COP26: the history of thirty years of climate negotiations

► 1979, the genesis

Geneva hosts the first global climate conference. More than 300 scientists from around 50 countries are brought together by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU).

At the end of the 1970s, climate scientists already suspected a link between carbon dioxide emissions and climate change. The participants agree to set up a “global climate program”, to better measure its springs and effects.

Ten years later, in 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created. “Emissions resulting from human activities significantly increase atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, he concludes in his first summary report.These increases will strengthen the greenhouse effect, causing further warming of the Earth’s surface ”. The scientific basis is laid.

► 1992, the foundations

The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) brings together 120 heads of state and government, and representatives of 189 countries. Among them, 153 sign the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (CCNUC), which includes the objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions.

→ EXPLANATION. COP26: what is a climate conference for?

The signatories – 192 today – are called “parties” and will meet each year during the famous “Conferences of the Parties”, the COPs. The Climate COP is the best known to the general public. At the same time, a COP on biodiversity and a COP on the fight against desertification were created.

► 1995, the first COP

COP1 was held in Berlin in 1995, organized by Angela Merkel, then Minister for the Environment in Germany. Conclusion of the parties: the adoption of the CCNUC is not enough, countries must strengthen their commitments. A global agreement negotiation process then begins. It will see the light of day two years later.

► 1997, adoption of the Kyoto protocol

Japan is hosting COP3 in Kyoto. This time, a treaty on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions was signed: the Kyoto Protocol. For the first time, it sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by country, which only apply to developed countries. The protocol enters into force in 2005.

The scope of the agreement remains limited. The United States, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has not ratified it. The treaty does not apply to China, which is considered a developing country. And when States do not respect the objectives set by the protocol, the latter does not provide for any sanction mechanism.

► 2009, hope disappointed in Denmark

The Copenhagen summit (COP15) is ambitious. It aims to adopt a legally binding treaty on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. But the 119 heads of state and government who made the trip find only a minimum agreement: the average temperature rise must remain below 2 ° C, but there will be no quantified targets. .

On the positive side, all the same: industrialized states are creating a green fund to support developing countries in their energy transition and help them adapt to the effects of global warming. This is calibrated to be gradually replenished, in order to reach 100 billion dollars (86 billion euros) annually by 2020.

► 2015, the historic COP21 agreement

The Paris climate agreement is adopted! ” On December 12, 2015, at 7:30 p.m., the President of COP21 and French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, slaughtered a small green-headed hammer on his desk: 195 countries and the European Union adopted the 32-page text . They undertake to limit the rise in the global average temperature “Well below 2 degrees ” and of “Continue efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees”. For the first time, all parties are engaged, not just the most developed countries.

→ STORY. Five years later, the Paris agreement is still alive

Each State will have to present a roadmap, setting its emission reduction targets and the policies implemented. Called “NDCs”, “nationally determined contributions”, they will be reviewed every five years. The text also confirms the payment by developed countries of $ 100 billion per year to developing countries from 2020. This objective, already set in Copenhagen, had not been reached by that date.

►2021, year of the balance sheet … and the accounts

From 1er until November 12, 2021, COP26 will be held in Glasgow. Scheduled for 2020, COP26 has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first time, states will be accountable to the parties on their emission reduction roadmap. The results are still far from the mark: in mid-September 2021, the UN compiled the NDCs received and noted that their implementation would lead to a warming trajectory of 2.7 ° C in 2,100.

→ READ. Pope Francis will not attend COP26

Negotiations on the application of the Paris Agreement will continue. The parties seek in particular to agree on the establishment of a carbon market on a global scale. The increase in the fund of 100 billion dollars will also be at the heart of the discussions.

→ VIDEO. What is a COP?


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