What is COP?

by Malek Romdhane

In 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio, 154 countries and the EU signed an international treaty known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This convention entered into force on 21 March 1994. Those countries are called as parties to the convention. The number of contracting countries grew over time to comprise 197 parties to the Convention. This international treaty aimed to structure international cooperation in tackling climate change by limiting the average rise in global temperature and the resulting climate change and dealing with its inevitable impacts. 

Now let’s answer our main question: What is COP?

COP stands for the Conference of Parties under the UNFCCC, it acts as the supreme decision-making body to this convention. Every year (unless a serious event happens to postpone the conference) the delegates who represent the parties to the convention meet at COP to review the convention’s implementation and take the necessary decision to ensure its implementation.

When we talk about COP here, we only refer to the COP under the UNFCCC due to the importance of COP 26 (Stay tuned another article with this theme will be released soon).

However, it’s worth mentioning that there are two other COPs, under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in the countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa and the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), known respectively as COP on desertification and COP on biodiversity.

The COP on desertification is the least known conference compared to the other two COPs.

So how did the idea for COP start?

The starting point of COP was mainly the Earth Summit Rio de Janeiro in 1992: from 1994 the delegations decided to meet annually in accordance with the Conference of Parties (COP) of the international treaty (UNFCCC).

In March 1995, the first Conference of the Parties (COP1) took place in Berlin, Germany. According to the UNFCCC website the COP meets in Bonn (the seat of the secretariat) unless a Party offers to host the session. 

On the other hand, the COP Presidency rotates between the five recognized UN regions: Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe and Western Europe and others.

Will this year be the 27th session of COP?

The answer is NO.

The COP 26 was originally scheduled to take place 9-19 November 2020 in Glasgow, UK. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, declared by WHO as a global pandemic, the conference has been postponed to November 2021. This decision was taken by the COP bureau at UNFCCC, the UK (the host country) and its Italian partners. 

The decision makers didn’t implement an online solution and preferred to postpone the COP conference so that it might take place in person. The decision was also informed by other reasons, such as giving more time to the parties to be well prepared.

On April 1st 2020, they announced: “In light of the ongoing, worldwide effects of COVID-19, holding an ambitious, inclusive COP26 in November 2020 is no longer possible. Rescheduling will ensure all parties can focus on the issues to be discussed at this vital conference and allow more time for the necessary preparations to take place. We will continue to work with all involved to increase climate ambition, build resilience and lower emissions.”

So, what will be the exact date and venue of COP26?

According to the ukcop26 official website, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference will take place from 1 to 12 November 2021, at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, UK.

Picture: Malek at COP25 in 2019

Malek is currently the regional coordinator for North and Central Africa at the 16th UN Climate Change Conference of Youth (COY16) and director of External Relations with the International Youth Council, Tunisia Chapter. Having a background in business specialised in communication and green marketing and six years of experience with international organizations, she advocates for a sustainable and fair future.














Categories COP26

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