Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico
COP27 Rachel (1903 × 558 px) ;

Inside COP27: understanding hard-fought wins and difficult outcomes

I attended Week 2 of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for my PhD research, and was also a representative of King’s Climate and the Sustainability team. These dual roles meant that I had a very busy week engaging in the negotiations and establishing interview contacts for my research, as well as sharing the exciting work going on at King’s around Climate and Sustainability with university partners.

Beyond the negotiations: collaborative learning with university partners 

As has been widely reported, over 35,000 people attended COP in Egypt this year, in what was the second highest attended event yet. While many of those attendees were part of country negotiating teams or non-party observers (including academics like me), many thousands were activists, civil society representatives, members of the private sector and the media. They were all there to follow the negotiations and to raise ambition, but also to connect around sharing best practices and capacity building. This meant the large conference venue at COP included not just the party delegation offices, and the meeting and plenary rooms, but also an area for large side event panels, and another with country and civil society pavilions.

In my capacity representing King’s Climate and Sustainability, I helped coordinate a series of meetings on behalf of the UK Universities Climate Network with leaders from other university climate networks around the world, with the aim of strengthening collaboration and sharing best practices. I also spoke on a panel at the Italian Pavilion and shared our experiences in King’s Sustainability developing the Climate Action Network (CAN) and inclusive implementation processes. I was able to build some exciting new connections and identified many opportunities for shared learning with various global university partners.

My participation at COP on behalf of King’s Climate enabled me to engage directly with the important civil society work that happens every year alongside the negotiations, to share the notable contributions of our King’s community and develop new partnerships for learning on achieving progress on net zero.

These are important spaces for collaboration in the university sector, especially on confronting difficult challenges. For example, addressing Scope 3 emissions and helping academics to engage directly in UNFCCC processes, which helps inform the work that happens beyond the negotiations at COP and supports capacity building. As a result, the conversations that happen in the pavilion spaces and in side events have real implications for the work initiated back home after COP.


Background on COP: navigating the negotiations as a researcher

Beyond this opportunity to represent King’s while I was at COP, I followed several key areas of the negotiations and made connections for interviews with relevant stakeholders for my PhD research. This COP was billed as the 'Implementation COP', and while there were ongoing and difficult discussions that were carried over from previous years (such as phasing out fossil fuels, the Mitigation Work Programme and transparency in carbon credit markets under Article 6), the negotiating bloc that represents many developing countries known as the ‘G77 and China’ made it clear they were not leaving Sharm El-Sheikh without a new funding mechanism for Loss and Damage.

My PhD research is focused on understanding how national governments make decisions on how best to adapt to the slower onset impacts from climate change, and how to respond to potential irreversible economic and non-economic Loss and Damage. I study how the use of planned relocation projects in anticipation or reaction to such impacts is incorporated into national decision-making and informed by multilateral frameworks, technical guidance, and potential funding for Adaptation and Loss and Damage.

I therefore closely followed the negotiations to see what decisions were made around guidance for national adaptation planning and for multilateral climate funds like the Adaptation Fund, the Green Climate Fund, and the Global Environment Facility around providing finance to support these processes. I also observed the negotiations on issues related to Loss and Damage, including the potential to establish a Loss and Damage Fund, the governance of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM), and the implementation of the Santiago Network under the WIM.

For context, during the first week of COP, the Subsidiary Bodies (SBI and SBSTA) finalised a draft text for each agenda item, which was then subject to review and agreement by consensus among party negotiators for each area of decision text during the second week.  There were then separate sets of negotiations through a range of meetings on the agenda items previously mentioned (guidance to the Green Climate Fund, the mitigation work programme, etc). There was also a ‘cover text’, negotiated by parties and led by the COP Presidency and COP President Dr Sameh Shoukry. This included many of the high-level points of political discussion that are frequently reported in the media (such as the debate over whether the cover text would call for a full phasing out of fossil fuels).

I followed the negotiations on the decision texts for Adaptation and Loss and Damage for my research – all of which can be highly controversial and contributed to COP continuing far past the official finish time each day. I experienced this firsthand in an informal session with about 100 negotiators on one of the decision texts, and witnessed an extended argument between two negotiators about which verb should be used and which countries should be included.... this led to one of them walking out of the room. While these very detailed arguments might have seemed unnecessary at first, I learnt how important small changes in word choices can be – for example, with regard to who gets access to support and to what extent countries are compelled to provide assistance.

While the outcomes of COP27 were mixed overall – and quite disappointing in some areas – the G77 and China, through consensus with other country partners, achieved a few hard-fought wins, especially on some of the key issues I was following.

