Why can't COP27 just be a virtual meeting? Your questions answered

What's at stake at COP27? Has any progress been made since COP26? Why can’t it be a virtual event? Here's what you wanted to know about the climate change conference.

Also: Who is Canada sending to COP27? And who pays the bill?

Demonstrators hold a globe during the COP27 UN Climate Summit on Thursday, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (Peter Dejong/The Associated Press)

This story idea came from audience members, like you, who got in touch with us. Send us all of your questions about COP27 or climate change. We are listening:

As world leaders and high-profile delegates discuss and debate the question of how to solve climate change at COP27 in Egypt, we listened to your questions about the climate conference.

Let's start with the basics. 

What is COP27?

Every year the United Nations holds these conferences to get governments to agree on steps to limit global warming as countries struggle to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

COP stands for "Conference of the Parties" and 27 just means it's the 27th such event since the first COP meeting was held in Berlin in March 1995. This year it is taking place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, until Nov. 18.

What is the goal for COP27?

According to opening remarks by UN Secretary-General António Guterres the ultimate goal is to encourage action towards the world's collective climate goals committed to with the Paris Agreement in 2015.

So essentially, the overarching goal is limiting the global average temperature rise this century to less than 2 C, preferably closer to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels. Guterres said that goal will only be possible if the world can achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Julie Segal, a climate finance expert from Environmental Defence, who is attending the conference says "the litmus test for this COP to be a success is to move forward with what's called a loss and damage fund mechanism."

She says loss and damage funding would ensure wealthy countries are providing funds to the countries bearing the heaviest burden of climate change yet have contributed less to the climate crisis itself.

World leaders need to listen to what the Global South needs in terms of financing and then deliver on the mitigation efforts, Segal said.

WATCH | Who the Global South says should pay for the effects of climate change: 

Will rich nations pay for global climate disasters?

3 months ago
Duration 6:03
Vulnerable countries are bearing the brunt of climate change, even though they aren’t the ones driving it. At COP27, leaders from the Global South will tell rich nations — the world’s highest greenhouse gas emitters — that it's time to pay for damages.

Alden Meyer — a senior associate at E3G, a climate change think-tank — who has been attending COP since it first started, says that cutting down on emissions globally and getting developing countries to adapt to climate change are also main issues of focus this year, along with loss and damage funding. 

"Cross cutting all of them is finance [and] the need to mobilize substantially more finance to do all three of those things," he said.

What is at stake in these negotiations?

"The future of the planet is at stake," said Meyer.

The UN secretary-general delivered a similar message when the conference began. 

"Humanity has a choice: co-operate or perish," Guterres told delegates. He urged them to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels and speed up funding to poorer countries struggling under the effects of climate change so far.

Despite decades of climate talks, countries have failed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, and their pledges to do so in the future are insufficient to keep the climate from warming to a level scientists say will be catastrophic.

Guterres even went on to make the grim declaration that the lack of progress so far had the world speeding down a "highway to hell."

Has there been any progress since COP26?

At last year's meeting, world leaders agreed to transition away from fossil fuels and cut greenhouse gas emissions faster than in the past. All 193 countries involved in the Paris Agreement agreed to revisit their nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Most countries, including Canada, have not submitted an updated NDC since COP26. Here is where you can see which countries have made submissions and how robust their new commitments are.

Although global progress has been slow, Meyer said some has been made since COP26 in Glasgow last year. 

According to current commitments, world emissions will increase by about 10 per cent by 2030, compared to 2010 levels, Meyer said. He notes that represents an improvement over last year's assessment, which found countries were on a path to increase emissions by about 14 per cent.

"So yes, we're making progress but nowhere near the pace that we need to, and we don't have enough time," he said.

Who is Canada sending to COP27? 

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, this country's core delegation is around 335 members. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not attending, instead Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault is leading the delegation. It includes politicians and representatives from the business and labour sectors, from most provinces and territories and there are also youth and Indigenous representatives.

Who pays for Canada's attendees?

The federal government is paying for the participation of federal officials, Environment and Climate Change Canada said to CBC News in an email. 

It is also helping pay for up to six representatives from each group: Indigenous Leaders, support staff, parliamentarians, youth representatives, and environmental non-governmental organizations.

All other participants, while accredited to the Canadian delegation, have covered their own costs.

Ottawa also says they are working with all delegates to ensure that all carbon emissions from travel to the conference are offset.

Why can't it be a virtual conference?

It would be inequitable, said Eddy Pérez, international climate diplomacy director at advocacy group Climate Action Network Canada.

"This meeting is for global representation. And when it comes to global representation, for those who are, are 12,13,14 hours away — where the time zones are completely different, it's inequitable to force them to align to our time zones," he said.

Segal agrees, saying it's important for delegations from the countries most vulnerable to the climate crisis to be able to meet in person as equals.

"What's really important here is for everyone to come together, for all of those voices to be invited to the same table so that people are held accountable for the promises that they made, people have their ears open to those who are at the front lines of the climate crisis," she said.

With files from Reuters

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