Image showing the COP26 logo and a view of the Glasgow skyline

COP26: A brief history of climate COP

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COP26 is a global United Nations summit about climate change and how countries are
planning to tackle and adapt to it.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted
in 1992 at the UN Rio ‘Earth Summit‘. It has been ratified by 196 States (including the UK) and the EU, which constitute the “Parties” to the Convention. The objective of the Treaty is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.

Every year a Conference of the Parties takes place (known as COPs), with this year’s
being the 26th meeting. More information on COP26 can be found in the SPICe briefing COP26 – An Introduction to the UN Conference of the Parties.

Image depicting participants of the 1992 UN Rio Earth Summit sat at the presiding table.
Presiding table at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – also known as the ‘Rio Earth Summit’. (Image source: UN)

This blog provides a timeline history of key outcomes from previous Climate COPs. Each entry is accompanied by a chart showing the annual cumulative concentration of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere as measured at the Mona Loa observatory in Hawaii.

The charts also show trajectory towards the 450 parts per million (ppm) CO2 threshold. Exceeding this threshold is considered by scientists to be dangerous – leading to global average temperature increases of over 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

Find out more about what’s being negotiated at COP26 in the SPICe blog COP26 – What’s on the Agenda?

28 March to 7 April 1995

CO2 = 360 ppm
COP1: Berlin, Germany

The first Conference of the Parties (COP) was held. Parties agreed that mechanisms under the UNFCCC were inadequate and agreed to what would be called the Berlin Mandate, which allowed parties to make specific commitments.

CO2 = 362 ppm
COP2: Geneva, Switzerland

Attendees endorsed the results of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) second assessment report. Parties noted, but did not adopt ‘The Geneva Ministerial Declaration’, which in part called on parties to accelerate negotiations on a legally binding protocol.

8–19 July 1996
1-10 December 1997

CO2 = 364 ppm
COP3: Kyoto, Japan

The Kyoto Protocol was established. On 11 December 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted by consensus with more than 150 signatories. The Protocol included legally binding emissions targets for developed country Parties for the six major greenhouse gases. The United States signed but did not ratify the Protocol. 

CO2 = 367 ppm
COP4: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Parties adopted the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, allowing a two year period to develop mechanisms for implementing the Kyoto Protocol. The COP also decided to review the financial mechanism of the Convention every four years.

2-13 November 1998
25 October to 5 November 1999

CO2 = 370 ppm
COP6: The Hague, Netherlands

 Negotiations faltered, and parties agreed to meet again.
COP 6 part II was held in Bonn, Germany. Consensus was reached on what was called the ‘Bonn Agreements’. All nations except the United States agreed on the mechanisms for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. The U.S. participated in observatory status only.

13-25 November 2000

CO2 = 373 ppm
COP8: Delhi, India

Parties adopted the Delhi Ministerial Declaration that called for developed countries to strengthen the transfer of capacity building technologies in energy, transport, industry, health, agriculture, biodiversity, forestry and waste management to developing countries.

23 October to 1 November 2002
1–12 December 2003

CO2 = 376 ppm
COP9: Milan, Italy

Parties adopted new emisssions reporting guidelines based on IPCC recommendations. The Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) and the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) were further developed.

CO2 = 378 ppm
COP10: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Parties began examining the issues of adaptation and mitigation, the needs of least developed countries, and future strategies to address climate change.

6–17 December 2004
28 November to 9 December 2005

CO2 = 380 ppm
COP11: Montreal, Canada

This was the first COP to take place after the Kyoto Protocol came into force. The parties addressed issues such as capacity building, development and transfer of technologies, the adverse effects of climate change on developing and least developed countries, and several financial and budget-related issues.

CO2 = 382 ppm
COP12: Nairobi, Kenya

Financial mechanisms were reviewed, and further decisions were made about the Special Climate Change Fund.

