Seán McDonagh: COP 27, Egypt, Nov 2022

COP27 which will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt in  November 2022 will it confront the current  global climate crisis?

Fr. Sean McDonagh

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began its work in 1988. Its object was to provide the world with a clear scientific understanding of climate change and its environmental and socio-economic consequences for our planet. During the next 30 years the IPCC produced comparative Assessment Reports every five to seven years outlining the global climate crisis and what we should do about it.

The first Conference of the Parties to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC) took place in Berlin, Germany in March 1995. Some people working in the fossil fuel industry denied the negative consequences of carbon dioxide to enable humans to continue using fossil fuels as they had done for two centuries. In Ireland some farmers claim that the methane produced by their cows is not a serious greenhouse gas issue. They have increased their number of cows dramatically since 2015. Naturally, they reject any reduction in cattle numbers, even though 35% of greenhouse gases comes from agriculture [1]

In the  last 30 years,  COPs has taken place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe. A key task for the COP is to review the national communication and emission inventories submitted by the Parties. Based on that information, the COP assesses the effects of the measures taken by the Parties to reduce greenhouse gases in their economy.

COP 27 will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from November 6th to 18th 2022. The return of the Conference of the Parties to Africa stresses two very important dimensions of global climate change. Firstly, Africa is responsible for just   4% of global emissions in 2022,by comparison with 32.4% for China and 12.6% for the United States, while the richer G20 countries are responsible for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable people in the planet will suffer the most from climate change. This point was made by Pope Francis in number 25 of his encyclical letter Laudato [2]

 Secondly, Africa bears the brunt of the effect of climate change, especially with droughts and famine affecting countries in the Horn of Africa.  The World Meteorological Organisation has forecast a fifth consecutive failed rainy season from October to December 2022. According to the World Food Programme (WFP) a massive 22 million people in the region are at risk of starvation.

Somalia is one of the worst affected countries in the area.  It has endured a three-decades-long civil war, major political instability, climate change and COVID-19.  This has pushed the country towards famine. In Kenya and Ethiopia, years of insufficient rainfall has caused the worst drought in 40 years. This severe weather has had a devastating effect on farming, with millions of livestock dying and a significant drop in food production due to failed harvests.

COP26 which took place in Glasgow from October 31st to November 12th, 2021, urged the United States and other developed countries which are primarily responsible for producing most greenhouse gases to increase funding for poor countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. Each year until 2025, rich countries were expected to contribute US$40 billion annually so that poor countries could adapt to mounting floods, droughts, forest fires, glacier melting in Greenland and West Antarctica. These are causing   sea-levels to rise and more frequent and severe typhoons in countries like the Philippines.  Unfortunately, rich countries have a history of failing to meet their financial obligations.  Just a fraction of the US100 billion promised by 2020 to help poor countries deal with loss and damages has been delivered.  It will be interesting to see whether COP27 in Egypt will deal with this issue in a systematic and just way.

The failure of countries to keep global warming below 1.5 Celsius will mean more and more losses in future. The average temperature of the world is 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial level.  In 2022, we have experienced multiple forest fires in Australia, Siberia, California, Alaska, and the Amazon. We have watched the monsoon caused by heavy rain and melting glaciers devastate three provinces in Pakistan – the Sindh, Baluchistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, wrecking the lives of 33 million people in that country.[3] Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world. The average citizen of the country is responsible for producing just one tonne of greenhouse gases per annum, whereas the average Irish citizen is responsible for producing 12 tonnes of greenhouse gas per year.  This emphasises the point that global climate change has a serious justice dimension which is not been acknowledge and met at international level. 

 Earlier in September 2022 a group of climate scientists published a report stating the world was increasing the risk of creating environment “tipping points” which would be catastrophic for our planet. Johan Rockstrom a co-chair of the Earth Commission and a director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, stated that “the world is heading toward a 2 or 3 degrees increase in f global warming. This will set the World on course to cross multiple dangerous tipping points which will be a disaster for people on Earth.”[4]  

In September 2022, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) predicts that climate change will increasingly affect vast area of planet earth.  Responding to this bleak prediction the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said, “that climate impacts are heading into uncharted territories of destruction.”[5]

In 2022, greenhouse gas levels are back to pre-pandemic levels. The pledges about greenhouse leading up to 2030 “need to be seven times higher to be in line with the 1.5 degrees goal of the Paris Agreement”[6]

The huge gap between aspirations and reality on moving away from fossil-fuels affects every developed country, including Ireland.  An article in the Irish Times on September 14th, 2022, entitled Government in breach of its own Climate Act arguesthatsectors and society have not being told who is to have what share of the agreed national carbon budget to 2030.[7]The authors feel that Ireland’s government is still fudging dealing with greenhouse gas emissions as humans have done for the past two decades at least. If we do not stop this year soon generations of people and other creatures will pay a heavy price.     

[1] Padraig Hoare, “Greenhouse gas emission reach record highs,”  The Irish Examiner,  September 14th 2022 page 1.

[2] Pope Francis, Laudato  Si’  A Care pf our Common Home, 2015,


[4] Kevin O’Sullivan, “Climate at risk of crossing points,” The Irish Times, September 14th2022. Page 1

[5]  Kevin O’Sullivan, “Climate crisis reports of ‘increasingly devastating elects,” The Irish Times, September 14th, 2022, page 10.

[6] Kevin O’Sullivan, ibid.

[7] Barry McMullin, Andrew Jackson, John Sweeney and Paul Price, “

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