What is COP?
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the main decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
It brings together the 198 Parties –197 nations plus the European Union – that have signed on to the Framework Convention to agree actions to tackle the climate crisis.
Since 1995, with the exception of 2020 due to the pandemic, COPs have been hosted annually.
Countries gather to review progress compared with the latest climate science, and set new commitments on both preventing and adapting to the climate crisis.
Some landmark commitments made during past COPs include:
The Kyoto Protocol committed industrialised economies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with individual targets. 192 countries were part of the Kyoto Protocol, but it only set legally binding emission targets for 37 industrialised countries and the EU. It ran until 2020, and has been superseded by the Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty in which countries committed to limiting global heating to well below 2 degrees (and ideally 1.5 degrees) compared to pre-industrial levels.
Glasgow Climate Pact
The Glasgow Climate Pact saw countries agree to reduce the gap between emission reduction plans and the action needed to limit heating to 1.5 degrees. It was the first time a COP agreement included commitments to phase down coal power and fossil fuel subsidies.
Loss and Damage Fund
Developing countries most vulnerable to climate change contribute the least to global emissions. A new fund and funding arrangements were agreed at COP27 to support particularly vulnerable developing countries respond to the worst impacts of climate change.
Why is COP important?
Earlier this month Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said:
“I believe climate change is the single greatest threat facing us today. The nature of the climate crisis is unlike any other challenge that we have faced. It requires a rethink of how we work, travel, use our land and source our energy.”
Extreme weather events
This year is on track to be the hottest year on record. July, August, September and October 2023 are all surpassing monthly records substantially. Wildfires, droughts and flash flooding have affected people around the globe.
In 2023, the planet saw its hottest average temperature ever recorded, showing the world we are not moving fast enough in the fight against the climate crisis.
COP Summits see leaders from all over the world come together to find solutions to a crisis that affects us all. At a time when the world is facing serious divisions across a number of conflicts, the urgent need to tackle climate change unites the entire world in a common goal.
The latest report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in March 2023 emphasised the need to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen our ability to adapt to the now unavoidable impacts of climate change.
The report found:
- “Human-caused climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. This has led to widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people. Vulnerable communities who have historically contributed the least to current climate change are disproportionately affected... It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.”
- “Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change… Increasing weather and climate extreme events have exposed millions of people to acute food insecurity and reduced water security… Between 2010 and 2020, human mortality from floods, droughts and storms was 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions, compared to regions with very low vulnerability.”
- “Climate change has reduced food security and affected water security, hindering efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goals… Roughly half of the world’s population currently experience severe water scarcity for at least part of the year due to a combination of climatic and non-climatic drivers.”
- “Some future changes are unavoidable and/or irreversible but can be limited by deep, rapid, and sustained global greenhouse gas emissions reduction... Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
What can we expect at COP28?
COP27 established a number of plans and agreements to curb the causes of climate change, adapt to its impacts, and respond to the losses and damages caused by extreme weather.
Twelve months on, countries will be expected to indicate progress in implementing the decisions and targets set.
COP28 will have an emphasis on mitigation and renewable energy. Some of the main agenda items at COP28 will be:
- The first cycle of the Global Stocktake process will conclude. This will take stock of the implementation of the Paris Agreement to date.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly among major emitters, will be a priority.
- Arrangements for a new fund and financing for Loss and Damage.
- COP28 will also see greater focus on the implementation of the remaining activities of the Gender Action Plan.
How will Ireland engage?
Ireland recognises that COP is the most important global gathering to discuss the most pressing issue of our time.
Tackling global challenges through multilateral forums, Ireland has been actively pushing for stronger climate action through a number of avenues.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Just two months ago, Ireland chaired the negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the UN General Assembly High Level Week. Climate action is a core element of the SDGs.
Through our role on the UN Security Council (2021/22), Ireland co-chaired, alongside Niger, the Council’s expert group on climate and security. Ireland led negotiations on what would have been the Council’s first ever resolution on climate and security.
Ireland continues to engage in the international climate negotiations through our membership of the EU delegation, including expert groups on issues such as science, adaptation, Loss and Damage and gender. Active through climate diplomacy, Ireland participates in groups such as: EU Climate Envoys group, Champions Group on Adaptation Finance and through membership of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action.
Ireland will advocate for a comprehensive and balanced outcome from COP28. We want to see progress on these key issues:
- greater mitigation ambition
- Loss and Damage
- climate finance.
Building climate resilience
Ireland looks forward to the outcome of the first Global Stocktake process as a key outcome of COP28. We want to see a strong text covering mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation (including finance), informed by the best available science.
Making progress on these issues is crucial for building climate resilience in developing countries and for delivering on the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the Glasgow Climate Pact.