Conference of the Parties (COP)

What is it?

The COP is the governing body of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This body is made up of representatives from countries that have signed the Convention. These representatives meet periodically to make decisions that will implement the Convention’s aim. This aim is ultimately to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

When do they meet?

Since 1995, the COP have met annually to make decisions about human impact on the climate system. Much focus is concentrated on the decisions that will be made in 2015 at COP 21 in Paris because there is international pressure for binding global emissions reductions targets to be set, after the commitment to do so that was made during the COP18 in Doha, Qatar, in 2012. The major polluters also seem more prepared to meet this challenge.

Who participates?

195 countries are Parties to the Convention. The Convention divides participating countries into three main groups, each with different commitments:

Annex I: These are mostly industrialized countries that were either part of the OECD in 1992 or economies in transition (EIT), such as the Russian Federation, the Baltic states and some Central and Eastern European states. These countries are commited to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% by 2012 and 18% by 2020 compared with their 1990 emissions. Some countries have made stricter targets for themselves.

Annex II: These include the Annex I OECD countries, but not the EIT. In addition to their own emissions reduction targets, Annex II countries are obliged to provide financial and technological support to developing countries so the latter can grow sustainably.

Non-Annex I: These are developing countries. These countries have no emissions reduction commitments under the UNFCCC.

Observers are also allowed to attend the COPs. This group consists of United Nations bodies, other agencies and organisations and NGOs.

What has been done?

Thus far, the COP meetings have discussed a range of issues of climate and environmental concern have been discussed. There is increasing hope and expectation that the upcoming COPs will see stringent legally binding international targets. From the meetings so far, reports and recommendataions are produced that encourage countries to adhere to national and international targets:

Meeting Year Location Key issues and outputs
COP 1 1995 Berlin The Berlin Mandate
COP 2 1996 Geneva Accepted IPCC findingsRejected “harmonized policies”
COP 3 1997 Kyoto The Kyoto Protocol
COP 4 1998 Buenos Aires 2-yr action plan to implement Kyoto Protocol
COP 5 1999 Bonn Technical meeting
COP 6 2000 The Hague COP suspended with no commitments reached, to be continued in COP 6 bis
COP 6 bis 2001 Bonn Agreements on flexibility mechanisms, carbon sinks, compliance and financing
COP 7 2001 Marrakech Agreements on international emissions trading, compliance, flexibility mechanismsMarrakesh Accords
COP 8 2002 New Delhi Problems with ratification of Kyoto Protocol
COP 9 2003 Milan Adaptation Fund established
COP 10 2004 Buenos Aires Buenos Aires Plan of ActionPotential post-Kyoto mechanisms
COP 11 2005 Montreal Kyoto Protocol enters into force
COP 12 2006 Nairobi Five-year action plans adopted
COP 13 2007 Bali Bali Action Plan
COP 14 2008 Poznań Finance for developing nationsForest protection mechanism
COP 15 2009 Copenhagen Small “political accord”
COP 16 2010 Cancún Green Climate Fund
COP 17 2011 Durban Legally binding deal commitmentGreen Climate Fund developed
COP 18 2012 Doha The Doha Climate Gateway
COP 19 2013 Warsaw Durban Platform advanced
COP 20 2014 Lima Pending
COP 21 2015 Paris Pending