COP27: the world leaders summit

The opening days of COP27 see global leaders meet to address the world stage on climate change. A “tension” has been described as developing nations call for more support from richer countries, and the UN outlines a crackdown on greenwashing.
November 11, 2022

The agenda for world leaders and a COP divided

More than 100 world leaders convened at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, to launch the Climate Implementation Summit and work toward implementing existing climate agreements. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt and Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, greeted world leaders. The summit began with an inaugural plenary addressed by H.E. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who was joined by a number of other notable speakers, including heads of state and climate leaders, who stressed the need for swift action to combat climate change. Following the introductory plenary, world leaders participated in three roundtable discussions to discuss a variety of pressing climate change-related topics, including just transition, food security, and innovative finance for climate and development on the 1st day of the event and investing in the future of energy, water security and climate change and the sustainability of vulnerable communities on the 2nd day.[i]

Source: COP27

The discussion points of each of the roundtables are outlined below.

  • Just Transition
  • Integrate just transition principles across all sectoral transition plans (food & water security, energy access, housing, transportation, health, etc.)
  • When formulating national and international policy, place emphasis on safeguarding communities at three levels. The citizen level, the sectoral level and the geographical level.
  • Establish a relationship between climate action, inclusive growth, and sustainable development through securing consistent funding from international, national, and private investors. Opportunities specific to the private sector include its role in attracting investment, conducting research and development, tying up global supply chains, and fostering the development of skills.[ii]
  • Food Security
  • Utilising climate-smart, sustainable methods of production that will boost output while reducing emissions and making the food supply more resilient to shocks and extreme weather.
  • Reducing food loss in the harvesting, transit, and consumption stages and improving access to cold chains.
  • Directing consumer demand for food in the direction of diets that can be sustained within the earth’s limits, including reducing meat consumption, creating substitutes, and promoting the move to more indigenous plants, crops, and grains.[iii]
  • Innovative Finance for Climate and Development
  • Create an international framework for innovative climate finance.
  • Assist developing countries with identifying and developing a comprehensive offer of bundled and bankable climate projects.
  • Develop a global hub/marketplace for climate finance to encourage the creation of climate finance platforms.[iv]
  • Investing in the Future of Energy: Green Hydrogen
  • Foster a better understanding of the current status of Hydrogen production.
  • Discuss the expected production scenarios to meet the needs, current and future policies and their impact.[v]
  • Water Security
  • Embedding action on water security into global climate goals.[vi]
  • Climate Change and the Sustainability of Vulnerable Communities
  • Investigate ways to organise the efforts of various stakeholders to deal with disasters and degradation caused by climate and weather in order to manage climate-induced migration and displacement.
  • Examine strategies for enhancing local responses to the growing impacts of climate change, specifically scaling up long-term climate adaptation solutions, enhancing crisis preparedness and disaster risk reduction.[vii]

The discussions at these roundtables, perhaps with the exception of green hydrogen, can be seen through a dichotomous lens in that they create a divide between developed and developing economies. For example, cases of food security and water security affect developing economies more prevalently than developed countries, with undernourishment 8% higher on average in developing nations.[viii] So too, in the case of vulnerable communities, just transition and innovative finance for development, there is a clear divide between the capacity and responsibilities of developed and developing nations. This has fomented what has been described by Reuters as a “tension” at the event between richer and poorer nations at the event.[ix]

Key takeaways

The tone of the introductory addresses at COP27 was one dominated by accounts of destruction and damage as a result of the worsening climate crisis. The State of the Global Climatic Report 2022, according to a video message from Mr Guterres (UN Secretary-General) to the conference, is a "chronicle of climate chaos." It states that the last eight years are on track to be the warmest on record and that the increase in global temperatures from pre-industrial levels has now reached 1.15C. In addition to these major effects, the report forewarned of the acceleration of sea level rise, record glacier mass losses, and extreme heat waves.[x] Additionally, the spectre of conflict in Ukraine as a result of Russia’s invasion and the subsequent global impact on fossil fuels did add its own context to discussions. However, COP27 president, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, made clear that from the COP presidency perspective, these issues should not inhibit efforts to address the climate crisis.[xi] However, these themes once again highlighted a division between rich and poor nations when it comes to combatting the climate crisis.

