COP15, COP27 : why two COPs?

At the end of 2022, the United Nations organised two COPs: COP15 in Montreal, Canada and COP27 in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt. What does COP mean and why are there two with different numbers, 15 and 27?

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

Climate COPs

The best-known COPs are the ones on climate, which are usually held annually, including COP21 in France in 2015, which resulted in the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

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. From 6 to 18 November 2022, the 27th conference was held in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt (COP27).

COP28 will take place from 30 November to 12 December 2023 in the United Arab Emirates.

Biodiversity COPs

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.

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 on biodiversity took place in two phases, concluding in Montreal, Canada from 7 to 19 December 2022. It was originally set to be held in Kunming, China, in October 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COP15 ended with a landmark agreement to protect 30 per cent of the planet’s lands, coastal areas and inland waters by the end of the decade. The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework also aims to cut food waste in half and contains proposals to increase finance to developing countries.

The stakes could not be higher: the planet is experiencing a dangerous decline in nature as a result of human activity. It is experiencing its largest loss of life since the dinosaurs. One million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades.

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

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 intertwined crises that need to be addressed together,” says Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

However, the COPs on Climate and Biodiversity are not the only ones. In 2022 there was another COP on the Convention on Desertification, which met for the fifteenth time at COP15, this time in Côte d’Ivoire.

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