The twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties begins on Sunday (COP27) of the United Nations on climate change. This year the conference is held in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt. Delegates from all around the world are called to discuss political and economic solutions to the climate crisis. The science is clear: the cause of recent climate change is greenhouse gas emissions from human activities [1]. The main task of the conference is therefore to review (and possibly strengthen) national commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to find ways to implement them.


This is part of the set of measures adopted by previous COPs, especially in the context of the Paris Agreement of 2015 and in the Glasgow Climate Pact of 2021. Difficult task, as global emissions have rebounded in recent years and are rising again [2], after the small reduction caused by the pandemic. Moreover, many governments are not giving the climate crisis the attention it deserves. On the topic of national emissions, the Climate Action Tracker website has several indicators to assess the commitments of individual countries to reduce emissions; to give an example, commitments made at European level are judged insufficient. Unfortunately, on a global level, things are not better. A recent United Nations report states that there is no possibility of achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement with the current commitments to reduce emissions [3].


A lot on one plate, basically. This infographic summarizes the current situation, stressing that there will be other important topics to be addressed at the conference in addition to emissions. One of the most discussed in recent years is the one called "loss and damage". Basically, is a system of damage repair and risk reduction in developing countries due to climate change. It is a very topical issue, since in recent decades the extreme events (often not covered by the Western media) have greatly increased in intensity and have claimed more than half a million lives in those countries..


Since the recent climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions, it is natural to think that the money for the repair of climate damage is allocated by the countries that have contributed the most on creating the problem. This is part of the broader concept of "climate justice", based on the fact that the countries that have contributed the least to the problem suffer the most from the climate crisis. All in all, dividing the world population in half between those living in richer countries and those living in poorer countries, the richest half is responsible for over 80% of global emissions. China, the US and the European Union alone contribute about half of global emissions. This does not even take into account the fact that some countries "subcontract” part of their emissions to others, for example, by moving their industrial or energy production. Let's leave this aspect aside, for simplicity. Historically, the 5 countries that have produced the most greenhouse gas emissions are USA, China, Russia, Germany and United Kingdom.

The top 10 countries by percentage of cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from 1750 to 2020 (Source: Our World In Data).


Unfortunately, a satisfactory agreement has not yet been reached on the issue of loss and damage, due to the inadequate responses of the aforementioned "guilty" countries, and despite the fact that the issue has been discussed for decades [4]. Developed countries promised to allocate 100 billion dollars a year, but they did not meet their commitments [5]. If you think it's a lot of money, think that it is much less than what is allocated annually for subsidize fossil fuels (400 billion dollars in the 2019). There is no agreement on who should be more committed to the issue. Some countries accuse others of not doing enough, while the latter accuse the former of hypocrisy [6]. Usual blame game, basically. On the other side, developing countries are pressing more and more for their requests on the subject to be heard. Several groups of countries active on the subject have been formed, like the V20, formed by 20 countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change [7]. The fact that the conference is taking place in Egypt, a developing country itself, it means that loss and damage will be central to the conference. If you want to learn more about loss and damage, Carbon Brief has put together a list of Q&A on the subject.


Climate justice is not just about emissions at national level, but also those on a personal level. There is a lot of talk lately about the so-called personal "ecological footprint", i.e. the impact that our individual behaviors have on the environment. This metric is criticized by some, who argue that it could be used to blame individuals only for the current situation and prevent systemic change.. Others believe it can be a useful indicator to measure the impact of our lifestyle on the environment.. Whatever you think, It is estimated that the richest 1% of the population caused about the 25% of global emissions over the last thirty years [8], with serious social repercussions.

Climate change is a huge challenge that affects us all and can only be tackled with a global approach.. Reparating damage and reducing the risk from extreme events in the most vulnerable countries can be a way for rich countries to free themselves from their role as "cause" of the problem., as it is to help developing countries to have more sustainable economic growth than we have had in the past..



[1] Evidence | Facts – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet

[2] Agenzia Internazionale dell’Energia: “Le emissioni globali di CO2 cresceranno meno dell’1% quest’anno grazie alle energie rinnovabili”

[3] Emissions Gap Report 2022

[4] Timeline: The struggle over ‘loss and damage’ in UN climate talks

[5] Richer nations fall short on climate finance pledge | AP News

[6] Who Is Responsible For Climate Change? – Who Needs To Fix It?

[7] Rich countries must urgently help poor nations hit by climate crisis, says V20

[8] L’1% più ricco ha causato quasi un quarto delle emissioni globali di gas serraGreenreport: economia ecologica e sviluppo sostenibile