At the meeting, nations that are extremely vulnerable to climate change called on wealthier nations to bear the cost of the harm caused by drought, harsh storms, and rising sea levels. According to them, industrialised countries owe this money because their wealth was derived from the long-term exploitation of fossil fuels. In contrast, many less developed nations, particularly, the small island states that are most at risk, have made almost no contribution to global emissions. Richer countries have traditionally avoided discussing compensation or reparations, but this year, for the first time since the summits' inception 30 years ago, the topic, known as "loss and damage", was placed on the COP agenda.Dealing with loss and damage is a component of the huge $1 trillion annual figure produced by the Independent High-Level Expert Group on Climate Finance for COP27 that they say will be required to address climate commitments in the developing world by 2025. This figure could rise to a potential $2.4 trillion by 2030.[xiii]

In the context of the invasion of Ukraine, the Corporate Europe Observatory alleges fossil fuel giants “managed to use the crisis to their own advantage”.[xiv] This is relevant to the world leaders summit as Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua, declared that it was past due for profit-making fossil fuel companies to be forced to pay a "global carbon tax" to cover losses and damages. Browne also noted that six fossil fuel firms gained about €70 billion in profits in the first half of this year alone, which he said was "more than enough money to cover the costs of major climate damages in developing nations.".[xv]

Source: Yahoo News

Few developed nations have committed to answering the calls from developing nations to fund a response to loss and damages. Austria, Denmark, Germany, Belgium & Scotland are the small group that has broken rank from other wealthy nations to pledge financial support. Austria is reported to be providing $50 million dollars which it is suggested could be used to support the "Santiago Network", a UN initiative that offers technical assistance to nations suffering from the effects of climate-related natural disasters, as well as a programme that provides early warning systems to nations vulnerable to extreme weather.[xvi]

Despite economic pressures presently facing the UK, Rishi Sunak pledged to keep Britain’s commitments to climate finance during his speech to the world leaders summit. The new British prime minister described how the global economy was “all but broken” by the pandemic but reiterated pledges of £11.6 billion in climate finance and to treble adaptation allocations to£1.5 billion by 2025. The earmarked funds include components that will be channelled into programmes that support developing nations.[xvii] These significant resources that the UK government will see put towards climate finance represent a different approach to that of Austria, Denmark etc. The UK prime minister made clear his own view on climate reparations for loss and damage. In an appearance in the House of Commons he said that such reparations for developing nations “were not the right approach” and that the UK was “fulfilling (its) obligations” in terms of climate compensation.[xviii] Mr Sunak’s government says it will prioritise green investment at home in Britain. The argument being that by reducing the overall impact of Britain on the climate is equally important as managing current loss and damage around the world. It is hoped that future loss and damage may be avoided by this intervention.[xix] This is seen as a more sustainable approach by its proponents who claim that reparations would be a slippery slope that would severely damage the capacity of the UK to achieve its own net zero targets.[xx]

Another key discussion from the summit came again from the UN with a call to end “loopholes wide enough to drive a diesel truck through.” In global commitments. The UN secretary general did say that increasing commitments from nations were “good news”, but this was coupled with the release of a ‘how to’ guide that sought to avoid greenwashing and increase accountability. Because current regulations do not consider all emissions a corporation is connected to, it is possible for them to promote themselves as making net zero commitments while contracting out their polluting operations to other organisations, such as suppliers. The report seeks to eliminate this practice and gives additional recommendations that seek to encourage transparency for businesses’ net zero plans, as well as calling on governments to do more to support private sector progress on climate crisis action.[xxi]


[i] COP27- World Leaders Gather for Implementation at COP27

[ii] COP27- Round table on “Just Transition”

[iii] COP27- Round table on “Food Security”

[iv] COP27- Round table on “Innovative Finance for Climate and Development”

[v] COP27- Round table on “Investing in the Future of Energy: Green Hydrogen”

[vi] COP27- Round table on “Water Security”

[vii] COP27- Round table on “Climate Change and the Sustainability of Vulnerable Communities”

[viii] The North African Journal of Food and Nutrition Research- Food and water security in developing economies: impact of the pandemic and possible interventions

[ix] Reuters- COP27: Polluters must pay for climate change, poor nations tell rich

[x] BBC- COP27: 'Climate chaos' warning as UN summit begins

[xi] Ibid

[xii] BBC- COP27: Time to pay the climate bill - vulnerable nations

[xiii] RTE- COP27: $1 trillion of climate finance needed per year by 2025

[xiv] Corporate Europe Observatory- Fuelling the cost of living crisis

[xv] EuroNews- COP27: Small island nations call for windfall tax on Big Oil to pay for loss and damage

[xvi] EuroNews- COP27: Austria pledges €50m of funding for loss and damage from climate change

[xvii] Politico- Sunak vows no backsliding on climate finance despite UK economic crisis

[xviii] The Telegraph- Rishi Sunak rules out climate reparations amid ongoing Cop27 row

[xix] Ibid

[xx] The Independent- Blow to vulnerable states as Rishi Sunak shuns calls for climate reparations

[xxi] EuroNews- 'The sham must end’: UN experts call for crackdown on greenwashing of net zero pledges

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Oscar Pusey
Research Analyst

Oscar is a recent graduate with a background in earth science. He is currently studying an MSc focussing on disaster responses, emergency planning and community resilience. His postgraduate research project will assess the link between climate crisis risk perception and attitudes to green energy projects. “Adapting to the climate crisis through the pursuit of net zero requires community engagement and understanding. Zero Carbon Academy’s goals closely align with this approach and I’m excited to have the opportunity to research and communicate a variety of topics relating to our environment and sustainability”.

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