What is COP?
At a landmark environmental conference in Rio De Janeiro in 1992, three conventions were set up: one on biodiversity, one on desertification and one on climate change. The ‘UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties’, also known as COP, is a supreme governing body of an international convention. It is a global conference where world leaders, civil society, companies, and activists gather to address climate change and its impacts. The end goal of the conferences is for all parties to agree on specific targets and goals for acting on climate change. The COP has happened almost every year since the first meeting was held, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 COP was postponed until 2021, which was held in Glasgow. The conferences are held in different locations each year – the first ever COP meeting was held in Berlin, Germany in March, 1995. The outcome of the first COP agreed to meet annually to maintain control over global warming and see the need to reduce emissions of polluting gases.
Who’s involved in COP?
The summit is attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a collaboration which took place in 1994. The UNFCCC has 198 parties including all United Nations member states.
What happened in the most recent COP?
The most recent Conference of the Parties was held on the 20th of November, 2022, that took place in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh. The COP summit lasted just under a couple of weeks and after intense discussions, the countries reached an agreement on establishing a fund for vulnerable countries which deal with losses and damages from the impacts of climate change. Each COP event is very important since the world is now in extraordinarily dangerous territory. Around half of the world’s population is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, where highly vulnerable regions are 15 times more likely to die due to floods, droughts, and storms compared to low vulnerable countries. There were a lot of unfinished discussions after COP26 which were followed up on in the latest conference. The COP27 summit closed out another year marked by record-breaking floods, deadly heatwaves and other extreme weather events, on top of global energy and food shortages and the cost-of-living crisis.
What are the key issues being discussed?
Climate finance was front and centre of the attention at the most recent conference held. It came to a final agreement that between 4 and 6 trillion US dollars need to be invested in renewable energy by 2030 – including investments in technology and infrastructure to allow net-zero emissions by 2050.
In 2015, there was a legally-binding agreement treaty which almost all countries in the world have committed to which is the Paris Agreement. This involves countries attempting to:
- Strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping the rise of global average temperatures below 2 degrees
- Strengthen the ability to adapt to climate change and build resilience
- Decrease vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change
- Uphold and promote regional and international cooperation.
Each country will decide how it would like to tackle the commitments. Countries will decide how much to reduce their national greenhouse gas emissions each year and will have to submit these in the form of nationally determined contributions.
The next location for COP28 is in the United Arab Emirates, from 30th November to 12 December 2023.
Many expert commentators arrived at a conclusion quickly after the summit and decided that COP27 was a failure. The main reason was that they stalled on key issues and failed to secure commitments to stop greenhouse gas emissions from rising beyond thresholds. Therefore, COP27 failed to deliver what science says was needed. Global warming is becoming a threat to human survival and the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C or less is not being met. For each fraction of a degree that temperatures rise, storms, droughts and other extreme weather events become more severe. Countries failed to decisively move away from fossil fuels and there was no reassurance made on cutting fossil fuel emissions. Further action than the Conference of the Parties is needed since these summits are not always successful in preventing global warming.
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