COP 27 – A Sociological Analysis

COP 27 – where 198 nations met to discuss climate change and agreed to do very little about it!

36 000 people representing 198 nations, companies, international organisations and civil society met in Egypt in November 2022 to try and agree further commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slow down global warming, but little progress was made.

This post summarises the outcomes and applies some sociological concepts to this contemporary event.

What is COP 27?

Cop stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’ who meet to discuss actions to combat climate change under the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. In 2022 this was attended by representatives of 198 countries and several other representative from companies, international organisations and civil society groups.

2022 was the 27th international meeting on Climate Change since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, this year it was held in Egypt and was attended by 35 000 people.

Paris 2015

The 2015 COP meeting in Paris was especially signficant because this was the first time countries agreed to try and reduce global warming to within 1.5 degrees of pre-industrial levels by the year 2030.

Nationally Determined Contributions

Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs are fundamental to reducing global emissions and keeping the rate of global warming in check. They are specific country agreements which contain policy measures countries are prepared to implement to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries are supposed to publish these regularly, but only 24 had published revised NDCs since the previous COP meeting in Glasgow in 2021 and only 54 countries have long-term plans for reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Main Outcomes of COP 27

The main outcomes of Cop 27 were:

  • The creation of a loss and damage fund to compensate developing countries for the disproportionate damage they have suffered from climate change caused primarily by developed countries which have been the main beneficiaries of the wealth generated by the industrial revolution. However there are no details of who is going to contribute, when, to what organisations or how much money is involved.
  • Countries failed to agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to hit the 1.5 degree increase by 2020 target, although in the last year a few countries have got more ambitious and so now we are on target to only increase out emissions by 10% rather than 13%.
  • Countries failed to commit to phasing out all fossil fuels, although they recommitted to phasing out the use of coal which had been introduced as part of Cop 26 in Glasgow.
  • There was a commitment to scale up the use of low emission energy, although gas might be redefined as low emission because it’s less toxic than goal and oil.
  • There was a recommitment by developed countries to provide $100 billion in funding to developing countries to help them adapt to climate change by funding projects such as sea defences and reforestation. However only $20 billion in funding has been provided since this was first agreed in 2021 and this year some countries tried to remove this commitment.
  • There are plans in place to restructure the World Bank so that it can provide funding to developing countries to help them adapt to climate change.
  • Copy 27 recognised that there might be ‘tipping point’s as the climate warms – once we get above a certain temperature things might get rapidly worse as climate change doesn’t happen in a smooth and linear fashion. They also recognised that climate change has a negative impact on people’s health which is a basic human right.

Criticisms of COP 27

Great Thunberg didn’t attend COP 27 because she accused the attendees of Greenwashing which is where governments use the international conference to make it appear like they are doing something about Climate Change but in reality they are not.

If you look back at the ‘achievements’ above you can clearly see that while these commitments are dressed up as ‘progress’ in reality very little has been achieved since Paris in 2015.

More radical climate activists such as Great Thunberg and organisations such as 350.0rg believe that we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels much ore rapidly and that it is possible to transition to fully renewable energy supplies such as solar and wind much sooner than 2030, but there just isn’t the political will to do so.

350.0rg’s demands.

Sociology applied to COP 27

COP 27 is an example of globalisation in action as this is one of the largest international meetings in history, attended by representatives of nearly every country on earth.

There is very little substance to any of the actions agreed upon at COP 27 and specific progress towards reducing our reliance on fossil fuels remains extremely limited. This suggests that if there is any kind of consensus at the level of national governments (or nation states) then that consensus is to do relatively little about getting global warming under control by 2030.

Nation States seem more committed on prioritising economic growth and poverty alleviation and setting up resilience funds to help poor countries deal with the negative effects of climate change, rather than a radical shift away from fossil fuels, suggesting support for the Marxist view that nation states are in alliance with the polluting fossil fuel companies.

There is a considerable portion of civil society (i.e. ordinary people) who think governments aren’t doing enough fast enough to combat global warming and climate change. For example Just Stop Oil have been active recently shutting down motorways, mainly representing the young rather than the old, and another organisation is 350.0rg who believe that a much faster transition to renewable energy is possible!

Anthony Giddens has said that Nation States are too small to deal with global problems – maybe we are seeing that here – while some nation states have committed to reducing emissions, most have not, and there’s not very much the committed states can do to force the others into following suit!

Signposting

The environment and development is one of the topics within the Global Development option on the AQA’s A-level sociology specification.

Sources

UK Parliament: House of Lords Library: COP 27 Progress and Outcomes

The Guardian: What are they key outcomes of COP 27 climate agreement?

United Nations: COP 27

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