COP15, COP26 : why two COPs?

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This autumn the United Nations is organizing two events called ‘COPs’; COP15 in Kunming in China and COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. What does COP mean and why are there two with different numbers, 15 and 26?

COP is an acronym for ‘Conference of the Parties‘ in English. These are conferences organized by the UN with the high-level participation of states, regional organizations and non-governmental actors.

COP Climate

COP15/COP26 The best known COP is the one on climate. The climate conference takes place every year in different countries. The COP in France in 2015 gave birth to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Agreement´s goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

The COP in Paris was the 21st conference on climate, thus COP21. On 31 October, however, the 26th conference kicks-off in Glasgow – COP26. 

COP Biodiversity 

There is another ‘Conference of the Parties’ dedicated to biodiversity. This COP deals with the ‘Convention on Biological Diversity’ and takes place every two years. COP15 on biodiversity has just started, 11 October, in Kunming, China.

The Convention on Biological Diversity was signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and is dedicated to conserving biological diversity. It has now been ratified by 195 countries, plus the European Union but not by the United States or the Vatican.

COP15/COP26 The COP15 on biodiversity is the occasion to debate the global framework for biodiversity post-2020. The conference was delayed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will take place in two parts from 11-15 October 2021 virtually, followed by an in-person event from 25 April to 8 May 2022 in Kunming.

The aim is to elevate the protection of biodiversity to the same level as the climate.

Indeed, healthy ecosystems, notably forests and oceans, are more capable of storing carbon. On the other hand reducing global warming reduces the risk of the extinction of species.

 What is the link between the COPs on climate and biodiversity?

Until now, the conferences on climate and on biodiversity have acted independently of each other.

However, more and more actors have underlined the necessity of looking for climate solutions that tackle the two issues.

“These are two interlinked crises that should be regulated together,” says  Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Next year in Côte d’Ivoire

However, the COPs on Climate and Biodiversity are not the only ones. Already next year there is yet another COP. This time it is the parties to the Convention on Desertification who meet for the fifteenth time at another COP15, this time in Côte d’Ivoire. 

For further information see UNRIC Fact Sheet on biodiversity  and on climate change.