Key outcomes for Adaptation, and Loss and Damage

Dr Susannah Fisher has detailed the challenging points around the Glasgow Sharm El-Sheikh Work Programme and efforts to establish a Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) as it was written into Article 7 of the Paris Agreement. At COP27, negotiators agreed on a framework to guide the GGA and next steps towards measuring progress through workshops outside of COP.

I was following the Loss and Damage negotiations closely, where important new steps were taken in Egypt. For many years, there has been an ongoing debate between country parties to give equal representation and support toward Adaptation as Mitigation. More recently, similar debate has ensued around elevating issues of Loss and Damage, giving them the same status as Mitigation and Adaptation as essential action areas in addressing the climate crisis.

Working Group II of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report published earlier this year highlighted examples of Loss and Damage that are already occurring worldwide and raised the urgency of measures needed now to address these impacts.

With the urgency of this mandate entering into COP, negotiators finally reached agreement on two key decisions, but failed to come to consensus on a third:

  1. Establishing a fund for Loss and Damage

Countries agreed to establish a new fund to address the impacts of Loss and Damage, especially in support of the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change. While many developed country parties spent much of the two weeks arguing that there was no need to set up a new fund (and such Loss and Damage funding could be channeled through existing mechanisms, including a new finance initiative set up by Germany and the G7 called 'Global Shield', which was widely promoted during events at the conference) – developing country parties held firm. Agreement was finally reached that a new fund will be created. The decision text establishes a Transitional Committee, which will be responsible for gathering data on knowledge gaps and developing recommendations for next year’s conference on the priorities for the Fund.

  1. Operationalising the Santiago Network for averting, minimising, and addressing Loss and Damage under the WIM

After many difficult days of negotiations, cheers erupted in the room when parties finally reached agreement on how to operationalise the Santiago Network. The Network was created at COP25 in Madrid, and intends to provide an important platform to facilitate connections on technical assistance between experts and those experiencing Loss and Damage impacts. Next steps detailed in the agreement included selecting a host organization for the Network this year.

  1. Governance of the WIM on Loss and Damage

This involved a difficult and nuanced discussion on liability around Loss and Damage, and whether the WIM is managed under the UNFCCC or just under the terms of the Paris Agreement. Unfortunately, countries could not come to agreement and this issue will be revisited in Dubai next year.

Reflecting on COP27

For my own research, attending COP27 as an observer proved a unique opportunity to closely follow the difficult processes behind each agenda item. I was also able to make some valuable connections for my research, and hear from inspiring leaders including newly re-elected Lula, the incoming President of Brazil who declared at the COP that ‘Brazil is back!’ and that protecting the Amazon and indigenous peoples there were his top priority.

Upon my return, I organised an event for our network of climate researchers at King’s, and students interested in hearing more about COP. Our panel of delegates brought insights from their time in Egypt to share with the King’s community, especially around their respective areas of research.


Dr Susannah Fisher delivered a helpful introduction to the big picture on COP including what outcomes were expected going in and outlined progress on the GGA, and I discussed the complications behind the Loss and Damage negotiations.

Dr Kate Greer highlighted progress on the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) agenda. Delegates agreed to a four-year action plan around education, training, public access to information and international cooperation, but there were ongoing disputes during the negotiations around finance, human rights, and youth inclusion.

Dr Simon Chin-Yee shared his experiences attending eight years of COPs and some of the successes and failures of this year’s conference. Simon’s research is focused on African politics, and he discussed the limitations of this event that was billed as the ‘African COP’ in terms of both logistical access problems and also lacking financial support for many African countries.

Ruyuan Liu was also attending COP for her PhD research and spent much of her time at the conference connecting with stakeholders from Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs). She pointed to a notable transition taking place in the financial sector around climate finance, and the collaborative work needed to leverage existing finance.

Professor Frans Berkhout highlighted exciting work happening at King’s around climate and sustainability. Whilst he did not attend COP this year, he was able to reflect on the events at COP today compared to his time in Copenhagen at the notorious ‘failure’ COP15. He acknowledged the sometimes frustrating nature of COPs, but also the notable changes and mindset shifts that have taken place since the events in Copenhagen in 2009.

Overall, attending COP this year proved a unique experience with exciting next steps for my own research. I was grateful to have been able to attend and to have had the opportunity to share what I learned with the King’s community upon my return.

While this year’s conference was certainly a mixture of successes and failures, I was inspired by the dedication from negotiators who put in many long sleepless nights to find consensus when opposing views blocked any progress, and by amazing youth activists who continued to hold decision-makers accountable – standing outside every high-level ministerial meeting reminding those going in of the stakes involved for the next generation, and holding signs demanding ‘Finance for Loss and Damage Now!’.

In this story

Latest news