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A brief guide to COP21

COP 21 starts in a few days, and it is expected to be one of the most important climate change summits of the past decades. As COP21 draws near, there are many journalists, stakeholders and ordinary citizens who would like to understand the process.

Climate Change Conference

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 (#Cop21 #Cop21Paris) or CMP 11 will be held in Paris from November 30 to December 11.

It will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.


The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. Leadership of the negotiations is yet to be determined.

COP21 will be one of the biggest international summits. The steaks are high: managing the climate disruption that threatens our societies and our economies. According to this infographic, the converence should lead to the adoption of a universal agreement that will provide a framework for transition towards low-carbon societies and economies able to withstand climate change.

Why is COP important in terms of climate agreements?

The governments that have ratified the UNFCCC—known as Parties to the Convention—have met annually as the Conference of the Parties (the COP) since 1995 to take stock of their progress, monitor the implementation of their obligations and continue talks on how best to tackle climate change. Currently, there are 196 Parties to the Convention. Governments have also negotiated a protocol to the Convention. The Kyoto Protocol was agreed in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. It puts the obligation to reduce current emissions on developed countries, as they are historically responsible for the current GHG levels. Since 2005, meetings of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (the CMP) have also been held to review the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Convention established two permanent subsidiary bodies namely the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), to support the COP. The SBI and the SBSTA also serve the CMP. The UNFCCC secretariat supports all institutions involved in the international climate change negotiations, particularly the Conference of the Parties (COP), the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties (CMP), the subsidiary bodies (which advise the COP/CMP), and the COP/CMP Bureau (which deals mainly with procedural and organizational issues arising from the COP/CMP and also has technical functions).

Want to Learn More? 

The secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has launched a new interactive guide to help explain the climate change regime and its intergovernmental process to a wide audience ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. The new guide seeks to provide the ‘big picture’ of the UN climate change regime. In particular, it tries to explain the why, what and how – for example why countries came together to combat climate change, what issues are covered by the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, and how the intergovernmental negotiation process works.

The guide walks the newcomer through the various issues covered by the regime, such as mitigation, adaptation, technology development and transfer, as well as finance, in order to gain a better understanding of the global efforts countries are making to combat and adapt to climate change.