From Berlin to Dubai: The Audacious Journey of COP

You might ask if COP28 is a relative of R2-D2 or C-3PO from Star Wars because the name does not sound like a climate change conference. But instead of a fictional character from outer space, COP is actually an acronym which stands for The Conference of the Parties (COP). This conference forms part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is the world’s most consequential forum for addressing the climate crisis. The number on the end, 28, is the edition, as it’s been 28 conferences since the first one. 

In this article, we briefly explore what COPs have previously achieved and what this means for the upcoming conference in Dubai, which will start on November 30. 

Berlin to Kyoto: A start

Since the 1970s, there have been calls on how countries might recognise and address global warming, and in 1992, the UNFCCC was formed and first assembled for a COP in 1995. This, however, was only the foundation, and the Berlin Mandate launched a process that would culminate in the Kyoto Protocol. This was to be the first international agreement to set legally binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions. A new era in international climate cooperation had begun. 

Kyoto to Copenhagen: A Mixed Bag

Although agreed in 1997 in Kyoto in Japan, it was not until 2005 that The Kyoto Protocol came into force, and the agreement was not too ambitious: developed countries needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. 

Its implementation was mixed. Industrialised countries met their emissions reduction targets for the first commitment period (2008-2012), but developing countries did not. So it was indeed a further disappointment that in 2009, at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, world leaders agreed to the Copenhagen Accord, which was a weak and watered-down vision of ambition which many had hoped for.

Paris to Dubai: A New Dawn

COP21 in Paris in 2015 marked a turning point in the climate negotiations. The Paris Agreement, adopted at this meeting, is a landmark agreement that commits all countries to take action to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement is also notable for its universal nature. It applies to all countries, regardless of their level of development.

COP28: A Pivotal Moment

COP28, held in Dubai in November 2023, is expected to be a pivotal moment in implementing the Paris Agreement. The COP will allow countries to review their progress and set new targets for emissions reduction. This will be in the ‘global stocktake’ when each country must publish its progress on achieving the Paris Agreement.

COP28 comes in the wake of a severe warning from the IPCC, which published its synthesis report earlier this year. This reported that if we don’t achieve our climate goals, a child born today will have to live in a world of incredible heat because of the likelihood of 4ºC warming. Additionally, there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to limit global warming to 1,5-2°C. This window now stands at ten years. So, we have ten years to make net zero emissions happen. 

A Bold Vision for the Future

Like in Paris, this COP needs to deliver on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The world needs COP to deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement. We need to see countries take ambitious action to reduce emissions, mobilise the necessary finance, and address the issue of loss and damage.

There is, however, a clear similarity between this COP and the one in Paris. In the months leading up to that COP, the Pope released Laudato Si’. This message offered some urgency to the talks which delivered on change. Ahead of this COP, the Pope has released Laudate Deum which has a clear message that there needs to be a renewed commitment to net zero. An absolute first regarding COPs is the already announced trip of Pope Francis to Dubai between 1 and 3 December, where he’s expected to address the delegates with a bold message of urgency and concern. 

This COP has the potential to be a catalyst for transformative change. It can help us build a more sustainable future for all.

Colm Fahy
JESC Ecology Advocacy Officer

Images: Unsplash/David Rodrigo, Fabien Maurin, Nacho Arteaga

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