GBM Blog

What is COP all about?

December 10, 2010 - 05:05AM
Published by Emanuela Piccolo

This blog has been written by Benjamin Kimani, Senior Project Officer - Climate Change and Carbon Projects, Nairobi.

Climate negotiations can seem quite abstract sometimes. I'm here in Cancun, Mexico, where UN delegates from around the world spend hours debating details of complex regulations. Sometimes it seems that everyone has forgotten a crucial fact: the climate is changing much faster than these negotiations are moving.

Being the first time to attend the COP for me, it was a challenge to understand how the whole thing is organized. I am accompanying a colleague Peter Ndunda to the COP. Peter has been attending the COP now for a couple of years. He has been of great assistance to me. The first day he did a brief orientation to me on what the entire COP is about, he showed me where to get the news/updates from closed meetings from a number of daily publications and the way to prioritize the vast number of the side events and meetings.

Basically COP (Conference of Parties) is a meeting for 192 nations around the world that have come together and joined an international treaty (UNFCCC: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) that sets general goals and rules for confronting Climate change.

The Convention has a goal of preventing "dangerous" human interference with the climate system. The functioning of the Convention depends on a series of groups and agencies. They operate at the centre of a lively debate.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the prime authority of the Convention the other groups are: Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA); Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI); Several expert groups(Consultative group of Experts [CGE], Least Developed Country Expert Group [LEG] and Expert Group on Technology Transfer [EGTT]) ; Partner agencies(Global Environmental Facility [GEF] and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC]) and Observer organizations Intergovernmental agencies (UNDP,UNEP, WMO, OECD,OPEC) and NGOs!

To date over 50 intergovernmental agencies and international organizations attend sessions of the conference of parties and more than 600 NGOs competent in matters related to the convention are accredited to participate in meetings related to the convention. The Green Belt Movement has been attending COPs since COP12 that was held in Nairobi in 2006 and is admitted as an Observer organization to the Conference of Parties.

Overall it is quite overwhelming to try and get your head around all these technical terms and meetings going on in many places at once.