Sunday, December 13, 2015

The COP21 Timeline

By Anton Antonio
December 14, 2015

A lot of people are wondering what “COP21” means and what were the past events leading to “COP21”.  COP stands for “Conference of the Parties” who had been meeting to discuss and process environmental concerns… particularly climate change.  COP21 is the 21st meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  There have been 20 other meetings under the guidance of the UNFCCC leading to the 21st meeting in Paris, France this year.  I’ve organized a limited timeline to somewhat detail previous COP events:

1987 – Countries agree to the Montreal Protocol to quickly phase out the chloroflourocarbons (CFCs) creating a hole in the ozone layer.  The Montreal Protocol is worldwide initiative aimed at establishing a global working model of a framework agreement where countries agree to a set of environmental goals and then separately implement measures to achieve them.

1989 – The Montreal Protocol goes into effect.

1992 – 154 countries sign the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which binds the parties to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the planet’s climate system.  All countries, classified as either “developed, developing or under-developed”, were assigned responsibilities which match their capabilities.  At present, there are 195 countries, together with the European Union, which have signed the agreement.

1997 – The UNFCCC goals were included in another document called the Kyoto Protocol.  The Kyoto Protocol committed the parties to work towards targets set as the international level for reducing emissions, beginning in 2005.

2009 – The UNFCCC holds its 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen with the goal of finding new and more inclusive initiatives for international efforts to be united against climate change.  COP15, however, failed to come up with a unified accord.  But more importantly, all parties agreed to come up with their own nationally determined targets also called INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions).

2011 – At the COP17 held in Durban, South Africa, the parties agreed to set COP21 in Paris in 2015 as the time and place for a new global climate agreement.  It was further agreed that whatever COP21 agreement is made, this will be applicable to all.

2013 – COP19, held in Warsaw, Poland, established the INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) as tools for countries to propose and submit their commitments to climate action as part of the Paris agreement.  The INDCs will have the following characteristics: (a) Allow countries to set their own targets under a common framework, instead of having them set by the international community; (b) The INDCs are to be submitted in advance prior to the Paris talks to enable other countries to see each country’s commitments; (c) The policies each country would use to make good on their commitments should be stated in detail; and, (d) Not only underdeveloped and developing countries are expected to submit INDCs but all countries.

As of today, the submissions (INDC) and discussions at the COP21 are still being processed and summarized.  Let’s hope for the best moving forward from COP21.  I also hope that COP21 and the entire COP concept is now clear with this material on the COP timeline.

Thoughts to promote positive action…

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Climate Change Guide, (2015). “What You Should Know About Paris COP21”.  Retrieved on December 14, 2015 from

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