This week and next, tens of thousands of people are gathering in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, for one of the year’s biggest climate events, COP27. But what is COP27? And how can Coalition members get involved from home? Here’s what you need to know:
What is COP27? Since 1995, the United Nations has hosted an annual climate change conference called the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Because this is the 27th conference, it’s known as COP27.
The more than 90 heads of states and thousands of representatives from 190 countries who are in attendance will spend the time discussing global climate challenges and potential solutions, with the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (aka 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The need for action has never been more obviously urgent, in a year marked by catastrophic weather events, including severe flooding, record-shattering heat waves, relentless drought, and destructive wildfires.
What’s the relevance of the 1.5˚ target? 1.5˚C doesn’t sound like very much – but when it comes to the delicate natural systems that keep our planet running smoothly, it’s more than enough to throw everything off balance. Already, the planet has warmed about 1.1˚C since the pre-industrial era as a result of rampant greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in shocking biodiversity loss and disruptions to human life. Scientists agree that above 1.5˚C of warming, the consequences we are already experiencing will intensify substantially, potentially triggering climate tipping points that would further accelerate warming.
At COP21 in 2015, nearly every country signed the Paris Agreement, committing to limit warming to “well below 2˚C” and “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5˚C.” That same goal was reaffirmed last year at COP26, with the adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact. Though some progress has been made since the Paris Agreement was ratified, the executive secretary of UN Climate Change Simon Stiell has warned that “we are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world.”
The difficulty of limiting warming to 1.5˚C is discouraging, but certainly not a reason to throw in the towel. Every fraction of a degree makes a difference, and it’s important to do everything possible to get as close to the 1.5˚C target as possible.
What else will leaders be talking about? While climate mitigation – reducing the emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases and increasing carbon sequestration in order to limit warming – is a major focus of COP27, it’s not the only subject of conversation. Leaders will also be discussing adaptation strategies, or how communities can respond and build resilience to the challenges of climate change. This year, participants are also expected to address climate impacts that we can’t easily adapt to, which is known as loss and damage. All of these efforts cost money, which is why the another major focus of discussion will be climate finance.
What does this have to do with shellfish? Whether it’s rapidly acidifying oceans or warming waters, shellfish aquaculture has been suffering the effects of climate change for years – and anything that will help mitigate this crisis will also benefit the shellfish industry. But beyond general climate goals, aquaculture and coastal communities will be more specifically part of the conversation, as attendees will be discussing sustainable food production and ocean ecosystems.
How can you get involved? While formal COP27 activities are closed to the public, many side events are free to attend online. Learn more and register for the Virtual Ocean Pavilion here, and the Food Systems Pavilion here. (View a full list of pavilions here.)
Want to know more about COP27? Read The Nature Conservancy’s guide for additional information.