Friday, December 7, 2012

A Short History of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP)

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC) is an international environmental treaty negotiated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The UNFCCC was opened for signature on May 9, 1992, after an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee produced the text of the Framework Convention as a report following its meeting in New York from April 30 to May 9, 1992. It entered into force on March 21, 1994. As of December 2012, UNFCCC has 194 parties.

The parties to the convention have met annually from 1995 in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change. To date their have been 18 annual COP meetings from 1994 to 2012. The primary goal of these meetings is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions so that we can limit global temperature increases.

Informally known as the Earth Summit, the first COP was held in Rio de Janeiro from June 3 to 14, 1992. The stated objective of these meetings is to "stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."

The treaty itself set no binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms. In that sense, the treaty is considered legally non-binding. Instead, the treaty provides a framework for negotiating specific international treaties (called "protocols") that may set binding limits on greenhouse gases.

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was concluded and established legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their GHG emissions. The 2010 Cancún agreements state that future global warming should be limited to below 2.0 °C (3.6 °F) relative to the pre-industrial level.

One of the first tasks set by the UNFCCC was for signatory nations to establish national GHG inventories of emissions and removals, which were used to create the 1990 benchmark levels for accession of Annex I countries to the Kyoto Protocol and for the commitment of those countries to GHG reductions. Updated inventories must be regularly submitted by Annex I countries.

Since the UNFCCC convened these negotiations almost two decades ago we have seen very little meaningful action on the primary issue of curtailing GHGs. Since 2000, the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased almost 20 percent and there is an ever widening gap between what governments are doing to curb emissions and what needs to be done. Nonetheless, the COP process remains our best hope of creating an international binding agreement to limit GHGs.

Here is a summary of links covering the last five COPs:

COP 18

COP 18: Bridging the Gulf Between Science and Reality
Plea for Action at COP 18 by the Delegate from the Philippines (Video)
COP 18 Update: Developing Nations Blame Wealthy Nations (Video)
COP 18: The History of Carbon and Respective Responsibilities
COP 18: WBCSD on Establishing a Global Carbon Market
Figueres on COP 18: We Need Domestic Legislation
COP 18 Drivers of Deforestation (Video)
Doha progress update by Christiana Figueres on 30 November 2012 (Video)
Christiana Figueres on the Objectives of COP 18 (Video)
COP 18: Major Issues, What We Have Achieved on Climate Change and the US Position (Video)
Yvo de Boer's Comments and Predictions Post COP 17

COP 17

Will the Agreement Reached at COP 17/CMP 7 Contain Climate Change?
Details of the Deal Reached at COP 17
Extended COP 17 Negotiations Yield Agreement
Who is to Blame for Difficulties at COP 17?
Hope Remains Despite Expectations of a Dissapointing Outcome at COP 17
China an Unlikely Hero at Cop 17
The Costs of Global Warming
A Binding Agreement on Climate Change is a Matter of Life and Death
Canada is a Pariah at COP 17
The Costs of Canada's Failure to Act on Climate Change
COP 17 a Premeditated Failure?
Protests Around the World Call for Climate Justice at COP 17
UN Chief Warns that the Future of the Planet is at Stake at COP 17
India is Leading Resistance to a Binding Treaty at COP 17US Demands Emissions Reductions from China and India
Polluters Dominate the Agenda at COP 17 in Durban
Video: Special Envoy Stern Discusses COP 17
Video: One South African Asks Why Canada is Silent on Climate Change
Video: COP 17 & CMOP 7 Opening Remarks

COP 16

The Cancun Agreements at COP16
Steven Chu at COP16: Building a Sustainable Energy Future (Video)
Canada's Conservative Government Opposes Kyoto and Hampers Progress at COP16
COP16 Market Based Finance Mechanisms
Reduction of Non-CO2 Emissions at COP16
What Can Be Achieved At COP16
Yvo de Boer on the Future of the UNFCCC
UNFCCC Tells Governments to Get Real for COP16
World Mayors Summit on Climate
Sustainable Practices are a Strategic Priority for Business
Climate Change is an Economic and a Security Issue
The Business Community's Silence on Climate Change Negotiations
UN Climate Change Meeting Commences in Tianjin China
Lowering Expectations for UN Climate Negotiations
The Montreal Protocol Celebrates 23rd Birthday
UN Climate Change Initiatives Post Toronto
The Resignation of Head UN Climate Change Negotiator

COP 15

Cop Out for COP15
Why We Did Not Get A Binding Agreement At COP15
Obama Salvages 'Meaningful' Agreement at COP15
Reaction to COP15
COP15: Groups and Subgroups
COP15: New Beginnings or Ignoring the Apocalypse?
Post COP15
Danish Optimism Ahead of COP15
Obama Needs the Senate to Succeed on Climate Change
Obama Buoys Hopes for a Climate Change Deal
Obama's Achievements Ahead of COP15
Cop Out for COP15
The Cost of a Global Deal on Climate Change
The State of Climate Change Negotiations
Action on Climate Change
COP 15 Implications for Business
COP 15 Timetable
Global Cooperation Ahead of COP 15
Copenhagen Accord: Global Emissions Cuts
UN Climate Change Initiatives Post Toronto
Post COP15
The US is Bound by Law to Honor Climate Change Treaty
The Road to Copenhagen (COP 15): Implications for Business

COP 14

United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP14)
UN COP Sessions and Implications for Business
UN COP Sessions Positioning Your Business

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