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By YazidSeptember 17, 2022In Climate Post

COP15 today, COP27 tomorrow: What exactly are these COPs?

Do you know that there is an ongoing Conference of the Parties (COP15) at Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire? Now, you are probably saying, “Wait, but I thought there was a COP26 in Glasgow, UK just a few months ago?” That is right!

Abidjan Summit
World leaders at the UNCCD COP15 Abidjan Summit

If you are not familiar with these international conferences, you would have lots of questions and almost easily get confused about these series of high-level meetings organised by different organisations under the United Nations. What we hope to do with this article is to help you understand what COP is and the differences between these different COPs?

We will begin with a definition of COP, as you probably know by now, it stands for Conference of the Parties (COP). It is the supreme governing body of an international convention (treaty, written agreement between actors in international law) and it is composed of representatives of the member states of the convention and accredited observers, called Parties.

The most talked-about Conference of the Parties has to be the one organised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The most recent one, which was the 26th session, or COP26, was hosted in Glasgow, Scotland by the UK Government in November 2021, and the next one, COP27, is scheduled to take place in November 2022 at Sharm el-Sheikh, hosted by the government of Egypt.

The UNFCCC’s COP is the supreme decision-making body of the convention. All States (in essence, countries) 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 that the COP adopts and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the Convention, including institutional and administrative arrangements organised by UNFCCC.

The COP meets every year unless the Parties decide otherwise. An example was in 2020 when it was agreed for the COP to be shifted because of the uncertainty around managing the COVID-19 pandemic that was raging at the time. The first COP meeting was held in Berlin, Germany in March 1995 and the COP would usually meet in Bonn, the seat of the secretariat, unless a Party offers to host the session which is very encouraging.

Just as the COP Presidency rotates among the five recognised UN regions – that is, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe and Western Europe, and Others – there is a tendency for the venue of the COP to also shift among these groups.

At the end of every COP, it is expected that there will be a report, agreement, or some sort of consensus. COP26 in Glasgow gave birth to the Glasgow Pact, COP25 in Madrid was considered a failure as policymakers couldn’t reach a consensus, COP24 brought about the adoption and signing of The Paris Agreement Rulebook, COP23 brought about Ocean Pathway Partnership while COP22 adopted the draft decision entitled “Implementation of the global observing system for climate” and down to the Kyoto Protocol adopted in COP3.

Totally different from the UNFCCC’s COP is the Conference of Parties (COP15) at Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire holding from May 9 to 20, 2022 organised by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The theme is “Land. Life. Legacy: From Scarcity to Prosperity”, which is a call to action to ensure land, the lifeline on this planet, continues to benefit present and future generations.

This 15th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (COP15) represents a watershed moment in the fight against desertification, land degradation, and drought. It has brought together thousands of leaders from governments, the private sector, civil society, and other key stakeholders from around the world to push for progress in the long-term sustainable management of one of our most valuable resources: land.

As we enter the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, this important meeting hopes to expand on the results of the second edition of the Global Land Outlook and provide a concrete solution to the interconnected concerns of land degradation, climate change, and biodiversity loss.

COP15 is expected to galvanise sustainable solutions for land restoration and drought resilience through resolutions made by the UNCCD’s 197 Parties, with a significant focus on future-proofing land usage. While there are still many obstacles to overcome, large-scale land restoration gives an obvious chance to build on the success of initiatives like the Great Green Wall.

Stressing the importance of the UNCCD’s COP15, Amina Mohammed, United Nations’ Deputy Secretary-General, said: “As we approach the halfway point of the Sustainable Development Goals, they remain our best hope to build a sustainable and inclusive future. The ground beneath our feet is the perfect foundation on which to build that future.”

On his part, Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD’s Executive Secretary, urged: “Now is the time for action. There is no future for our children or the planet if we continue with ‘business as usual when it comes to managing our land. COP15 is our moment in history, as the international community, to put people and the planet on a new course; on the path to life, to COVID-19 recovery, and to prosperity. The decisions countries take at COP15 must be transformational, not incremental, to achieve land restoration and drought resilience the world longs for.”

Apart from the ongoing UNCCD’s COP15 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and the forthcoming UNFCCC’s COP27 to take place at Sharm el-Sheikh by November, there is another COP in between, coincidentally also named COP15 but convened by Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), themed “Ecological Civilization: Building a shared future for all life on earth” scheduled in parts.

The first part of the conference took place in a virtual format, from October 11 to 15, 2021 while the second part of the CBD COP15 will be a face-to-face meeting in Kunming, China, with a date yet to be announced.

The Conference commits to ensuring the development, adoption, and implementation of an effective post-2020 global biodiversity framework to reverse the current loss of biodiversity and ensure that biodiversity is put on a path to recovery by 2030 at the latest, towards the full realisation of the 2050 Vision of “Living in Harmony with Nature.”

The Conference comprises three main meetings which include the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the te10th Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (Cartagena Protocol COP/MOP 10), and the 4th Meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (Nagoya Protocol COP/MOP 4).

By Yazid Mikail and ‘Seyifunmi Adebote 

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