Climate Change Talks – The History and Aims of the COP
Since 1995 in Berlin, countries from around the World have been getting together once a year to talk about climate change and what actions should be taken to combat it. It is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and aims to set targets and measure progress over time.
Known as the Conference of the Parties (COP), this years event in Durban will be the 17th since it was first conceived but what exactly have they achieved and what are the aims for this year?
Actions Taken Thus Far
Over the past 16 years here are the major decisions that have been taken at COP events:
The first notable step was taken in 1996 when findings on climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were accepted
Arguably the biggest achievement to date came in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan where 40 of the 41 Annex I countries agreed to a legally binding reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The average cuts were between 6 – 8% below a 1990 baseline figure to be implemented between 2008 and 2012.
The United States did not sign up to this treaty after Congress failed to ratify the 7% reductions being suggested
At COP6, which was staged over two separate occasions during 2000/01 the “flexibility” mechanism was introduced which allowed emissions trading between countries
This basically allowed developed countries to fund emission reductions in developing countries rather in their own
This was a popular move which arguably allowed developed countries to continue polluting at the same level
Also at COP6, it was agreed that carbon sinks would be allowed as a form of credit for countries that manage forests and the other natural resources that absorb carbon from the atmosphere
Implementation of efforts to enhance technology transfer between developed and developing nations to enable a low carbon path to be adopted in countries where demand and emissions are likely to grow the quickest
COP14 in Poland in 2008 brought the idea of a climate fund to the table whereby finance is made available to developing countries to assist them in coping with the effects of climate change
The work at COP14 continued at COP16 in Denmark where a Green Climate Fund was adopted to be the vehicle by which developing countries could get assistance for adapting to climate change
A figure of $100 billion per year by 2020 was discussed although not set in stone
Goals For COP17 in Durban
Here are some of the main aims of the talks in Durban over the next two weeks:
Agree a mechanism for the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 by all the countries that originally signed up
Construct an initial outline of how developing countries such as China and India might eventually become part of Kyoto
Commit to a timeframe in which all 192 countries present will sign up to a legally binding agreement on emission reductions
The year 2020 is being proposed although many would like it a lot sooner than this
Lay down an action plan for the financing of the Green Climate Fund
This could come directly from Governments or, as some suggest, through a financial transaction tax and larger contributions by the aviation and shipping industries
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