©Published first time in November 2015 – Updated May 2022

From COP1 to COP27

The Brief History of COP, Conference of the Parties, is a summary or short timeline of what has happened at the major annual climate conferences. This Brief History was created by SGK-PLANET in 2015 as a fine tapestry that we have been weaving patiently, stitch by stitch, in order to provide our readers with comprehensive information about these important conferences. The present edition covers from COP1 (1995) to the preparations for COP27 (Nov-2022).

This year 2022 has a double celebration: The 50th ANNIVERSARY OF STOCKHOLM-1972, the First Earth Summit, and the 30th ANNIVERSARY of the RIO-92 SUMMIT, the Second Earth Summit.

What is the UNFCCC? The UNFCCC is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change “is a universal convention of principles that recognizes the existence of climate change due to human activity and attributes the main responsibility to fight against this phenomenon to industrialized countries”. It was adopted in New York on May 9, 1992, and opened for signature on June 4, 1992, at the Rio Summit that year. It entered into force on March 21, 1994. The Framework Convention allows, among other things, to strengthen public awareness on a global scale of problems related to climate change. As the supreme body of the UNFCCC, the COP, Conference of the Parties, was created. Which means that the COP is the highest authority on climate matters, with decision-making capacity.

What is the COP? The COP, or Conference of the Parties, is the supreme body of the UNFCCC. The COP is the most important global climate summit, held since 1995 every year in a different country. The COP is made up of 196 countries plus the European Union, called “the Parties”. This year is COP27, to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, between November 7 and 18, 2022.

What are the objectives of the COP? The Conference of the Parties was born with the premise of strengthening public awareness on a global scale about the problems related to Climate Change. The COP was created to adopt the necessary decisions to achieve the objectives of the fight against climate change, such as the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, in order to prevent risks to the Earth’s climate system.

Who participates in COPs? Environmental experts, ministers, heads of state, non-governmental organizations and in some meetings civil society and the private sector participate in the annual meetings. In recent years, emphasis has been placed on the participation of young people, creating a space and events for them.

Why are COPs annual? Between the first and second summits of the Earth, 20 years passed. In view of the rapid advance of global warming and climate change, it was thought that an annual climate conference should be held to advance more effectively in the fight against climate change.

COP Conferences, a long history of disagreements and postponements

Although it is true that the world in a quarter of a century has improved its vision on issues such as global warming, climate change, wind energy, solar energy, green hydrogen, green cities and electric cars, there is still much to be done. When you read this Brief History, you will be able to make a list of good intentions, ideas, promises, protocols and agreements made, but which have fallen by the wayside. You will see that in many crucial meetings, where everything seemed to go with the wind in favor, on the last night they knocked down with their feet what for two weeks had been built with their hands. Notice that the phrase that has been repeated the most over the years is “it was postponed for next year”.

1995 COP1, Berlin: the first COP Conference is born

The Berlin Mandate came out of it, a kind of fairly indefinite catalog of commitments, which allowed countries to choose the initiatives tailored to their particular needs.

1996 COP2, Geneva: Consensus to set binding targets

The need to set “binding quantitative targets” on the limitation of GHG emissions by industrialized countries, with precise reductions for 2005, 2010 and 2020, was adopted by consensus. It was agreed to discuss this matter the following year in Kyoto, Japan.

1997 COP3, Kyoto: the Kyoto Protocol is born with date of death incorporated

The COP3 met in the Japanese city and after intense negotiations, the famous Kyoto Protocol came to light, which until then, together with the 1987 Montreal Protocol for the protection of the ozone layer, was emerging as one of the two most important documents and hopeful of humanity to regulate anthropogenic activities, capable of recovering the global environment. In Kyoto, binding targets for GHG emissions were established for 37 industrialized countries. However, two of the largest emitters, the United States and China, did not ratify the document. It was agreed that the Kyoto Protocol would enter into force eleven years later, in 2008, and its expiration date was pre-marked for 2012, establishing that developed countries should reduce their GHG emissions by 5% in those five years with respect to the level from 1990.

1998 – 2006: Nine COPs with little progress to report

Between these dates nine conferences were held:

1998 COP4, Buenos Aires / 1999 COP5, Bonn / 2000 COP6, The Hague and (2nd part), Bonn / 2001 COP7, Marrakech / 2002 COP8, New Delhi. / 2003 COP9, Milan. / 2004 COP10, Buenos Aires. / 2005 COP11, Montreal / 2006 COP12, Nairobi. They were almost lost nine years, mainly used in finalizing the details of the Kyoto Protocol, with a view to its approval in 2009.

