What to Expect at COP-27 in Sharm El Sheikh

The negotiators gathering for the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP-27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt will try to tackle a significant number of important issues, with questions relating to increased ambition and financial transfers among those at the top of the agenda.  This is the focus of my podcast conversation with Ray Kopp, Senior Fellow at Resources for the Future (RFF), in the newest episode of “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program,” a podcast produced by the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.  You can listen to our full conversation here. 

Ray Kopp will be at COP-27 with the delegation of RFF.  I’ll be there, as well, leading our group from the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements.  At the end of this blog post, I provide a list of our activities at COP27.

Ray Kopp, who has been a leader in the design of domestic and international polices to combat climate change, explains in our conversation that the representatives gathering in Sharm El Sheikh will focus much of their attention on the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and therefore on the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – emissions reductions that individual countries have pledged under the Agreement. Under the provisions of the Paris Agreement, signatories are strongly encouraged to increase their levels of ambition and reduce emissions even further over time through the so-called “ratchet mechanism” that can bring the world closer to the goal of preventing temperature increases this century greater than 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, compared with pre-industrial temperatures.

In the podcast, Ray Kopp notes, “That mechanism will not be formally deployed until 2023. But I will say that there’s a synthesis report that has already come out from the UNFCCC Secretariat that gives us an idea of what those gaps look like with respect to hitting the targets, and they’re not encouraging.  We already know that there’s going to be a major gap. We’ve known that for quite some time. I haven’t seen a lot of countries step forward to increase their ambition in the recognition of that gap. So, the jury is out on how effective this mechanism is going to be.”

Another very important and contentious issue on the table at COP-27, Kopp explains, is that of monetary transfers from developed to developing countries to help them with their mitigation efforts and help pay for adaptation measures.  This is the well-known commitment from the developed countries to send $100 billion per year, starting in 2020, to the developing world.  That target level of annual finance has not yet been achieved.

“Right now, there is a bit of a lack of trust between the developing world and the developed world with respect to the deliverability of those funds going forward. And [for] developed countries, there is the problem that to be able to hit those particular targets you need a lot of private investment, not just government funds. And the private investment has been lacking considerably,” he remarks.

Debates around the so-called “loss-and-damage” issue will also play out in Sharm El Shiekh, Kopp notes, referring to the call by developing countries for the largest global emitters to pay for current and future climate change damages in the most vulnerable countries.

“This is … one of these issues that … becomes more salient and both sides become more vocal about it [at every COP], not surprisingly, because we are now seeing the impact of climate change, not only in the developing world, where it is severe and where people are at most risk, but here in the U.S. [as well],” Kopp argues. “There’s always going to be opportunities for the U.S. to provide aid to countries that are suffering these horrific damages associated with climate change. One of the issues is whether it is going to be taking the form of aid, which means it’s more of a voluntary contribution on the part of the U.S., or whether it’s compensation associated with some formal liability that the U.S. bears for these damages?”

Kopp says that negotiators could make headway on the ‘loss and damage’ issue if they take reasonable approaches.

“If both sides stick to their hard positions, where [in] the developed world it’s only about aid, and the developing world it’s about liability, and there’s no middle ground, then this will just be a confrontational experience.  Somewhere there’s got to be a middle ground … where we can think about insurance markets, [and] … other ways of financing the rebuilding after these particular [climate] episodes take place.”

When I ask Ray Kopp how he determines the success of failure of individual COPs, he responds by saying that each meeting is just one part of an ongoing process, and that in his opinion, the process is working.

“[Each COP] is an opportunity for the world to come together and talk about these things. The UNFCCC has put together an enormous amount of transparency in reporting. Sounds like things that are not all that exciting, but they’re fundamental to an understanding of where we are with respect to climate change and how to reduce emissions going forward,” he says.


As I noted at the outset of this blog post, I will be in Sharm El Sheikh, leading our group from the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements.  Here’s some information below – in chronological order – about our five events hosted by the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements or in which my Harvard colleague, Daniel Jacob, or I are speaking.

1.  Discussion of the China National Climate Change Assessment Report

            Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 9:00 – 10:30 am

            China Pavilion, Area E

            Hosted by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Institute of Energy, Environment, and Economy at Tsinghua University.

            Robert Stavins is a panelist.

2.  Frontiers in Carbon Pricing

            Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

            Pavilion of the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA)

            Hosted by the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements

            Panel:  Daniele Agostini, Head of Energy and Climate Policies, Enel Group

                        Lisa DeMarco, Senior Partner and CEO, Resilient LLP

                        Andrei Marcu, Founder and Executive Director, European Roundtable on Climate Change and Sustainable Transition (ERCST)

                        Robert Stavins (moderator)

3.  The 8th Global Climate Change Think Tank Forum

            Wednesday, November16, 2022, 4:00 – 6:45 pm

            China Pavilion, Area E

            Hosted by the China National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation

            Robert Stavins presents on “Carbon-Pricing Policy: Carbon Taxes vs. Cap-and Trade”

4.  Using Satellite Observations of Atmospheric Methane to Advance Global Climate Change Policy
            Thursday, November 17, 2022, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm, Side Event Room: Thutmose

            Hosted by the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements and the Enel Foundation

            Panel:  Daniele Agostini, Head of Energy and Climate Policies, Enel Group

                        Brendan Devlin, Adviser for Strategy and Foresight, DG Energy, European Commission

                        Lena Höglund-Isaksson, Senior Research Scholar, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

                        Daniel Jacob, Vasco McCoy Family Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Engineering, Harvard University

                        Claudia Octaviano, General Coordinator for Climate Change and Low Carbon Development, National Institute for Ecology and Climate Change, Mexico

                        Robert Stavins (moderator)

5.  Measuring up to the Methane Challenge

            Thursday, November 17, 2022, 3:00 – 4:30 pm, Pavilion of the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA)

            Hosted by IPIECA

            Daniel Jacob is a panelist.

We hope to see many of you at one or more of these events, other meetings, in the hallways, or elsewhere at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh!


Again, I encourage you to listen to the 41st episode of the Environmental Insights series, with future episodes scheduled to drop each month.  You can find a transcript of our conversation at the website of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.  Previous episodes have featured conversations with:

“Environmental Insights” is hosted on SoundCloud, and is also available on iTunes, Pocket Casts, Spotify, and Stitcher.


Author: Robert Stavins

Robert N. Stavins is the A.J. Meyer Professor of Energy & Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, Director of Graduate Studies for the Doctoral Program in Public Policy and the Doctoral Program in Political Economy and Government, Co-Chair of the Harvard Business School-Kennedy School Joint Degree Programs, and Director of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements.