What Is COP27? And Other Questions About the Big U.N. Climate Summit

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.

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