2007 COP13, Bali: The road to replacing the Kyoto Protocol

During the conference in Indonesia, an important step was taken on the road to replacing the Kyoto Protocol, without it having been activated by a new treaty. In addition, it was concluded that the signs of global warming are unquestionable, and the “Bali Action Plan” was finally adopted, which establishes the framework of the negotiations that would lead to COP 15, Copenhagen, two years later.

2008 COP14, Poznan: looking towards Copenhagen

In this Polish city, the program for the transfer of rational ecological technologies for developing countries was received positively and the details for the important event the following year were fine-tuned.

2009 COP15, Copenhagen: The great hope of humanity ends in great disappointment

Finally, the long-awaited COP15 was reached, a meeting in which immense hope was pinned. It was thought that the Danish capital would have the privilege of giving the good news to the world, by announcing a new protocol for the reduction of GHG emissions: “the conclusion of a legally binding agreement on climate, valid for the entire world, to be applied from 2012”, as stated in its central objective.

This, in quantifiable terms, meant the reduction of CO2 emissions to less than 50% by 2050 compared to 1990. But the euphoria did not last long. Three weeks before the start of COP15, a meeting was held in Thailand, in which China and the United States decided that the Copenhagen agreements would not be binding. In this way the fate of the Summit was cast before it started. It was bad news and little hope of saving it was buried last night, when the presidents of China, the United States, India, Brazil and South Africa, without the presence of European representatives or other countries, held a meeting behind closed doors and in just three pages they drafted a non-binding agreement that was not even put to a vote.

Finally, it was only exposed to the “knowledge” of the attendees, along with the promise that at the beginning of 2010 they would work on a political platform, the basis for building binding legal commitments at COP16. The summit, as expected, was described as a failure and disaster by many governments and environmental organizations. Herman Van Rumpuy, president of the European Council, in a confidential cable from US diplomacy, leaked by WikiLeaks, dated January 4, 2010, had very harsh expressions: “Copenhagen was an incredible disaster (…) multilateral summits will not work”, and called the meeting “A Nightmare on Elm Street II” and released the lapidary phrase: “who wants to see this horror movie again?”

2010 COP16, Cancun: creation of the Green Climate Fund, an essential tool

Among the main agreements reached in Mexico, it is worth highlighting the creation of the Green Climate Fund, through which an amount of one hundred billion dollars is established each year from 2020, and thirty billion dollars for the period 2010. -2012, in order to help low-income countries to cover the costs involved in the fight against Climate Change. The final document establishes the adoption “as soon as possible” of a decision on commitments for a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol that guarantees “that there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods.”

2011 COP17, Durban: birth of the Kyoto Protocol-II and beginning of its demise

The fate of the planet was no better in Durban than in South Africa the previous year, although some progress was made by establishing a date for the start of the second period of the Kyoto agreements, with a view to 2013. This presumed a legal vacuum in terms of climate change, which had to be avoided. The summit concluded with a roadmap for a global treaty, as demanded by the European Union, that would commit the big polluters that did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, such as China, the United States, India, Brazil, and South Africa, to comply with said treaty. The bad news was that Canada announced its intention not to renew Kyoto, seconded by Japan and Russia. This barrel of cold water ended all hopes of the Kyoto Protocol II.

2012 COP18, Doha: Kyoto is extended, but it is impossible to revive it

For some time, it had been anticipated that in Qatar there would be no big surprises since its objectives did not seem complicated, although in practice the road was strewn with obstacles. The 194 countries gathered reached a minimum agreement, the “Doha Climate Gate”, which extended the Kyoto Protocol until 2020. Negotiations on larger donations from developing countries were deferred for the following year. Most delegations expressed their discomfort that the final agreement did not meet scientific recommendations, which called for strong action to counter global warming. Carbon dioxide emissions by 2012 were already double the rates of 1990.

