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A Brief History of COP with Special Focus on COP25

UNFCCC and Conference of Parties

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established in May 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro came into force in March 1994 with the premise of strengthening global public awareness of climate change issues. Among its main objectives is the stabilization of concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere to prevent risks in the climate system. The Conference of the Parties (COP) is established as the supreme body of the Convention and the association of all the countries that form part of it. The annual meetings are attended by environmental experts, ministers, heads of state and non-governmental organizations.


It has been 23 years since the first Conference of the Parties on Climate Change. These early years have been full of good intentions, ideas, promises, protocols and agreements, and while it is true that the world in these two decades has improved its vision on issues such as Climate Change, sustainable energy, green cities and electric cars, it is that much remains to be done. The biggest problems are of an economic issue.

Incoming: COP25, 2019, Santiago, Chile

Between December 2 and 13, 2019,  the Chile city of Santiago will hold the COP25, United Nations conference on climate change.

Ms. Carolina Schmidt Zaldivar, Minister of Environment of Chile is the President-Designate for the conference.

The Santiago Climate Change Conference will take forward the road map  and will be largely influenced by the outcomes of the UN Climate Action Summit held in New York, US, in September 2019, as well as three Regional Climate Weeks: Africa Climate Week held in March, Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week held in August, and Asia-Pacific Climate Week held in September.

Let’s move on to the history of the COP 

1995, COP1, Berlin: The First COP Conference

From it came the Berlin Mandate, a sort of catalogue of commitments that was quite indefinite, allowing countries to choose initiatives tailored to their needs.

1996, COP2, Geneva

The need to establish “binding quantitative targets” on the limitation of GHG emissions by industrialized countries, with precise reductions for 2005, 2010 and 2020, was agreed by consensus and should be addressed in Kyoto next year in Japan.

1997, COP3, Kyoto: The Kyoto Protocol Is Born

COP3 met in the Japanese city Kyoto, where binding targets for GHG emissions for 37 industrialized countries were set, but 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 11 years later in 2008 and its expiration date was set for 2012, stating that developed countries should reduce their GHG emissions by 5% over those five years 1990.

1998 – 2006: Nine Cops with Little Progress to Be Made

Between these dates were held 9 Conferences of the Parties:

  1. 1998, COP4 Buenos Aires
  2. 1999, COP5, Bonn
  3. 2000, COP6, The Hague and (2nd part), Bonn
  4. 2001, COP7, Marrakech
  5. 2002, COP8, New Delhi.
  6. 2003 COP9, Milan
  7. COP10, Buenos Aires
  8. COP11, Montreal
  9. 2006, COP12, Nairobi

It was 9 years almost lost, mainly employed in finalizing the details of the Kyoto Protocol, with a view to 2008.

2007, COP 13, Bali: The Road to Substitution for the Kyoto Protocol

During the conference in Indonesia, an important step was taken towards replacing the Kyoto Protocol, without being activated by a new treaty. In addition, it was concluded that the signs of global warming are unquestionable and finally the “Bali Action Plan” was established, which set the framework of negotiations leading to COP 15, Copenhagen, two years later.

2008, COP14, Poznán: The Look towards Copenhagen

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

2009, COP15, Copenhagen: Great Hope Ends In Great Disappointment

Finally, we arrived at the long-awaited COP 15, meeting in which there was an immense hope.

The conclusion of a legally binding climate agreement, valid for the whole world, which will be implemented as of 2012“

This was its central objective stated before the meeting. This, in quantifiable terms, meant reducing CO2 emissions to less than 50% by 2050 compared to 1990. But three weeks before the beginning of COP15, a meeting was held in Thailand, where China and the United States decided that the Copenhagen agreements would not be binding, so that the fate of the Summit was set before it began. The summit, as it was to be expected, was described as failure and disaster by many governments and environmental organizations.

