COP 21 is happening now in Paris. While the conference will undoubtedly get media coverage, you may still have some questions about what this conference is and what outcomes are hoped for.
First of all, COP is short for Conference of Parties. These “parties” are more than 190 countries that will send delegates to talk about action on climate change. Organized by the United Nations Environmental Program and the Climate Action Program, you may also hear COP21 called the Paris Climate Conference. The conference will also host the Sustainable Innovation Forum (SIF), allowing private and public sector representatives to network and learn about the latest and greatest ideas in sustainability.
While all 20 of the previous COP meetings have been important, one to note is COP 3. During COP 3, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, committing industrialized parties to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. This was a major step forward from the Rio Convention, adopted in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, which only encouraged countries to take action, with no real commitment.
Now, during COP 21, parties will attempt to negotiate a new, universal agreement on climate change. Based on recommendations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a truly successful agreement would be one that limits global warming to less than 2° C. This would mean reducing emissions between 40-70% in the next 35 years.