COP 101 — Live From COP24

What stands for UNFCCC? What’s the COP? Who organises it? Why is it important? And what’s happening there?


Anne-Sophie Garrigou

Following a year of devastating climate disasters around the globe, from California to Kerala, and Tonga to Japan, the annual UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) opens on Monday December 3rd, with the goal of finalising the implementation guidelines for the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The guidelines will provide clarity on how to implement the landmark agreement fairly and transparently for all.

First, what stands for UNFCCC?

With 197 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. The UNFCCC is also the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The ultimate objective of all agreements under the UNFCCC is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system, in a time frame which allows ecosystems to adapt naturally and enables sustainable development.

What’s really the Paris Agreement?

The text was implemented at COP 21, in Paris (you would have guessed that!). Its aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global average temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

In case you’re wondering, and despite Trump being very vocal against it, the U.S. are still part of the Paris Agreement. It takes more than a couple of tweets to withdraw.

The Paris agreement also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. To reach these goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives.

Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s Climate Chief, said:

“This year is likely to be one of the four hottest years on record. Greenhouses gas concentrations in the atmosphere are at record levels and emissions continue to rise. Climate change impacts have never been worse. This reality is telling us that we need to do much more — COP24 needs to make that happen”.

What is the COP24?

The UN climate summits, i.e. so called COP (Conference of the Parties) are global conferences, in the course of which action for climate policy is negotiated.

Poland already hosted them twice — in 2008, in Poznań and in 2013, in Warsaw. This year, for the first time, the climate summit takes place in Katowice.

For the technical people out there: This year’s summit will include: 24. Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), 14. Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 14) and the Conference of Signatories to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1).

About 20 thousand people from 190 countries will take part in the event, including politicians, journalists, representatives of non-governmental organizations, scientific community and business sector.

What should we expected from COP24?

Now that the Paris Agreement, what is there to discuss? Why do we still need these meetings, and what are their goals. Quite simply, because the Paris Agreement sets up goals but the implementation guidelines remains to be finalised.

Six months after the Paris Summit (COP 21), the negotiations on the implementation guidelines were launched and COP24 was set as the deadline. The guidelines are suposed to provide clarity on how to implement the landmark agreement in a fairly and transparently way.

A finalized set of implementation guidelines will unleash practical climate actions with respect to all the targets and goals of the Paris Agreement, including adapting to climate change impacts, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing financial and other support to developing countries.

While governments are committed to finalizing the guidelines in order to unleash the full potential of the agreement, a great deal of work still remains to be completed in Katowice. And that’s why we’re all here to see. Everybody agrees that there’s a lot at stake at this year’s UN climate conference. Delegates will be scrambling to save the Paris Agreement, as the euphoric celebrations from Paris already seem a distant memory.

Ms. Espinosa noted that countries have strong backing for rapid climate action, given that public awareness and demand for solutions have increased due to clear evidence that our climate is changing.

“We simply cannot tell millions of people around the globe who are already suffering from the effects of climate change that we did not deliver”– Patricia Espinosa, UN Climate Chief

What else will be happening?

The Talanoa Dialogue

COP24 will also conclude the year-long, Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue, the first-ever international conversation of its kind to assess progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement, including the goal of limiting global temperature increases.

One of the dialogue’s aims is to find practical and local solutions for how countries can increase their ambition in the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which describe their individual efforts to reduce national emissions.

During the high-level event that will conclude the Talanoa Dialogue, Ministers will consider the IPCC’s 1.5ºC report and its relevance in the context of future actions.

“It is my hope that this will give Ministers the opportunity to provide a political signal for enhanced ambition”, Ms. Espinosa said.