Good Cop, Bad Cop: Climate Change After Paris

At the signing ceremony of the host country agreement for COP 22 in April 2016: Salaheddine Mezouar, Morocco's foreign minister, and Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
At the signing ceremony of the host country agreement for COP22, in April 2016: Salaheddine Mezouar, Morocco’s foreign minister, and Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in December 2015 was a good COP. It demonstrated unprecedented global collaboration when divisions were deep and stakes were high. Since 1995, when COP1 met in Berlin, governments have been assembling annually in an effort to create a path toward the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

The Kyoto Protocol was agreed at COP3 in 1997; and while it was envisioned as the first step toward emission reductions and did bend the emissions curve for many developed countries, it also launched a heated debate about who is responsible and who is affected, and who should act. Political consensus eroded and technical negotiations stalled over the years; and COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 became “the low‐point in the history of the climate regime,” or the bad COP. Member states left the Danish capital with an outcome that was not adopted but rather “taken note of.”

Six years later, 195 parties unanimously adopted the ambitious Paris Agreement, which set a long-term goal of keeping temperatures “well below 2 degrees C,” articulated the intent to reduce that to 1.5 degrees and committed countries to net zero emissions in the second half of this century. Paris was hailed as a monumental achievement and a game changer. Many tensions remain, however, and success will be measured by what happens in the next three to five years. What led to the shift from a bad to a good COP? What are the threats and opportunities as the world moves from making commitments to implementation? To read more of this FUNDS briefing, click here.

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