Milestones of the Conference of the Parties (COP)
The signature of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 (Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit) represented the start of annual climate conferences. The COP, ratified by 196 governments, recognized the existence of global warming as a result of anthropogenic activity and allocated the responsibility for fighting climate change to all governments, and in particular to those of industrialized countries.
Despite the difficulty in reaching global agreements, progress has been made at previous Conferences. In the run-up to COP25 in Madrid (Spain) in several weeks’ time, below we summarize the highlights of previous summits. COP25 is perhaps the final opportunity for governments and other parties to act coherently with the Paris Agreement objectives.
1995 COP1 Berlin
Following this first Conference of the Parties in Germany, the signatory countries agreed to meet every year and assumed responsibility for maintaining control over global warming.
Right from the start, the need to begin negotiations to reduce emissions of polluting gases from the year 2000 onward was acknowledged.
1997 COP3 Kyoto
The Kyoto Protocol was officially adopted, in which industrialized countries made commitments for the period 2008-2012 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% against the level of 1990.
With the aim of avoiding an unprecedented temperature increase in the planet, a historic agreement was reached, although its main objectives were not achieved. The Kyoto Protocol would become the key figure in future climate summit conferences.
2007 COP13 Bali
New commitments were undertaken vis-à-vis the second part of the Kyoto Protocol (2102-2020) in the summit held in Indonesia.
A new date was set to specify the following steps: 2009 in Copenhagen. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its fourth report and this led to a higher level of awareness about the issue.
2009 COP15 Copenhagen
Scientific evidence on climate change has not always received strong support. It was necessary to wait until this summit in Denmark for all the countries to recognize climate change as a universal problem.
In the COP15, the governments agreed that the increase in global mean temperature must not exceed two degrees Celsius, although they did not specify how this would be achieved.
2010 COP16 Cancun
2011 COP17 Durban
In South Africa, in contrast to Kyoto, all the countries agreed to start a process of emission reduction. This included the main polluting countries: the United States and the major emerging economies (Brazil, China, India and South Africa).
In Durban the process to mobilize funds was determined – up to US $ 100,000 million per annum – to finance the fight against climate change.
2012 COP18 Doha
In the climate conference in Qatar, the countries responsible for just 15% of total emissions agreed to extend the commitment made in the Kyoto Protocol until 2020.
The United States, Japan, Russia, Canada and New Zealand (among others) did not sign the text.
2014 COP20 Lima
Previously, in a Climate Summit held in New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that some financial institutions, investors, banks and insurance companies would transfer more than 200,000 million dollars by 2015 to create low-carbon economies (’Green Climate Fund’).
In the Peru conference, and for the first time, all the countries undertook to present their commitments on greenhouse gas emissions before October 1st 2015. These are called ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDC). Paris.
A potential global agreement on climate was postponed to the COP21 in
2015 COP21 Paris
One of the most important COP to date. For the first time in 20 years of negotiations, nations committed to limiting greenhouse gas emissions and adopted a universal agreement to fight climate change: the Paris Agreement.
The main aim of this agreement is to keep the average global temperature below 2°C with respect to the pre-industrial level, although countries committed to making efforts so that it does not exceed 1.5°C, thus avoiding the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
The 195 parties who make up the UN’s climate change convention committed to delivering national plans to reach this objective. These plans, or contributions, known as NDCs, enter in force in 2020 and will be revised upwards every 5 years, increasing in ambition and ensuring that the long-term goal is reached.
The Paris Agreement also stipulates that developed countries should contribute to finance the mitigation and adaptation efforts of developing countries. Rich nations will have to mobilize 100 billion US dollars annually from 2020 to support the efforts of developing countries and, again, revise this quantity upwards every 5 years.
The adoption of the accord took place in New York on 22 April 2016 in a ceremony at the seat of the United Nations, following the ratification of the Agreement in record time by enough countries to enable it to enter into force.
2016 COP22 Marrakesh
The Paris Agreement took effect several days before the Summit began.
Negotiations concluded at the Summit were presented in three documents:
The Marrakesh Action Proclamation, a highly important political statement supporting the Paris Agreement
The Marrakesh Alliance to strengthen actions in the fight against climate change in the run-up to 2020
The creation of the CMA, the decision-making body for the Paris Agreement.
COP23 Bonn 2017
COP23 in Bonn saw progress toward establishing the rules that will define the practical operation of the Paris Agreement – the Paris Rulebook – with the aim of completing it in 2018.
Likewise, at this Summit, the Facilitative Dialogue, known as the Talanoa Dialogue, took place, a process allowing nations to share experience and best practice in achieving the objectives of the Agreement.
A Platform to promote participation and dialogue with local communities and indigenous peoples was launched, and a Gender Action Plan adopted to guarantee the role of women in decisions concerning climate change.
COP24 Katowice 2018
The publication by the IPCC – just two months before COP24 – of a report analyzing the impact of a 1.5°C increase in the temperature of the planet, livened the debate at the Summit, as it became increasingly evident the ambition behind reducing polluting emissions needed to be greater. Despite this, the report was only mentioned and not taken as a guide for action, since some countries cast doubt on its methodology.
Meanwhile, the Talanoa Dialogue was concluded. Next step is the 2020 review of climate plans, in order to align them with the overall aim of limiting global warming.
Finally, one of the most important articles in the negotiation was left still to be agreed upon: Article 6, allowing the development of carbon markets.