2013 COP19, Warsaw: mass abandonment of the summit

The initial objective in Poland was to reach an agreement so that in 2015 polluting gas emissions could be reduced. However, this agreement was opposed by several countries, including the host, which has a coal-based industry. Finally, a roadmap towards a global and binding pact was finalized in 2015, but many gaps remained open, which had to be resolved at the Lima summit the following year. An outstanding fact was that, with one day left before the closing of the summit, the massive abandonment of the NGOs and the unions occurred, an unprecedented event up to that moment in the COPs. Major NGOs criticized “the retrograde positions of Japan and Australia, as well as the lack of commitment of the most developed countries, which turn a deaf ear to the prevailing need of the poorest and most vulnerable to climate change”. They denounced that “the European Union remains tied down by the Polish positions and the coal industry”, blocking the process of combating climate change.

2014 COP20, Lima: great expectations and preparations towards Paris, 2015

In the Peruvian capital, the most significant thing was that the United States and China announced a joint commitment to reduce GHG emissions for the first time ever, fundamental so that the global temperature does not exceed 2ºC, (later corrected to 1.5ºC, on the recommendation of scientists from the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The UN considered that the objective was to reduce emissions between 40% and 70% by 2050, and to 0% by the end of the century. The agreement, finally ratified, was an agreement that brought positions closer to Paris 2015.

2015 COP21, Paris: the Paris Agreement is born

The Paris Agreement is an ambitious global agreement to fight Climate Change, negotiated within the framework of COP21. It was adopted by 197 countries, in Paris, on December 15, 2015, and it is signing officially began on April 22, 2016, Earth Day. Its application would begin in 2020. The Paris Agreement contemplates limiting global temperature to 2°C (later corrected to 1.5°C, on the recommendation of scientists), by reducing GHG emissions caused by fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal, causing the greenhouse effect and as a consequence of global warming and climate change, such as rising sea levels, floods, landslides, hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires and other catastrophic phenomena, capable of endangering many species that inhabit the Earth, including Homo sapiens.

It is fair to recognize that the Paris Agreement, with its goals to reduce temperature and greenhouse gas emissions, is an inducer of countries, cities, industries, universities, and people. With them, significant growth is being achieved in the production of cars and transportation systems powered by clean fuels, such as green hydrogen, an accelerated manufacture of photovoltaic solar panels and a large number of wind generators, to supply clean electricity to millions of people in the world.

See related article: The Paris Agreement, the hope of humankind

2016 COP22, Marrakech: a technical meeting

The twenty-second edition of the COP was held in the Moroccan capital, characterized by its low profile and insufficient media coverage, which is why some have called it a “technical meeting”. At this summit a working paper was adopted to implement the Paris Agreement and a roadmap was approved that would lead to the rules that will guide the essential agreement. COP24, Poland 2018, was established for its conclusion and start of its implementation, a kind of bridge to 2020, when the implementation of the Paris Agreement begins.

2017 COP23, Fiji-Bonn: first COP with two host countries

Between November 6 and 17, 2017, the twenty-third Conference of the Parties on Climate Change was held in Bonn. The German city provided the space, infrastructure, and part of the organization necessary for the event. Fiji, a tiny Polynesian island country whose low profile makes it highly vulnerable to the foreseeable effects of climate change, chaired the conference. His prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, took over the COP23 presidency determined to maintain the momentum of the Paris Agreement. It is noteworthy that Bainimarama was very active and enthusiastic during and after COP23.

The United States showed up to the conference with a low-ranking delegation, following President Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement. The speech of the representative of China evidenced a more active role compared to previous conferences.

Everything went smoothly until the last night when the meeting was paralyzed, which lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Climate Action, told EFE: “Nations that have not raised objections throughout the process prior to this climate summit and during it, are raising them at this time in the hope of achieving results for their countries”.

2018 COP24, Katowice: controversy over the IPCC report

Between December 3 and 14, 2018, in the city of Katowice, Poland, COP24 was held, under the slogan “Let’s change together”. This would be the third time that Poland would serve as the stage for these important conferences. The 24th Conference of the Parties was one of the most secretive and least newsworthy meetings we have ever seen. Perhaps the chosen place and date contributed to the scant media coverage and low interest from the public during the event, which only picked up, and only partially, once the summit was over.

The controversy that occurred in Katowice this time was not about the Paris Agreement, but about the IPCC document, a group of scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which presented its “Fifth Assessment Report” in October 2018, who’s main objective is to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius from their pre-industrial level. This goal, according to said report, “will require unprecedented changes” at a social and global level, due to the seriousness of the situation on the planet, due to the sustained increase in global temperature, and all its foreseeable consequences.

