With just a few days before the biggest annual gathering of parties in support of climate action, let’s look back at the significant milestones achieved by the Conference Of Parties (COP)s since the first gathering in Berlin in 1995.
The parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have gathered annually since 1995 (except for 2020 during the COVID 19 pandemic) but not all gatherings have yielded significant achievements. Highlighted below are some of the notable COPs leading up to COP 21 where the Paris Agreement was unanimously adopted to keep global warming below 2 °C above pre-industrial and continue efforts to limit it to 1.5 °C.
•COP 1 (1995 – Berlin): At this first conference, the signatories agreed to meet annually to maintain control over global warming and see the need to reduce emissions of polluting gasses.
COP 3 (1997 – Kyoto): The Kyoto Protocol was adopted with the commitment to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses in developed (industrialised) countries.
COP 15 (2009 – Copenhagen): The objective of keeping global warming below 2 °C was validated and developed countries committed to finance developing countries in the long term.
COP 21 (2015 – Paris): After 20 years of negotiations, the Paris Agreement was unanimously adopted to keep global warming below 2 °C above pre-industrial and continue efforts to limit it to 1.5 °C.
What about the most recent COPs? What has been achieved?
Significant achievements of COP 26 (Glasgow 2021)
Adaptation to the impacts of climate
change: Established a two-year initiative to further define the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA). This consisted of eight technical workshops throughout 2022 and 2023 to unpack different views and objectives amongst parties and stakeholders. The initiative is expected to conclude at COP28.
Greater support to developing countries: In 2009, rich nations committed to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020 and through 2025 to support climate efforts in developing countries. The COP 26 outcome made it clear that these countries are still on the hook to fulfill this goal as soon as possible, and stipulates that those countries must report on their progress. According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), we were not there yet based on 2021 data and most likely not there yet as of 2023.
Finalisation of the Paris Agreement rulebook: This set of rules lays out how countries are held accountable for delivering on their climate action promises and self-set targets under their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Significant achievements of COP 27 (Egypt 2022)
Establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund: the fund aims to provide financial assistance to nations most vulnerable and impacted by the effects of climate change. The aim of the fund is to provide financial assistance to poorer nations as they deal with the negative consequences that arise from the unavoidable risks of climate change e.g. rising sea levels, extreme heat waves, desertification, forest fires and crop failures. A transitional committee was set up to operationalise the set up of the new fund and is composed of 24 members representing different geographical regions. It is tasked with developing recommendations ahead of COP 28.
What are the expected outcomes from COP 28?
COP 28 will be held in the United Arab Emirates from the 30th of November to 12th December 2023 and is a pivotal summit because the First Global Stock Take (GST) of the implementation of the Paris Agreement is expected at this summit. Whilst this has been a two year process, the final phase of the GST (at COP 28) will determine how countries respond politically to the gaps and opportunities identified in the technical phase.
This summit is also expected to produce a framework for a Global Goal on Adaptation, an initiative agreed to at COP 26. The Paris Agreement established GGA with the aim to “enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change.” Whilst the world must act quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt climate change, this alone won’t be enough to protect the people already feeling its impacts estimated at 3.6 billion.
Based on the agenda shared with the COP 28 parties, the summit’s themes will include:
1. Fast-tracking the just, equitable and orderly energy transition and slashing emissions before 2030;
2. Transforming climate finance by delivering on old promises and setting the framework for a new deal on finance;
3. Putting nature, people, lives and livelihoods at the heart of climate
4. Mobilising for an inclusive COP.