What is COP, the Climate Change Conference? (Conference of Parties)

COP, the annual Climate Change Conference, stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’, and this year’s summit takes place in Glasgow, Scotland. But what is COP? In this article, you’ll find our potted history of the conference, and what we expect to see this year. 

What is COP?

‘COP’ is the formal meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Parties.

COP stands for the ‘Conference of the Parties’ – the governing body of an international convention. COP refers to all of the parties involved – including world leaders and heads of state – as well as to the decision-making process of reviewing and putting the rules of the convention into effect.

The United Nations Climate Change Conferences are yearly conferences held in the framework of the UNFCCC, or COP, to assess progress in dealing with climate change.

How often does COP take place?

There is a COP meeting every year, unless the Parties decide otherwise.

The first COP meeting was held in Berlin, Germany in March, 1995. Significant meetings since then have included COP3 where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 where the Montreal Action Plan was produced, COP15 in Copenhagen and COP17 in Durban where the Green Climate Fund was created.

This year COP26 (the 26th meeting) meets in Glasgow, Scotland.

Why does COP matter?

COP21 in Paris in 2015 secured the crucial Paris Agreement, which was an unprecedented unification of the world’s nations agreeing to limit the amount of carbon emissions and combat climate change. In November 2016, the Paris Agreement entered into force – with signatory countries committed to low carbon strategies, this marked the beginning of the process of reducing global emissions.

This means changing how we do business – everything from agriculture, to manufacturing and the way we consume will need to change – in order to make progress and ensure the world’s emissions remain under the two degree limit.

What is expected to happen at COP26?

The vision for COP26 is to maintain the momentum for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

At COP22 in 2016, the Paris Agreement was signed by the vast majority of countries in attendance and marked a turning point in the battle against climate change. World leaders from across the globe united for the first time in history to legally ratify action against pollution through the United Nations Framework Convention.

Countries that agreed to the Paris Agreement aimed to hold the increase in global average temperature to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, ideally limiting the increase to 1.5°C.

What is COP26 hoping to achieve?

Critical decisions need to be made in Glasgow this November to tackle the climate emergency. It is hoped that four key aims will be achieved at COP26:

  1. Secure global net zero by 2050 and keep 1.5°C within reach: Countries are being asked to propose ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets – their NDCs – to help the world reach net zero emissions by the middle of the century. To deliver these targets, nations will need to accelerate the phase-out of coal, encourage investment in renewable energy, limit deforestation and speed up the switch to electric vehicles.
  2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats: Climate change is already having devastating effects on communities and natural habitats. At COP26, nations will need to work together to enable countries affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems, build defences and increase the resilience of infrastructure and agriculture to avoid further losses.
  3. Mobilise finance: Developed countries must deliver on their promise to raise at least $100 billion in climate finance every year. International financial institutions have a role to play here, while trillions in private and public sector finance must be unlocked to secure net zero by 2050.
  4. Work together to deliver: Tackling climate change requires a global effort, in which everyone must work together. At COP26, the rules needed to implement the Paris Agreement need to be finalised, while ambitions must be turned into action by accelerating collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society to deliver global climate goals faster.

How do organisations communicate COP and the climate change negotiations?

Empower are proud to work for a range of clients who will be attending COP26, including We Mean Business, UNHCR, CDP and PRI, who all approach the climate negotiations with crucial expertise and advocacy messages.

These are some of the key considerations and challenges that our clients face when creating a sustainability communications strategy that stands out from the crowd. And with the right sustainability communication strategy in place, you can accelerate the effectiveness of your digital comms and help make a real impact in tackling climate change. 

Here are some considerations to help your digital comms cut through at COP:

Further reading on COP

Want to find out more about COP? Read the articles and resources below.

From the Empower team:

From elsewhere:

Ben Matthews
Ben Matthews is the co-founder of Empower Agency. He is a digital strategist specialising in technology, media, government and charity. Ben offers senior client consultancy and trusted counsel, sets strategy, and ensures well-executed implementation for campaigns at all levels. View all posts by Ben >

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