COP27: What Happened in Week One?

by Tolulope Gbenro, JP Arellano, Charlie Bevis, Georgia Fulton and Nikola Baumschlager

More than 100 world leaders (only seven of whom were women) and over 45,000 individuals from 196 countries made their way to Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27). The conference began on November 7th, with the Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres, setting the tone of the conference by warning world leaders of the grave and mortal peril we face as a species by saying, “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.” This is a crucial message in a COP that has seen a 25% rise in the number of oil and gas representatives compared to last year. 

On the upside, this was the first COP to have a Children and Youth Pavilion which seeks to “amplify the voices of young people and drive global climate policies vital to securing [their] future.” Young people have indeed been making their voices heard by organizing several rallies and protests throughout the venue, demanding (amongst many things) for the compensation of developing nations for the losses and damages that have already occurred due to climate disasters such as floods and droughts. 

Key highlights from the World Leaders Summit include strong messages seeking a more intersectional approach to the climate crisis. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, called for peace for the effective progress of climate policy. Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Programme, called out the economic impossibility of the current scenario for countries who are already suffering acute natural disasters.

Continue reading below for highlights of each thematic day in the first week of COP27. 

Finance Day, November 9th

Finance is one of the most-watched themes this year owing to the emphasis placed on
(a) mobilising finance to assist Africa with climate adaptation and its energy transition and
(b) loss and damage. Both of these demands require funds but should not be confused.
When climate-vulnerable countries refer to loss and damage, they are asking for compensation from industrialised countries, the latter being more responsible for historic emissions whilst the former are now suffering the consequences of the climate crisis. In contrast, mobilising finance includes loans and grants from private and public sources, a much broader umbrella.

In relation to loss and damage, the momentum for compensation payments was undermined when the agenda was set at the start of the week. Whilst wealthier industrialised countries agreed that loss and damage could be on the agenda, they ensured that the wording did not include the terms ‘liability’ or ‘compensation’. The feeling from the ground is that this legalese creates an obligation that is a little too pressing. As such, there have been few specific pledges on this topic. Scotland pledged a further £5 million to its loss and damage fund, created at COP26, whilst Austria has announced at least €50 million of loss and damage funding over the next four years. Belgium pledged €2.5 million, and Germany announced €170 million for a “Global Shield” initiative from the richest seven countries (G7) to the most vulnerable 20 countries (V20) which will be officially launched at COP27 on 14 November. Other pledges can be found here.

As expected, the commitments that would not be public debt-free grants were more substantial. The UK has pledged £1.5 billion for climate adaptation globally by 2025, and the Netherlands promised $100 million for adaptation in Africa. There have also been agreements made for the movement of funds from industrialised countries to specific developing countries, mirroring the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan with South Africa from last year. For example, Namibia announced that it had received $544 million in climate finance from the Dutch government and the European Investment Bank. Whilst these funds are naturally welcome, there has been much discussion around the venue of whether, in the long term, we are simply piling more debt onto countries already struggling to repay loans and whether debt-free finance should be encouraged instead. 

Furthermore, at the World Leaders Summit, there was a more radical discussion of financing, with speakers such as Mia Mottley and Al Gore calling out the Bretton Woods system (i.e. the IMF and World Bank) for preventing developing countries from being able to access private finance. It was reiterated several times that countries in the Global North could borrow with interest rates of 1-4%, whilst many in the Global South are being charged up to 14% interest. It was emphasised that many of the countries at COP were not even independent entities when the system was created, and it is time for a major revamp. 

Finally, the International Capital Market Association announced that it would be providing standard wording for climate-resilient debt clauses, which would freeze debt repayments for two years following a climate event. The purpose of these is to allow climate-vulnerable countries to insert them into loans so that they do not fall into a debt crisis following a climate-related natural disaster, as was nearly the case in Pakistan after this year’s flooding. This is a crucial development, but many countries in the Caribbean and elsewhere are experiencing climate events more frequently than once every two years, so it will be interesting to see how this timeframe works in practice. 

Science Day, November 10th

The role that science and scientists play in our understanding of climate mitigation and adaptation took centre stage on the second thematic day of COP27. 

