Climate Change Talks – The History and Aims of the COP

climate change talks

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

Steve (152 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.


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