An oil quartet made up of the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait did not welcome the report. The United States argued that welcoming him meant accepting him. President Trump expressed that he did not agree with the IPCC report, nor did he believe in its content. The representative of Saudi Arabia went further and behind the scenes dared to say that “the Paris Agreement is dead”.

WWF Spain summed up what happened in Poland as follows: “World leaders arrived in Katowice with the task of responding to the latest climate science data, which has made it very clear that we only have 12 years to cut emissions in half and avoid a catastrophic global warming. Progress has been made, but what we have seen in Poland reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of the current climate urgency on the part of some countries. Everyone future is at stake. We need all countries to commit to increasing climate ambition by 2020”.

2019 COP25, Chile-Madrid: Spain saves the conference

COP25 began in an unprecedented way, since Chile, the host and organizer of the conference throughout the year, had to cancel it at the last minute, due to the situation of political instability that had occurred in the country since October. When everything indicated that it was impossible to meet the scheduled date, Madrid managed to organize the conference in record time, thanks to the timely intervention of the IFEMA group of companies and saved its holding on the scheduled date. Therefore, the COP25 was held in Madrid, the capital of Spain, between December 2 and 15, with the slogan “Time to Act”.

25,000 people and 196 countries attended. The great absentees were Xi Jinping from China, Angela Merkel from Germany, Vladimir Putin from Russia, Donald Trump from the United States, Emmanuel Macron from France, Jair Bolsonaro from Brazil, and Sebastián Piñera from Chile. Nancy Pelosi, president of the House of Representatives of the United States was present with a delegation of deputies and senators from her country. “By coming to the COP, we want to say that we are still here”, said the senator.

The three controversial issues, on which agreements were not reached:

  1. The ambition issue. The problem refers to the ambition of the main emitting countries (Russia, China, the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, and others from the Persian Gulf). These refuse to lower their production of fossil fuels.

Recommended reading: Frequently Asked Questions about climate ambition.

2.Carbon markets. The goal was to create a regulatory framework for a global carbon trading system, a complex issue included in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. It was finally deferred.

Recommended reading: Frequently Asked Questions about carbon markets.

  1. Land use and the oceans. The text recognizes the importance of the oceans and soils in the climate system. In response to the IPCC special reports published during 2019, the Climate Convention in Bonn would hold an ocean dialogue and another on land use in a June 2020 session. The two-day delay was due to resistance from Brazil in accept the document relating to the theme “Land use and oceans”. Finally, minimal agreements were reached.

At the end of the meeting, its highest officials expressed their disagreement with the results.

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, said: “The international community has missed an important opportunity to show greater ambition in mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis (…), but we must not give up”. He added that he was “more determined than ever to work towards making 2020 the year that all countries commit to doing what the science is telling us”.

Carolina Schmidt, president of COP25, expressed: “We are not satisfied. The agreements were not enough to urgently confront the climate change crisis. There is still no consensus to increase ambition to the levels we need. The new generations expect more from us. Women, young people, and children ask us for a more solid, more urgent and more ambitious response to be able to act”.

Teresa Ribera, Minister for the Ecological Transition of the Government of Spain, indicated: “We would have liked to hear much more forceful commitments, much more serious on the part of the large economies.”

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, admitted that “The talks did not lead to an agreement. The disagreement between developed and developing nations was on the guidelines for a much-needed carbon market, an essential part of the toolkit to increase ambition that can harness the potential of the private sector and generate financing for adaptation (…)”.

2020 COP26, Glasgow: the conference that didn’t happen

In a statement dated April 1, 2020, the UN announced that the summit had been canceled that year and warned that it would take place between November 1 and 12, 2021. Since its creation, no COP had been postponed until COP26 had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2021 COP26, Glasgow: climate change does not wait, and the planet is impatient

After a long wait, the COP26 could finally be held. Under the slogan “Uniting the world to face climate change”, COP26 was held between October 31 and November 12, 2021. The event was in Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, one of the four countries of England. Alok Sharma was the chairman of the summit. The main objective of COP26 was “to keep alive 1.5 degrees with respect to the pre-industrial era”.