On the morning of November 10th, COP27 President H.E Sameh Shoukry said, “While we cannot turn back time on melting glaciers and reverse global emissions, we can stop backsliding on our commitments and slow down, even stop some of the impacts of climate change by drawing upon science to find solutions.” Also adding, “We hope that all the participants in our thematic day on science leave with a stronger desire for finding science-based solutions and a plan for implementation that leaves no one behind.”

The day included an event going over the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report and how to use it to accelerate global climate action, where the academic community stressed the need for science-based information to support implementation. The “One Health Initiative” was also launched, aiming to improve the health of all (human and animal) and provide better mitigation to confront the climate health crisis.

Youth and Future Generations Day, November 10th

The youth day began with young people protesting and demanding a loss and damage financial outcome be reached by the end of COP. 

Nisreen Elsaim, one of the members of the UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, spoke on climate anxiety and how the “climate reality” seems not to bother world leaders. Furthermore, she urged world leaders to care for their families and future generations. She used India’s Carbon Neutral Pledge by 2070 to show that most of the current leaders will not be around a few years from now, and young people and future generations will be left with the responsibility of fulfilling their commitments.

Social media campaigns have been held to amplify the voices of young people, such as the #missingmajority campaign by Restless Development. There have also been several movie showings, such as the ActNowFilm2 on intergenerational conversations streamed at the China pavilion in the Blue Zone on the 9th of November. There has even been a programme offered by the Youth Negotiators Academy that trains, connects, and empowers youth negotiators to participate meaningfully in the COP27 negotiations as part of their official country delegations.

Additionally, this year saw the inclusion of the first Children and Youth Pavilion in the Blue Zone. To say it has been a success would be an understatement. The exceptional events, cosy working space and free coffee have fostered an inclusive venue that has been consistently busy. Moreover, its popularity has been noted by world leaders, and figures such as COP President Sameh Shoukry, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley have paid visits to the pavilion. Crucially, in a meeting with young people this week, Antonio Guterres promised it would be a permanent fixture, meaning at least one victory for youth has been secured.

Decarbonisation Day, November 11th

Decarbonising our society was the theme of day 6 at COP27. The day started with a grim announcement by the Global Carbon Project that emissions will reach record high levels in 2022. This will hopefully spark action from our leaders as the 1.5 degrees goal approaches a narrower and narrower window. 

A key theme was that of “implementation now”. Many business leaders such as the CEO of CWP Global spoke about how waiting for costs to come down is simply not an option, that companies need to take a “leap of faith” that the market will soon be there. Talks of carbon-negative cement, sustainable fashion, steel produced with green hydrogen, green ammonia manufacturing, and much more left many feeling with hope for a less emissions intensive industry. The key to all of this will be if the finance is available or not; however, reports indicate that institutional investors are eager to invest in long term green assets.

The rapid and more crucially equitable deployment of these new industries will provide millions of jobs worldwide and is expected to be a significant push to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

Adaptation and Agriculture Day, November 12th

Last year, at COP26, insufficient attention was paid to food – even though the role of global food production systems is exacerbating climate change and other environmental issues. This year food was high on the agenda (we witnessed the first time a Food Systems Pavilion was featured). It highlights the importance of transforming the global food system and agriculture to accomplish the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

November 12th saw a major initiative launched: FAST (Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation). The Egyptian Presidency is working with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to improve the quantity and quality of climate finance to transform our food systems by 2030. FAST is a global initiative built on tangible deliverables with a strong focus on governance. This will hopefully help unite nations under a vision to transform agriculture and food systems this decade, aligning them with a 1.5 Degrees temperature pathway – benefitting nature, people and the economy.

Another initiative led by the US and the United Arab Emirates has doubled investment from $4 billion announced last year to $8 billion; $1 billion was explicitly aimed at innovation initiatives for small-holder farmers in developing economies, new technologies, agroecological research and methane reduction. These initiatives extended their reach to help agriculture adapt to climate change and reduce emissions through innovation.


As we wrap up week one we look towards the future of COP27 which still has several key themes left to cover (Gender, Water, Civil Society, Energy, Biodiversity and Solutions). Keep an eye on our social platforms for ongoing updates from Sharm el-Sheikh.


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