UN’s COP27 climate change summit starts Sunday: What you need to know

World leaders say the meeting of the 197 countries that have agreed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is key to efforts to fight climate change.

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Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who says the United Nation’s climate meetings don’t do enough. Thunberg said rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented change is needed to deal with global warming. 

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg says the United Nation’s climate meetings don’t do enough. Thunberg said rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented change is needed to deal with global warming.

Leon Neal / Getty Images

The massive annual United Nations climate meeting opens Sunday at the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, amid criticism that, rather than taking real steps to address climate changs, is likely to amount to nothing more than international greenwashing that produces little serious progress.

President Joe Biden is among those who will be attending what’s known as COP27, which runs through Nov. 18, for at least a day. The White House says he’ll “build on the significant work the United States has undertaken to advance the global climate fight.”

But Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg counts herself among the gathering’s critics. Speaking in London last weekend upon the release of her book “The Climate Book,” the 19-year-old who has gained global fame in the fight against climate change said the meetings are mostly a chance for “leaders and people in power to get attention, using many different kinds of greenwashing.”

Some key facts to know about COP27: 

What is COP27?

COP27 is the yearly United Nations meeting of the 197 countries that have agreed to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, originally adopted in 1992. The meeting is the decision-making body of the countries that signed on and is held to assess how well the countries are dealing with climate change.

What does COP27 stand for?

COP is short for Conference of the Parties that signed the agreement. This is the 27th meeting of all the signatories.

Is COP27 necessary?

Before the industrial revolution, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million. CO2 traps the sun’s heat, warming the plant. This year’s measurement is 419 parts per million — a number not seen since the Pliocene Epoch 4.1 to 4.5 million years ago.

At that time, the sea level was about 78 feet higher than today, the average temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in pre-industrial times, and studies indicate large forests occupied areas of the Arctic that are now tundra, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Critics have said the annual meeting with its small, incremental and sometimes bureaucratic change is too little, too late. Thunberg said rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented change is needed to deal with global warming. 

COP27 also has been criticized for allowing Coca-Cola, one of the world’s largest plastic producers, to be a major sponsor of the event.

What’s expected to happen?

Countries are supposed to deliver updated plans on how they’re going to lower their greenhouse-gas emissions, something they agreed to do at last year’s COP in Glasgow, Scotland. 

Only 23 out of 193 countries have submitted plans to the U.N.

Read more at USA Today.

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