What is a COP?
A Conference of the Parties (COP) is the governing body of an international convention, in this case, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The UNFCCC established an international environmental treaty to combat “dangerous human interference with the climate system,” in part by stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The UNFCCC was signed by 154 nations at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and entered into force in 1994. Subsequently, the COP has met annually to assess progress toward the treaty’s climate change goals.
The United Nations COP meetings are a chance for representatives from almost every country in the world to work together to get climate change under control. They are also a time for activism and bringing attention to the climate crisis.
Negotiators at COP27. Photo: UNclimatechange (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) via Flickr
The first implementation of measures under the UNFCCC was the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, followed by the Paris Agreement in 2015. The Paris Agreement seeks to enhance the implementation of the UNFCCC by:
Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;
Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.
COP27 was the 2022 United Nations climate change conference, held November 6-18, 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
The major theme of COP27 was loss and damages. By the end of the conference, parties had negotiated an agreement to establish a fund for wealthier nations to help less affluent nations. The details of the fund are to be worked out in the future: who will contribute, who will receive funds, and how funds will be spent.
Learn more about positive outcomes from COP27 in this newsletter from The Climate Optimist (published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment). A few excerpts:
“Brazil’s new president promised to save the Amazon and formed an alliance with nations that are home to the largest rainforests to prevent deforestation.”
“Indonesia received $20B to ditch coal”.
“Mexico vowed to make renewable energy faster than the U.S.—the best kind of fightin’ words!”
“The EU will phase out gas cars by 2035 and will fast-track their green energy transition.”
Read more here.
Learn more details about COP27 themes, events, and outcomes through the lens of Cornell University faculty and students who attended the conference in Cornell at the COP27 Climate Conference (Cornell University)
COP26 was the 2021 United Nations climate change conference, held November 1-12, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Paris Agreement also set a 5-year timeline for countries to reconvene and increase the ambition of their climate goals (termed Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs). COP26 was the forum for that 5-year review. More than 100 world leaders – including US President Joe Biden and Queen Elizabeth II, representing the UK – along with ~20,000 negotiators, government representatives, business leaders and citizens participated in COP26.
The UK held the presidency of COP26 and set the following goals:
1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
- accelerate the phase-out of coal
- curtail deforestation
- speed up the switch to electric vehicles
- encourage investment in renewables.
2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
- protect and restore ecosystems
- build defenses, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives
3. Mobilize finance
- International governments and financial institutions must mobilize trillions in private and public sector finance
4. Work together to deliver
- finalize the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational)
- accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.
Climate activists referred to COP26 as the last, best chance to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.
See the COP26 website
The organizaton EcoRise worked with leaders and organizations within the Sustainable and Climate Resilient Schools Community to create a Collective Action Position Statement published in October 2021, with COP26 in mind: Education for Climate Action – Three Recommendations for Sustainable and Climate Resilient Schools During COP26
Climate educator and COP26 attendee Frank Granshaw (Portland State University) made a document Connecting to COP26
Two articles from The Guardian provide an introduction to COP26 and terminology:
Several speeches at COP26:
Biden speaks at U.N. climate change conference COP26 | full video (14 minutes)
Sir David Attenborough’s full COP26 speech (7 minutes)
Highlights of Day One speeches, including UN Secretary General, the Prime Ministers of the UK, Barbados, and Sir David (2 minutes)