Attendees. Representatives of the delegations of the 197 parties, about 130 heads of state and government and 40,000 participants from civil society, indigenous peoples, youth groups, charities, academics, artists, and companies attended.

Absent leaders: Xi Jinping, President of China. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey. Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil. Manuel López Obrador, President of Mexico. Ebrahim Raisi, President of Iran. Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa did not attend because his country rejects the coal ban.

Main objectives of COP26.

  1. Ensure zero emissions worldwide by mid-century and maintain 1.5°C by 2100. To do this, countries must phase out carbon, curb deforestation, and accelerate the shift to greener economies.
  2. Adapt as much as possible to protect communities and natural habitats. Since the climate is already changing, countries affected by climate change must protect and restore ecosystems, as well as build defense and warning systems and resilient infrastructure.
  3. Mobilize climate finance. At COP15, the nations with the most resources promised to contribute $100 billion a year to less developed nations before 2020 to help them adapt to climate change and mitigate further increases in temperatures. That promise has not been fulfilled neither that year nor in 2021. Being postponed for 2022.
  4. Work together to achieve goals. This means building partnerships between governments, business and civil society and fine-tuning the Paris Agreement to make it fully operational. In addition to formal negotiations, COP26 is expected to establish new initiatives and coalitions to combat the effects of climate change.

Opinions

DW: COP26… adopted decisions that a few years ago would have been unthinkable. But the pressure for this to happen was also enormous”, said Jens Thurau. DW’s special envoy to Glasgow said: “Was COP26 in Glasgow good or bad? As chaotic and confusing as the meeting was, there are varied points of view to answer this question”.

WWF: “The closing of COP 26 is disappointing, but a slim chance remains for a 1.5°C future. Timing and ways of operating are needed if we want to get off fossil fuels… We came to Glasgow expecting leaders to accept a radical change in the pace and scale of climate action. Although we did not get the radical change, and the agreed text is far from perfect, we are moving in the right direction.

Greenpeace: “Although the agreement recognizes the need to reduce emissions in this decade, those commitments have been left for next year. Young people who have come of age in a climate crisis will not tolerate many more outcomes like this. Why should they if they are fighting for their future?” explains the executive director of Greenpeace International, Jennifer Morgan

El Sol de México: “The Mexican delegation criticized the way in which the pact on coal was reached, pointing out that the summit has not been inclusive or transparent, and lamented, along with other nations, the unambitious language in the process to put an end to fossil fuels.”

El Colombiano: “There were two weeks of negotiations, agreements, and disagreements, promises and commitments between 197 countries and many more private and public organizations and entities. The result is a roadmap that will literally decide the future of the planet…”

2022 COP27, Glasgow: climate change does not wait, and the planet is impatient

COP27, the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties of the COP will be held this year in the city of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, between November 7 and 18, 2022.

Nigel Topping, champion of COP26, and Mahmoud Mohieldin, appointed earlier this year as champion for COP27, joined stakeholders from across the Middle East and North Africa region to drive a community of non-state actors with a common vision for ambitious climate action on the road to COP27.

These non-state actors include cities, regions, investors and businesses, and civil society, which have the capacity to undertake far-reaching and ambitious climate action, which complements and reinforces crucial climate plans of governments.

The preliminary work program for climate action for 2022 was outlined in this way:

*Strengthen and embed resilience    *Financing climate action    *Accelerating immediate climate action

As part of these efforts, Topping and Mohieldin will additionally focus on three building blocks critical to successfully driving the ambition process:

  1. Monitoring of progress. Especially actions by non-state actors, formally using their input for the preparation and technical assessment components in 2022 and facilitating their input to the formal global assessment in 2023. This will be done in close collaboration with the chairs of the Meetings of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies, the Technical Dialogue co-facilitators, and the UNFCCC secretariat to help ensure meaningful and effective inputs from non-state actors to the process.
  2. Radical collaboration. Specifically, between national governments and non-state actors in key regions to empower the process towards more positive ambition and build and maintain deep relationships of trust within the Marrakech Alliance stakeholders and others in the lead up to COP27, and even in it.
  3. Regionalization of the non-state climate action agenda. By increasing the involvement of non-state actors in featured campaigns, especially by leveraging regional Climate Weeks across the climate action calendar.

Source: United Nation Climate Change

©2015-2022 Sandor Alejandro Gerendas-Kiss / SGK-PLANET