Timeline: The road to Copenhagen

Al Jazeera takes a look at the history of international climate negotiations.

Some believe Copenhagen is the last chance to stop climate disaster [GALLO/GETTY]

The Copenhagen climate conference is being billed as the most important meeting on the issue to date. The road to Copenhagen has been long and rocky, and success is far from guaranteed.

Al Jazeera looks at previous climate conferences, what they achieved, and what issues have remained outstanding.

March 1994: The UN Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) enters into force, with near universal membership. The convention sees countries agree to share information on greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare national strategies to deal with the problem.

The convention mandates annual meetings – the so-called Conference of Parties or COP gatherings – to develop and implement ideas aimed at tackling climate change.

in depth

COP1, Berlin, 1995: The world has woken up to the threat posed by climate change, but there is no agreement on what can be done to combat the problem. The conference agrees to undertake a two-year evaluation of the options available, with the aim of launching a “comprehensive menu of actions” for countries to choose from at the end of the process.

COP2, Geneva, 1996: The following year, member countries agree that a “one size fits all” solution will not work. Instead, each country is encouraged to suggest and implement its own solutions to the problem. For the first time, the conference discusses introducing binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

COP3, Kyoto, 1997: The end of the two-year evaluation sees the Kyoto Protocol adopted after intense negotiations. Binding targets are introduced for greenhouse gas emissions from 37 industrialised countries, which are scheduled to run until 2012.

It will take eight years for Kyoto to be ratified by a sufficient number of countries to come into force, but several major greenhouse gas producers refuse to ratify the Protocol at all.

COP4, Buenos Aires, 1998: The details of the Kyoto Protocol dominate the agenda at the conference, but no agreement is reached. Instead, it is agreed that a two-year period will be set aside to explore the most effective ways of implementing the Protocol.

The Kyoto Treaty ends in 2012 [GALLO/GETTY]

COP5, Bonn, 1999: The Bonn conference discusses the technical aspects of implementing the Kyoto Protocol. No major initiatives are advanced and focus of the conference is kept firmly upon the practical details of the protocol.

COP6, The Hague, 2000: The conference is one of the most divisive since the process began.

The US proposes that agricultural and forest areas should be designated as carbon sinks, thereby almost completely fulfilling its obligation to reduce emissions in a single sweep.

The issue of sanctions against countries that do not meet their emissions target is raised, and talks break down when no compromise on the issues is reached.

COP6, Bonn, 2001: Six months later, the parties meet again in a special meeting prompted by the breakdown of The Hague talks.

The mood is pessimistic – George Bush, the new US President, has rejected the Kyoto protocol outright, saying it is too expensive and should cover developing as well as industrialised nations. Few expect the divisive issues that sunk The Hague negotiations to be resolved.

In the event, key agreements are secured on carbon sinks and the principles of emission-prompted sanctions.

COP7, Marrakesh, 2001: Later in the year, the regular annual conference finalises the details of the Kyoto Protocol following the process begun in Buenos Aires, publishing a package of decisions which become known as the Marrakesh Accords.

COP8, Delhi, 2002: This conference sees a failed EU bid to persuade member countries to do more in the fight against climate change. Little is decided.

COP9, Milan, 2003:  In Milan, negotiators tie up the few remaining loose ends of the Kyoto Protocols, which have still not come into force, but no major new ideas are discussed.   

COP10, Buenos Aires, 2004: Members begin to consider what will happen after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. There is a growing realisation that Kyoto represents only the beginning of the measures required to tackle climate change, and attention begins to shift toward  negotiating a replacement agreement.

COP11/CMP1, Montreal, 2005: This conference is the first to take place after the Kyoto Protocol comes into force, and a separate conference, for Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), is launched for those who have signed up to the protocol. 

Both conferences focus on what should happen after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, producing the Montreal Action Plan.

Many hope for a new treaty [GALLO/GETTY]

COP12/CMP2, Nairobi, 2006: What will happen after the Kyoto Protocol expires continues to dominate the agenda and the possible production of a road map toward establishing a replacement agreement is discussed.   

COP13/CMP3, Bali, 2007: At this meeting, minds are concentrated on the publication of an intergovernmental report that says definite signs of global warming are being observed.

A common text calling for quicker action is produced, and the Bali Action Plan, setting out the path to a new agreement to replace Kyoto is adopted. The 2009 Copenhagen conference is earmarked to establish a new global climate agreement.  

COP14/CMP4, Poznan, 2008: Work is entirely geared toward Copenhagen. The prospect of a new administration in the US sees speculation over the country’s future stance on climate change grow, and delegates agree on principles of funding the poorest nations to cope with the effects of climate change.

COP15/CMP5, Copenhagen, 2009: This year’s meeting is being billed as the most crucial conference yet. Conference organisers hope that COP15 will result in a new global agreement, covering every country in the world, that will mitigate the effects of man-made climate change. B

But success is far from certain, and many believe that binding targets will not be agreed.   

Source : Al Jazeera

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