are doing.

Loss and damage refers to the climate impacts that countries are experiencing right now but to which they cannot adapt — particularly poor, developing nations that have contributed the least to global warming. It’s finding shelter for the more than 30 million people in Pakistan displaced by floods. Or relocating communities in Fiji away from coastlines that are underwater because of rising seas.

Who should pay for those and other costs, and how? Those questions could spark intense debate at COP27.

This conference will test whether the international community can respond to the increasing urgency of the crisis.

Alden Meyer, an environmental activist and policy analyst who has attended 25 of the past 26 COPs said the global negotiations must evolve from haggling over verbiage in legal treaties to helping countries meet their emissions pledges in time to avoid more climate catastrophes and protect the most vulnerable nations.

“The COPs have a culture which is zero-sum, hostage-taking, bargaining, negotiating games,” Mr. Meyer said. “It’s not yet clear that the people who are coming to the COPs are even the ones that can deliver the transformation of the culture and the rolling up the sleeves and making things happen in an accelerated way for the transformation that needs to occur.”

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