Feature Report: The World's Response to Climate Change

4 items of content in this feature report



Climate Action Institutions and Stakeholders

In the period after the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) until the Paris Summit of December 2015, a number of institutions and tools were created by the international community to lead its fight against global warming. This article describes some of the main global negotiation mechanisms. 

What is COP21?
In December 2014, the COP20 in Lima, Peru, aimed to lay the groundwork for a successful outcome at the Paris Climate Summit. © AFP PHOTO - CRIS BOURONCLE

Earth Summits

Earth Summits are U.N.-sponsored meetings of worldwide leaders held every 10 years to develop sustainable developmentThis term was first defined in the Brundtland Report, published in 1987, as “development that meets the needs of the present without... guidelines. The first of these highly symbolic, closed-circle gatherings took place in Stockholm (1972), followed by Nairobi (1982), Rio de Janeiro (1992) – which gave a powerful impetus to climate action – and Johannesburg (2002). The last meeting, referred to as Rio+20, was held in 2012 for the second time in Brazil.


197: the number of the signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Conference of the Parties  (COP)

During the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the United Nations set up a Framework Convention on Climate Change, known by the acronym UNFCCC1. This universal convention brings together 197 parties, including the European Union (alongside its member states).

Every year since 1995, their representatives have attended a Conference of the Parties, held on a rotating basis in one of the five U.N. regions, to review the Convention's application and negotiate new commitments. Certain conferences have had a strong historical impact:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The intergovernmental panel on climate change (ipcc)Body established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988... was founded by the United Nations in 1988. Made up of hundreds of experts, its goal is to provide detailed assessments of the current state of scientific knowledge relating to climate change. The IPCC is not a research center but rather a forum that compiles climate-related research conducted in laboratories throughout the world. Since its founding, the IPCC has published five reports, which are divided into several volumes. It does not prescribe policy – that's each government's role – but rather provides national leaders with the tools they need to make informed decisions. In liaison with the different countries, the IPCC publishes carefully worded executive summaries intended for decision makers.

The IPCC does not define climate policy but rather helps governments make informed decisions.

Green Climate Fund (GCF)

First mentioned at the Copenhagen Conference in 2009, the Green Climate Fund is an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism of the UNFCCC. Its purpose is to transfer funds from the most advanced countries to the most vulnerable nations in order to implement projects aimed at countering climate change. The GCF was set up in Seoul, South Korea in 2011. Its board is comprised of members from both industrialized and developing countries (see the Op-Ed Article by Audrey Rojkoff).

A Host of Meetings

Symbolic events and meetings bringing together a variety of stakeholders have risen in number over the years.

The United Nations organizes collective actions on a regular basis. One such undertaking, a series of decentralized initiatives carried out by regions, businesses and ordinary citizens called the Agenda of Solutions was launched in September 2014. These new climate actors organize many stakeholder-specific initiatives to advance the climate change agenda.

Earth Day has been celebrated every year since it was first observed onApril 22, 1970. This year Earth Day will coincide with the signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement. In 2007, the WWF (formerly World Wildlife Fund or World Wide Fund for Nature) organized Earth Hour, a worldwide lights-off event held every year on the last Saturday of March.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is held each year in a capital city on a rotating basis in one of the U.N.'s five regional groups of member states (Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, Western Europe and Other and Africa).
1995 : Berlin Climate Conference (COP1)
1996 :  Geneva Climate Conference (COP2) - Angela Merkel, German Minister of the Environment at the time, opened the talks. 
1997 : Kyoto Climate Conference (COP3) - the Kyoto Protocol came out of these talks.
1998 : Buenos Aires Climate Conference (COP4) 
1999 : Bonn Climate Conference (COP5)
2000 : The Hague Climate Conference (COP6) - held in November 2000, these talks broke down following sharp disagreements with the United States and were re-started in Bonn in July 2001. 
2001 : Marrakesh Climate Conference (COP7) 
2002 : New Delhi Climate Conference (COP8) 
2003 : Milan Climate Conference (COP9)
2004 : Buenos Aires Climate Conference (COP10)
2005 : Montreal Climate Conference (COP11) 
2006 : Nairobi Climate Conference (COP12)
2007 : Bali Climate Conference (COP13) - these talks opened negotiations on a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol.
2008 : Poznań Climate Conference (COP14) 
2009 : Copenhagen Climate Conference (COP15) - with numerous heads of state present, these talks set the tenable increase in the global temperature at 2°C, but did not provide details on how to remain below this threshold. 
2010 : Cancun Climate Conference (COP16) - these talks resulted in the Green Climate Fund. » 
2011 : Durban Climate Conference (COP17) - it was here that the process began that was expected to culminate in Paris.
2012 : Doha Climate Conference (COP18)
2013 : Warsaw Climate Conference (COP19)
2014 : Lima Climate Conference (COP20)
2015 : Paris Climate Conference (COP21)
2016 : Marrakesh Climate Conference (COP22)
2017 : Bonn Climate Conference (COP23)
2018 : Katowice Climate Conference (Poland) – scheduled for December