by Kaelin Ferland '23 on December 3, 2022
From Nov. 6 to Nov. 18 world leaders met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt at the 27th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, otherwise known as COP27. The two-week-long summit focuses exclusively on climate change, as well as the steps countries should take to achieve the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. The treaty reaffirms the commitment of almost all of the countries in the world to combating climate change, with countries agreeing to take the necessary actions to prevent the planet from warming an additional 1.5 degrees celsius. By avoiding this number, we can avert some of the most severe effects of climate change. However, we are far from reaching this goal, as the United Nations recently announced that the planet will warm an additional 2.1 to 2.9 degrees celsius by 2030. We’re also not close to reaching the deforestation goals established at COP26 last year.
This means that this year’s COP27 summit was more important than ever. Unfortunately, it seems like every year, people are left underwhelmed and disappointed by the lack of political progress made during the conference, accusing it of being performative rather than productive. The conference has been harshly criticized by many, including 19-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who claimed that it’s “mainly used as an opportunity for leaders and people in power to get attention,” and people need to “realize what a scam this is and realize that these systems are failing us.” When speaking at COP26 in 2021, she publicly denounced the summit as “a failure,” saying that it will just “maintain business as usual,” allowing those in power to benefit at the expense of the planet. It wasn’t surprising that Thunberg did not attend this year’s conference as she has in the past.
When investigating the companies that sponsored COP27, it does seem as though Thunberg is correct in her description of the summit as “a scam.” Understandably, the conference received a lot of criticism for being sponsored by Coca-Cola, a company that profits from plastic water bottles made of petroleum and oil. According to a report by Corporate Accountability and the Corporate European Observatory, 95 percent of COP27 sponsors had connections to the fossil fuel industry. as stated in another report from Global Witness, somehow 636 lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry were at the conference. There’s no reason this many individuals profiting from the very thing that is driving climate change should be allowed to attend a conference trying to phase out fossil fuels.
At this year’s conference, around 80 countries, including the United States, were in favor of the elimination of fossil fuels by 2025. However, many countries that rely on oil exports economically did not support this proposal. This was a huge missed opportunity to drastically decrease our global emissions.
There were some positive agreements reached at the conference. As expected, climate justice was at the forefront of the summit. This is important because the conference was held in Egypt, and Africa is the continent most affected by climate change, despite contributing to it significantly less than developed countries. After days of negotiations, leaders of developed countries finally agreed to establish a fund to provide financial support for developing countries that are most impacted by the climate crisis.
Developed countries have already made such a promise in 2009, agreeing to give $100 billion to countries threatened by climate change every year. While this number would be nowhere near the amount of money required to help developing countries adapt to this threat, it shows how developed countries are starting to acknowledge their greater role in causing environmental problems. However, this agreement was supposed to happen by 2020, but it still has yet to take effect. With the failure of the last pledge and climate change worsening, this new fund will be imperative to help developing countries.