6-17 November 2006
3–17 December 2007

CO2 = 384 ppm
COP13: Bali, Indonesia

COP parties agreed to a ‘Bali Action Plan’ to negotiate greenhouse gas mitigation actions after the Kyoto Protocol expired in 2012. The Bali Action Plan did not require binding GHG targets for developing countries.

CO2 = 386 ppm
COP14: Poznan, Poland

Parties began negotiations on the financing mechanism to help developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change. Negotiations continued about what would succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

 1–12 December 2008
7-18 December 2009

CO2 = 388 ppm
COP15: Copenhagen, Denmark

Parties failed to reach agreement on binding commitments after the Kyoto Protocol commitment period ends in 2012. During the final hours of the summit, leaders from the United States, Brazil, China, Indonesia, India and South Africa agreed to ‘take note of’ the Copenhagen Accord which recognised the need to limit the global temperature rise to 2°C based on the science of climate change.

CO2 = 390 ppm
COP16: Cancún, Mexico

Parties officially adopted major principles of the Copenhagen Accord including limiting global warming to 2°C, protecting vulnerable forests, and establishing a framework for a Green Climate Fund meant to deliver funds to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation actions.

28 November to 10 December 2010
28 November to 9 December 2011

CO2 = 392 ppm
COP17: Durban, South Africa

Parties agreed to the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action – a framework to establish a new international emissions reduction protocol. Under the Durban Platform, the details of the new protocol were to be finalised by 2015 and came into force in 2020. The European Union also agreed to extend their Kyoto Protocol targets into a second commitment period from 2013-2017. Russia, Japan and Canada did not commit to new targets.

CO2 = 394 ppm
COP18: Doha, Qatar

Parties agreed to extend the expiring Kyoto Protocol, creating a second commitment phase that would begin on 1 January 2013 and end 31 December 2020. This was considered as a bridge to the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, agreed upon in 2011, and came into force in 2020. Parties failed to set a pathway to provide $100 billion per year by 2020 for developing countries to finance climate change adaptation, as agreed upon at COP 15 in Copenhagen.

26 November to 7 December 2012
11 to 23 November 2013

CO2 = 397 ppm
COP19: Warsaw, Poland

A non-binding agreement was reached among countries to set up a ‘Loss and Damage Mechanism’ to address the impacts of climate change, ‘including extreme events and slow onset events in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable’.

CO2 = 399 ppm
COP20: Lima, Peru

Nations further developed elements of the new agreement scheduled to be agreed in Paris in 2015. This included agreeing ground rules for countries submitting their contributions on climate action known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

1–12 December 2014
30 November to 12 December 2015

CO2 = 404 ppm
COP22: Marrakech, Morocco

The parties adopted decisions related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The decisions set 2018 as the deadline for developing a rulebook for the implementation of the Agreement, based on transparency and accountability.

 7–18 November 2016
6–17 November 2017

CO2 = 407 ppm
COP23: Fiji (held in Bonn, Germany)

COP23 was the first COP to be presided over by a small-islands developing state.

Prior to the conference, US President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement.

COP23 saw the launch of the ‘Talanoa Dialogue’ based on a traditional Fijian word describing an inclusive, participatory facilitative process to help countries implement and enhance their NDCs.

CO2 = 409 ppm
COP24: Katowice, Poland

Parties agreed on the ‘Katowice Climate Package’ providing detail on how nations will make the Paris agreement operational.

3–14 December 2018
2–13 December 2019

CO2 = 412 ppm
COP25: Madrid, Spain

COP25 provided an opportunity for countries to put forward more ambitious targets before COP26 and finalise the rules for an international market mechanism for trading greenhouse gas emissions.

CO2 = 414 ppm
COP26: Glasgow, Scotland

Orignially scheduled to take place from 9-19 November 2020 but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. COP26 is described as ‘the ‘world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control.’

31 October to 12 November 2021

Information sources:

Damon Davies, Researcher, SPICe