2010, COP 16, Cancun: Creation of the Green Climate Fund, an Indispensable Tool

Among the main agreements reached in Mexico is the creation of the Green Climate Fund, which establishes an amount of 100,000 million dollars each year, starting in 2020, and 30,000 million dollars for the period 2010-2012, in order to help low-income countries, cover the costs of combating climate change.

2011, COP17 Durban: The Birth of the Kyoto-II Protocol and the Beginning of Its Death

The luck of the planet was no better than in South Africa, although progress was made by setting a date for the start of the second period of the Kyoto agreements with a view to 2013, which presumed to avoid a gap in Change Climate. The summit concluded with a road map for a global treaty, as required by the European Union, which would commit large polluters who did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, China, the United States and India, to comply with the treaty. The bad news was that Canada announced its intention not to renew Kyoto, seconded by Japan and Russia.

2012, COP18, Doha: Kyoto Extended but It Is No Longer Possible To Revive It

The 194 countries reached a minimum agreement, the “Doha Climate Gate”, which extends the Kyoto Protocol until 2020, but the negotiations on the need for more donations by developing countries were deferred to the following year. Most delegations expressed their discomfort because the final agreement did not meet the scientific recommendations, which called for strong action to counter global warming. Carbon dioxide emissions for 2012 already doubled in 1990.

2013, COP19, Warsaw: Mass Abandonment of the Summit

The initial objective in Poland was to reach an agreement so that the emissions of gaseous pollutants could be reduced by 2015. However, this agreement was opposed by several countries, including the host, owner of a coal-based industry. It is noteworthy that on this occasion the UN presented a document where it is assured with a certainty of almost 100% that the human being is the main cause of global warming since the 1950s. One highlight was the massive abandonment, one day after the closure of the summit, of NGOs and trade unions, an event unheard of until that moment in the COP.

2014, COP20, Lima: Great Expectations and Preparations for Paris, 2015                 

In the Peruvian capital, the most significant was that the United States and China announced a joint commitment to reduce GHG emissions for the first time ever, fundamental for global warming not to exceed 2ºC, a limit set by scientists. The UN considered the goal to reduce emissions by 40-70% by 2050 and 0% by the end of the century. The agreement, finally ratified, was a covenant that approached postures facing Paris 2015.

2015, COP21, Paris: The Paris Agreement is born

An ambitious global convention to combat climate change was negotiated in the framework of COP 21, Paris 2015. It was adopted by 197 countries and its signature was officially launched on April 22, 2016, Earth Day. Its implementation will start in 2020. The Paris Agreement provides for the limitation of global temperature increase to 2°C by reducing GHG emissions caused by fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal, which when burned release carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (CO2).

2016, COP22, Marrakech

The 22nd edition of the COP was held in the Moroccan capital, characterized by its low profile and poor media coverage, which some have called a “technical meeting”. In this meeting, a working paper was adopted to implement the Paris Agreement as well as a type of roadmap which would lead to the rules guiding the essential agreement.

2017, COP23, Fiji-Bonn: Progress towards the Objectives of the Paris Agreement

The 23rd Conference of the Parties on Climate Change was held in Bonn from 6-17 November 2017. The United States presented itself to the conference with a low-ranking delegation, following President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Agreement. At the meeting, it was known that more than 20 countries created a global alliance through which they commit to eliminate coal from power generation before 2030. However, among the signatory countries do not include Germany, Spain and Poland, or the three largest consumers of coal, China, India and the USA.

2018, COP24, Katowice: The conference agreed on rules to implement the Paris Agreement, which will come into force in 2020

The special report on the impacts of 1.50 C global warming, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October, became a major source of tension at the talks. 50 countries signed the “Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration.” COP24 also saw many businesses taking climate pledges. Shell committed to link short-term carbon targets to executive pay from the year 2020.


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Author’s Bio: 

Adeela Hameed is pursuing Masters in Environmental Sciences from Amity University, Noida.


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