Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

Explained: What it means to host UNFCCC COP?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNFCCC COP

Mains level : Climate change negotiations and issues

  • Chile, the designated host for this year’s UN climate change conference, has said it would not be able to organise the December event because of political unrest at home.
  • Spain which stepped in and offered to host it on the same dates, December 2-13 will host the CoP.

COP25: The event

  • The signatories to the 1992 UNFCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) meet to discuss and decide on steps that countries need to take to fight climate change.
  • The year-end conference called COP has been held since 1995 and never been postponed.
  • This will be the 25th edition of the meeting, hence COP25.

Why is it for?

  • It is the same meeting that, at COP3, delivered the 1997 Kyoto Protocol the first international agreement to fight climate change.
  • The Kyoto Protocol was later deemed to be inadequate, and after several years of negotiations, COP21 in 2015 delivered the Paris Agreement.
  • In subsequent years, countries have been trying to finalise the rules and procedures that will govern the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
  • One of the most important tasks at the upcoming COP is to complete the negotiations over the rulebook.

How is a host decided?

  • The venue for the COP meeting is rotated among the five UN-identified regions — Africa, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, and Western Europe and Others.
  • The countries in the region have to propose a candidate, and a host is usually decided at least two years in advance.
  • If no one else agrees to do it, Bonn in Germany, as headquarters of the UNFCCC secretariat, has to step in and host the event.

Trends in the hosting pattern

  • The rotation cycle has not been followed very strictly.
  • The first and second COPs were both held in Western Europe (Berlin and Geneva), and so were the fifth and sixth (Bonn and the Hague).
  • After the 2012 COP in Doha, the event has not returned to Asia.
  • That is because Fiji, the host in 2017, lacked the resources to organise an event of this scale; as a compromise, the event had to be held in Bonn under the Fijian presidency.
  • Even before the ongoing unrest, Chile had been a reluctant host. The only other contender from the region to host COP25 was Costa Rica, but it lacked the resources.

Why hosting a COP is difficult?

  • The host city incurs huge expenditure on the event, not all of which is reimbursed.
  • Apart from the over 20,000 participants, the city has to make arrangements for visits by heads of states and governments, and other personalities.
  • Side events and demonstrations invariably come with the conference, and the host city has to brace for such disruptionsthe for more than two weeks.
  • The event does help local economy, and tourism, but many countries do not see that as an adequate incentive.

A weak climate leadership

  • For countries with smaller greenhouse gas emissions, this is not much of a problem, but such expectations explain why the US, China or Russia have not shown much interest in hosting the event.
  • Japan hosted the 1997 event that produced the Kyoto Protocol, but it also happened to be the first country to walk out of it in 2011.
  • Australia, which too withdrew from Kyoto Protocol, has never hosted it.
  • Spain will now host it for the first time, and so will the UK, in Glasgow next year. Germany and Poland have been hosts three times each.
  • India, the third largest emitter, hosted the 2002 COP in New Delhi, much before climate change became this big.
  • The EU which has a relatively strong climate change action plan, has hosted the most COP editions — 11 of 24 COPs, with Madrid now the 12th of 25.
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