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In November, stakeholders in climate change space, meet up at COP. This is always somewhere in Bali, Copenhagen, Doha, Johannesburg, Berlin, Cancun or Marrakesh, you name it. This year, all roads lead to Bonn, Germany for COP 23. Government officials, NGOs, students, researchers and the private sector will take stock of climate change responses and set new goals and agreements. New agreements are added only when countries put the interest of the planet and humans before their selfish gains. History has, however, proven that entering into an agreement is not a precondition for sticking and delivering. Some parties pull out and like a Kenyan would say, ‘vinduvichenjanga’ (things change).
This year, COP has found me working on a national climate change study on civil society’s contribution to climate change response in Kenya. Like most studies, a questionnaire, key interview, and a focused group discussion would feature. Most of the time our effort to get an audience with various heads of organizations mapped out for the study is met with ‘I will be in COP that time‘ or ‘sorry, I am already in Bonn’ response. Postponement of scheduled interviews went on for several days. Our IT guru, being very concerned about the study’s progress, innocently asked what this COP is and why everyone we were trying to reach out to is going or already is at COP. We all burst into laughter. Our IT guru has a way of making every statement sarcastic and has told so many jokes you can’t tell when he is being serious.
As much as his statement brightened the whole office, it struck me that there is a critical mass out there that are not aware of UNFCCC’s COP process and at worst the whole climate change debate. Two guys from the office were leaving for the COP and here one of us is totally clueless about this important meeting in the climate change calendar. This meeting is such a big deal and attracts thousands of people from all corners of the world. This year over 20,000 people are in attendance. COP attracts a lot of interest and this figure would have been higher were it not for the limited number of accreditation. So what is this COP?
COP is an acronym for Conference of the Parties. It is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nation Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). During the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, countries agreed to adopt a convention that set out a framework aimed at stabilizing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. This agreement is what is now referred to as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The agreement entered into force in 1994 and was preceded by the first conference of the parties (COP 1) in 1995. All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP, at which they review the implementation of the Convention and any other legal instruments adopted at the COP and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the Convention, including institutional and administrative arrangements. The COP meets every year unless the Parties decide otherwise. The COP meets in Bonn, the seat of the Secretariat unless a Party offers to host the session.
Under UNFCCC, parties have been able to speed up the global response to climate change in spite of the challenges. It’s under the UNFCCC that Kyoto protocol was born that set internationally binding emission reduction targets. Also, through UNFCCC, the global climate change Fund (GCF) was established that provides funds to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenge of climate change. Further, COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico set the stage for the establishment of National Adaptation Plans (NAP) as a means for parties to identify medium and long-term adaptation needs and developing and implementing strategies and programmes to address those needs.
In recognizing the specific needs and special situations of the least developed countries (LDCs), Nationally Appropriate Plans of Actions (NAPAs) was established under UNFCCC to provide a process for LDCs to identify priority activities that respond to their urgent and immediate needs to adapt to climate change. In 2015, at COP 21 in Paris, parties adopted the Paris Agreement set to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. These are but a few milestones.
COP 23, which happened between Nov 6th and Nov 17th, my prayer is that our leaders commit themselves to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and further set ambitious goals to tackling the vagaries of climate change. Everyone is at risk of the negative impacts of climate change and everyone has a part to play. It’s therefore imperative that we create awareness and bring everyone on board in tackling the impacts of climate change.
By Denis Kiplagat
Denis is a practicing Environmental Impact Assessment and Audit associate expert and currently pursuing his masters on climate change adaptation at Institute for climate change and adaptation (UoN). You can connect with him on Twitter @dskiplagat, FaceBook, and/or email firstname.lastname@example.org