M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 219

A Brief History of the United Nations Climate Change Conferences: COPs 1-27

Rt Hon Chris Skidmore OBE MP
Will Farrell

Introduction Excerpt

The forthcoming ‘Conference of the Parties’, or COP for short, taking place in the United Arab Emirates in November 2023, will be the twenty-eighth such event. First established as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the first COP was held in March 1995. The COP remains to this day the principal decision-making body of the UNFCCC process formally adopted in March 1994.

This paper aims to concisely document in one place the key agreements, negotiation successes and breakdowns, post-summit action, and sentiment concerning the first 27 Conferences of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The paper not only seeks to set out the details of each COP, as a useful reference guide for climate policy makers, but also to chronicle the reaction at the time to each COP’s achievement, success or failure, in order to help frame the wider reaction to the COP process as it has evolved over the past twenty-seven years. By ensuring that each COP can be compared in a single document, we believe that this research provides a valuable resource for those seeking to influence the future direction and reform of the COP process.

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