What is COP (Conference Of Parties)?
United Nations Climate Change Conference, also called COP or Conference of Parties
We cannot wait for speeches when the sea is rising all around us!
The above statement was made by Simon Kofe, Foreign Minister of Tuvalu, an island country situated between Hawaii and Australia at COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. The conference is also called the Conference of Parties, hence the name COP. This article is a brief introduction to COP.
What Is It?
For nearly three decades the United Nations has been bringing
together almost every country on earth for global climate summits. In
that time climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global
priority. The COP26 was held in Glasgow, United Kingdon from October 31st to November 12th, 2021. During recent years, the COP gathering has gained a lot of media attention. 2021 was the 26th annual summit, giving it the name COP26.
How Did It Come About?
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the Convention or UNFCCC) is an international treaty that acknowledges the existence of climate change caused by human activities and provides the framework for climate change negotiations.
The Convention was adopted in 1992 during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The treaty entered into force in 1994 and 196 countries ratified it.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the supreme decision-making body of the UNFCCC and is made up of representatives from all parties (countries).
The goal of these conferences is to review progress made by members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to limit climate change.
Has It Been Successful?
The short answer is, no. The climate conference is an annual gathering of world leaders. Even though the parties have been meeting for the last twenty-five years to review the progress of carbon emission reduction plans by the participating nations, the global energy system has changed very little over the years.
- Annual emissions of greenhouse gases continue to increase and are today 60% above 1994 levels.
- In 2018, global CO2 emissions increased by 2.7%, one of the highest annual increases in the decade. There was a dip in CO2 emission in 2020 but in 2021 emissions have gone up again.
- Emissions are increasing in almost all countries, including developed countries that had pledged to reduce emissions.
- In 1994, about 80% of the global primary energy supply came from fossil fuels. This figure has remained unchanged as of 2019
- In 1994, about 2.8 billion people used polluting solid fuels to cook food — this number remains the same as of 2019.
The above points are reflective of the lack of action on behalf of the parties. One begins to wonder if the effort, the time, and the money spent in getting world leaders to aggregate in one place, every year since the last twenty-five years, was worth it.
Well, it is regrettable that 25 years of negotiation between almost all countries of the world resulted in no significant progress in reducing carbon emissions. But, is it surprising? I don’t think so. It is difficult if not impossible to come to a consensus on anything with so many parties involved. Greta Thunberg and activists like her are trying their best to voice this concern.
The next conference, COP27 will be held in Egypt in November 2022. It is up to us to support and assist the young activists who will be there to make their voices heard. Here are a few things I believe you and I can do to pressure on our leaders —
- Reach out to your local and national representatives about attending or facilitating attendance in the COP events.
- Reach out to local groups of the host country and ask how you can help.
- Connect with climate activists all over the world through social media.
- If you’re planning to go to the next COP, attend the pop-up protests, side events, and press conferences. Connect and network!
- Finally, use the greatest power that you have as a citizen, use your right to vote to choose candidates who have a plan and vision for the future generations living on planet earth.
I want to end with a quote from Greta Thunberg in her COP 24 address -
We have come here to let you know that change is coming whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.