Climate crisis: what is COP and can it save the world?

(The Guardian, 2 Dec 2019) As the 25th summit of the UN’s conference of the parties begins, we examine whether it works – and what the future holds.

What is COP – and how will it help?

For almost three decades, world governments have met every year to forge a global response to the climate emergency. Under the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, every country on earth is treaty-bound to “avoid dangerous climate change”, and find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally in an equitable way.

COP stands for conference of the parties under the UNFCCC, and the annual meetings have swung between fractious and soporific, interspersed with moments of high drama and the occasional triumph (the Paris agreement in 2015) and disaster (Copenhagen in 2009). This year is the 25th iteration. Delegates started arriving last night for the two-week summit.

Where is it happening?

This year’s COP has already needed a last-ditch rescue. Costa Rica wanted to host the event but lacked the resources, so Latin America’s richest per-capita economy – Chile – took control. Everything was set for a December COP in Santiago, billed as “the blue COP” because at long last issues about the oceans would take centre stage.

But rioting in the capital and a political crisis forced the COP to be moved. The Spanish government – despite being in the throes of a general election – stepped up and offered Madrid, where this year’s talks will now take place.

External link

The Guardian, 2 Dec 2019: Climate crisis: what is COP and can it save the world?