A quick survey around the office revealed that even among us environmental educators, COP 27 is a bit of a mystery. We know it is a meaningful climate action forum that’s occurring next month but what does COP even stand for and what exactly will be happening? None among us could answer for sure. A little research was required… 

COP stands for Conference of the Parties, with “parties” being the 196 countries or territories that make up the supreme decision-making body of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The COP is an annual summit where representatives from each nation come together to make decisions and resolutions on climate action. COP 27 is the twenty-seventh conference, the first having been held in 1995 in Berlin, Germany.

The location and the presidency or leadership of the COP rotates among the five UN regions (Africa, Asia, Latin America & Caribbean, Central & Eastern Europe, and Western Europe & Others – of which the US is a part). As such, this year is one of only four times when Africa has hosted, and the first time in Egypt.

COP Achievements

The more well-known agreements to have been generated at COPs are the Kyoto Protocol (1997, COP 3) which set greenhouse gas emission targets and tracking mechanisms for developed countries, and the Paris Agreement (2015, COP 21) which required countries to set emission-reduction pledges with the aim of preventing a 2°C increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement also set a goal of reaching net zero emissions in the second half of this century. This is the Agreement from which former President Trump infamously withdrew the US in 2020. President Biden has since signed on to the Paris Agreement and doubled down on US emissions reductions goals.

COP 26 was hosted last year in Glasgow, Scotland. Outcomes from that gathering, known as the Glasgow Pact, are documented under four categories: mitigation, adaptation, finance, and collaboration. Boasted achievements include securing net zero emissions goals from 153 countries, and a commitment from several governments and financial institutes to stop financing unabated fossil fuel energy projects. An executive summary of COP 26 can be found here.

So what’s in store for November 6-18, 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt? Working within the same four mission areas (mitigation, adaptation, finance, and collaboration), the COP 27 aims to build on the Paris Agreement standards and strengthen the Glasgow Pact commitments. Will it be enough? That remains to be determined – but at least now we’re all on the same page about what COP 27 is and we can hope for the delegates’ success in “harmonizing our global efforts” on climate action.

“The hope is that COP27 will be the turning point where the world came together and demonstrated the requisite political will to take on the climate challenge through concerted, collaborative and impactful action.”   — COP 27 President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi

COP “Cheat Sheet”

  • UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – the United Nations entity tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change. “The ultimate objective of UNFCCC agreements or protocols is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system, in a time frame which allows ecosystems to adapt naturally and enables sustainable development.”
  • IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. IPCC experts present the findings from three working groups and a task force (which is summarized in an Assessment Report) at the COPs.
  • AR6 – Sixth Assessment Report created by the IPCC – this was released in 2021 (from Working Group I, physical science) and 2022 (from Working Groups II and III, climate impacts and vulnerabilities, and mitigation, respectively).
  • GHG – Greenhouse Gasses – the six major GHGs that are tracked: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.
  • NDCs – Nationally Determined Contributions – the GHG emission targets set by each governmental body.

Learn More

Get more information on what to expect from COP 27 from:


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