October 18, 2012

Part 7: Peeling Back the COP

Finally, we are on the home stretch, and this article will mark the end of the COP series that has been dissecting the nitty gritties of the UNFCCC process. Afterwards, we will be hosting guest blog posts from experts on various topics. 
This piece will cover two important sub-topics:

·      The structure of the COP (Conference of Parties)
·      The timeline of the UNFCCC COP

It will be a somewhat lengthy piece, but why not get started now?

1.     Structure of COP

There is no doubt that COP has been the buzzword of the annual climate change talks, and it is important to unravel this enigma. Simply stated, COP is the highest decision-making body of the Climate Change Convention. The COP also meets annually, and this year’s meeting will be in Doha, Qatar, and has been dubbed ‘COP18’, since it is the eighteenth Conference of Parties.

Main Objective

The main objective of the COP is to review the Conventions implementation.


COP has been devolved to two subsidiary bodies, and they are the ‘heart’ of COP. There are two permanent subsidiary bodies under COP, namely Subsidiary Body for Scientific Technological Advice (SBSTA) and Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).

The main aim of SBSTA is to provide COP with advice on scientific, technological and methodological matters. This entails:

·      To promote development and transfer of environmentally friendly technologies
·  Conducting technical work to improve the guidelines for preparing national communications and emission inventories

The SBSTA is the link between the expert scientific bodies such as IPCCC and the COP (which mainly focuses on policy issues)

This body gives advice to the COP on all matters concerning the implementation of the Constitution.  This is mainly in assessing progress through National Communications and Emission Inventories.

The SBI also assesses the financial assistance which is usually provided to no-Annex I countries, as well as providing advice on budgetary and administrative matters.

It is important to note that there are areas where the SBSTA and SBI usually intersect in mandate, and this includes:

·      Capacity building
·      Vulnerability of developing countries to climate change and response measures
·      The Kyoto Protocol Mechanism

    The SBSTA and the SBI usually meet at least twice a year in parallel

2.     COP Timeline

The journey to COP 18 and climate change process in general has been long, and it traces its roots to the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in May 1992 in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. The convention came into full force in 1994, and it established the Conference of the Parties (COP), the highest decision making process in the convention. Let us get a snapshot of the COP timeline:

The 1st COP (COP 1) was held in Berlin in 1995, and it aimed at addressing the member state’s capacity in implementing the Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI). The ‘Berlin Mandate’ was the result of this meeting, with its main task being to draft a protocol or legal instrument to compel Parties to address climate change.

COP 2 was held in Geneva in 1996 and it focused on stressing the need to accelerate talks on how to strengthen Climate Change Convention.

COP 3 was held in Kyoto in 1997 where the Kyoto protocol was adopted. The protocol was instrumental in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and it came up with mechanisms such as emission trading, CDM and joint implementation.

COP 4 was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1998 and aimed at strengthening the provisions of Kyoto protocol through adoption of a 2-year action plan.

COP 5 was held in Bonn, Germany in 1999, and it set a timetable for completing work on the Kyoto Protocol

The first session of COP 6 took place in The Hague, Netherlands in the year 2000. The negotiations took a political turn with the US and EU, carbon credit and matters compliance taking the center stage. The second session of COP 6 was held in Bonn, Germany and focused on flexible mechanisms, carbon sinks, compliance matters and funding the climate change process.


COP 7: Marrakech Accords 

The COP 7 was held in Marrakech, Morocco in 2001 and it finalized on the Buenos Aires Action Plan and ratification of Kyoto Protocol. The convention also adopted the Marrakech Accords.


COP 8: New Delhi Work Program

COP 8 was held in New Delhi India in 2002, and adopted the Delhi Ministerial Declaration and New Delhi Work Program. 


COP 9: Adaptation Fund

COP 9 took place in Milan, Italy in 2003 and adopted among others the Adaptation Fund to support developing countries in adapting better mechanisms in curbing climate change. 


COP 10: Post-Kyoto Mechanisms

COP 10 was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2004, and it aimed at promoting climate change mitigation and adaptation of cleaner mechanisms as well as post-Kyoto mechanisms.


COP 11: Montreal Action Plan

In 2005, COP 11 was held in Montreal Canada. It also marked the first meeting of the parties (MOP-1) to Kyoto Protocol. The conference produced the Montreal Action Plan.


COP 12: Nairobi Conference

Closer home, the COP 12 was held in 2006 in Nairobi, where a 5 year plan was adapted.


COP 13: Bali Action Plan

Year 2007 saw COP 13 being held in Bali, Indonesia where the post 2012 framework and Bali Action Plan were developed.


COP 14: Poznan Climate Change Conference

In 2008, COP 14 was held in Poznan, Poland. In the conference, the delegates proposed the modality for financing the poor nations in curbing climate change.


COP 15: Copenhagen Accord

COP 15 was held in Copenhagen Denmark in 2009, with an aim of establishing a global climate change agreement to succeed Kyoto Protocol. This, however, was not realized.



COP 16: Cancun Agreements

In 2010, COP 16 was held in Cancun Mexico.


COP 17: Durban Platform

 COP 17 was held in Durban South Africa. A highlight of this conference was the creation of the Green Climate Fund.



COP 18

Between November 26 and December 7, 2012, COP 18 will happen in Doha, Qatar, and it will seek to renew commitments on the Kyoto Protocol. 


We hope that you have enjoyed this series on Peeling Back the COP, and that you have also learnt a lot; for those who are experts in this field, it is our hope that these posts have refreshed your knowledge. 
We are now working on a .pdf compilation so that you can use it as an easy reference. We will let you know when it is out. 

In order to complement this serious, we will be hosting guest blog posts from experts on certain areas of the UNFCCC COP process. 

Compiled by: Kenny Wahome, Reuben Makomere and Ken Liti

Useful links used in this research:

1. UNFCCC Convention Bodies: http://unfccc.int/essential_background/convention/convention_bodies/items/2629.php
2. A Brief History of the UNFCCC process: http://unfccc.int/cop7/issues/briefhistory.html
3. Conference of Parties (COP): http://unfccc.int/cop7/issues/briefhistory.html; http://unfccc.int/bodies/body/6383.php
4. Background of the UNFCCC: http://unfccc.int/essential_background/items/6031.php;



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