26 years of the COP: everything you need to know about the UN climate conference


Postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) now has a date to take place. Scheduled for November 1st to 12th, in Glasgow (United Kingdom), the largest climate meeting of the United Nations (UN) gains an emphatic appeal from world leaders this year: there is no more time to waste!

The urgency is understandable. Since the first measurements of carbon in Earth's atmosphere, climate scientists have warned of the progressive warming of the planet's temperature. A reality that crosses continental boundaries and is felt to a greater or lesser degree throughout the world.

Mobilizing collectively has never been more challenging for the “Parties”, UN signatory nations committed to the climate. After all, given the imminent risks of climate change, taking action is no longer a choice: it is a priority.

What is expected from COP26 in November is the joining of even more efforts through the leadership of the Parties. Learn more about the Conference of the Parties:

Parts of history

The year was 1992 and the world was watching with an attentive eye the Earth Summit (also called Eco-92), a climate conference held in June in Rio de Janeiro. At the center of the debate was the planet and the importance of protecting it from socioeconomic advances.

A month earlier, in New York, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was approved, the UN alliance that would revolutionize actions and strategies at a global level in favor of the Earth.

According to the UNFCCC timeline, Eco-92 was the kickoff for several nations to come together in common agreement on the climate. At the Rio Summit, several (under)developed countries became signatories to the UN Framework Convention, committing themselves to reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs), among other responsibilities.
Two years later, in 1994, the UNFCCC took effect and the 196 nations that signed the Framework Convention were renamed “Parties” and started meeting annually at the “Conference of the Parties” (COP).

The COP is defined by the UNFCCC as the “supreme decision-making body of the Convention” and brings together the signatory nations in the figures of government, business and third sector representatives to debate and follow up on the established goals, guide new treaties and propose new solutions for the future of the planet.

Since the first Conference, in 1995, the Parties have aspired to preserve the planet and all species, in a healthy and harmonious balance. Over time, agreements and priorities have been adapted based on the challenges that climate change is causing in the world.

Race to COP26

About to bring the world together in the largest UN climate forum, the 26th Conference of the Parties already looks like it will be one of the most decisive events for the future of the planet. In 2021, the United Kingdom hosts the Conference for the first time between the 1st and 12th of November. Indian parliamentarian Alok Sharma is the elected president to represent COP26.

Discussions about climate change and the immediate actions to be taken after COP26 have already intensified expectations on the national and international scene. That's due to this year's COP focus on four key topics that, if fulfilled, are considered to be the best chance of a turning point for a more resilient and Net Zero world. According to the official publication “COP26 Explained”, they are:

  • Mitigation: ensure a Net Zero world by 2050 and maintain the temperature of 1.5ºC achievable;
  • Adaptation: adapt to protect communities and natural habitats;
  • Resources: mobilize resources;
  • Collaboration: working collectively to deliver results.

As in every COP, the Parties must debate these key points and establish the best path for them to be met at a global level, based on the particularities and challenges of each nation. In addition to discussions on the environment, COP26 should also bring to the heart of the Conference the concern to protect vulnerable groups to climate change.

Global campaigns such as Race to Zero and Race to Resilience, linked to the UN Framework Convention, will also be called for debate as a way to engage institutions and society in the race towards Net Zero.

Other important events related to COP26 take place before November. These include Pre-COP and Youth4Climate, based in Italy in September, and the G20 Leaders Summit in October. Stay tuned!

COPs Timeline

Since 1995, the Conference of the Parties takes place annually in different regions of the world on a rotating basis. Bonn, the German city where the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention is located, has been the stage of the COP three times, followed by Marrakesh and Buenos Aires (twice each). Brazil has not hosted any COP yet.

See the hosts of past COPs since its creation.

  • COP1 - Berlin (Germany), 1995
  • COP2 - Geneva (Switzerland), 1996
  • COP3 - Kyoto (Japan), 1997
  • COP4 - Buenos Aires (Argentina), 1998
  • COP5 - Bonn (Germany), 1999
  • COP6 - The Hague (Netherlands), 2000
  • COP6-2 - Bonn (Germany), 2001
  • COP7 - Marrakesh (Morocco), 2001
  • COP8 - New Delhi (India), 2002
  • COP9 - Milan (Italy), 2003
  • COP10 - Buenos Aires (Argentina), 2004
  • COP11 - Montreal (Canada), 2005
  • COP12 - Nairobi (Kenya), 2006
  • COP13 - Bali (Indonesia), 2007
  • COP14 - Poznan (Poland), 2008
  • COP15 - Copenhagen (Denmark), 2009
  • COP16 - Cancun (Mexico), 2010
  • COP17 - Durban (South Africa), 2011
  • COP18 - Doha (Qatar), 2012
  • COP19 - Warsaw (Poland), 2013
  • COP20 - Lima (Peru), 2014
  • COP21 - Paris (France), 2015
  • COP22 - Marrakesh (Morocco), 2016
  • COP23 - Bonn (Germany), 2017
  • COP24 - Katowice (Poland), 2018
  • COP25 - Madrid (Spain), 2019
  • COP26 - Glasgow (United Kingdom), scheduled for November 2021.

Check out more details about each edition of the COPs on the UNFCCC website.

Paris Agreement: A COP milestone

Over 25 editions, the Conference of the Parties was permeated by historic international agreements. One of the best known is the Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997 during COP3 in Japan. The proposed goal was to limit and reduce harmful gases emitted into the atmosphere, especially from developed countries, responsible for releasing large portions.

The Protocol, recognized by the UNFCCC as the “first global treaty to reduce GHG emissions”, went through a long and troubled process of adhesion by the Parties, taking effect only in 2005 without full approval.
Eighteen years after its adoption at COP3, the Kyoto Protocol was replaced by the Paris Agreement. Signed at COP21, hosted in France in 2015, its main goal is international cooperative work to prevent the Earth's average temperature from rising above 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels. “The Paris Agreement is a milestone because, for the first time, it brings together all nations in a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change,” clarifies the UN Framework Convention.

To achieve the defined goal, Parties must invest in reducing GHG emissions, adopting resilient actions and managing financial and technological resources. Learn more about how the Paris Agreement works in the UNFCCC video.

Klabin at COP26

Recognized for its trajectory guided by sustainability and concerned since its foundation with natural resources and biodiversity, Klabin is the only Brazilian company invited to join the “COP26 Business Leaders”.

The group, made up of executives from different sectors and nations, is responsible for disseminating and engaging the private sector in the climate change issue, in addition to carrying out the agendas of the 26th UN Conference of Parties, which will be held this year. Cristiano Teixeira, Klabin's CEO, will be present at the event as one of the representatives of the Brazilian private sector.

COP Beginners Guide

Aiming to prepare the business sector before the 26th Conference of the Parties, the Global Compact Network Brazil's Climate Action Platform made a didactic guide (FAQ) explaining the main points about the event.

The “Beginners' Guide to COP26” explains, among other topics, how companies can engage in the COP, how to promote actions at COP26 and what to expect from the 26th Conference.

Check out the Global Compact Network Brazil FAQ here.