Prior to the Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings, significant global efforts were directed toward tackling climate change. In 1988, the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) focused on studying and combating climate challenges. This momentum continued into 1990, marked by the Second World Climate Conference and the release of IPCC reports that highlighted the substantial impact of human activities on the climate. This release sparked worldwide interest and concern about the issue of climate change. The culmination of global efforts occurred with the recognition and signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Subsequently, during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the UNFCCC garnered signatures from 150 countries, solidifying its role as the principal international framework for tackling climate change. Thailand contributed to this collective endeavor by becoming a contracting party in 1994, coinciding with the year the UNFCCC took effect. With the onset of COP meetings under the UNFCCC, let us explore insights from the first COP to the present day, shaping global climate policy and formulating strategies to address the challenges of climate change.
DECADE OF PROGRESS: FROM COP1 TO COP28
COP1 (1995): The COP initiated additional agreements under the UNFCCC, established financial and technological assistance mechanisms for developing member countries, and created a consultation process to address implementation issues under the UNFCCC. COP1 also laid out ways for Annex I countries—industrialized nations listed in an annex to the UNFCCC with specific emissions reduction commitments—to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. It also encouraged non-Annex I countries, which are usually developing nations with less historical responsibility for climate change, to take action within their capacities.
COP3 (1997): The Kyoto Protocol emerged as a landmark international agreement aimed at curtailing greenhouse gas emissions. It imposed obligatory reductions on developed nations, referred to as Annex I countries, mandating them to commit to specific reduction goals. Additionally, within COP3, there was a specific call for the United States to reduce its emissions by 7% in comparison to its 1990 emission levels.
COP21 (2015): During COP21 in 2015, the Paris Agreement, hailed as the world's first legally binding climate change treaty, was presented to the global community. The Agreement emphasized the urgent need to limit global temperature rise, setting a target to cap it at 2 degrees Celsius while aiming for a more ambitious limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius. This prompts Thailand to set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20-25% from projected 2030 levels, equivalent to around a 111-139 million ton carbon dioxide reduction. Among the requirements set by COP21 was the imperative to achieve equilibrium between human-induced emissions and natural absorption by 2050-2100. Additionally, developed nations must pledge a commitment of $100 billion annually to the Green Climate Fund by 2020.
COP26 (2021): Marking the Paris Agreement's 5th anniversary, this conference focused on progress updates and strategies, postponed from 2020 due to COVID-19. Discussions targeted joint agreements on emission reduction, climate adaptation plans, finance, and finalizing the Paris Rule Book for more effective implementation. Notable commitments included the US pledge to cut emissions by 50-52% by 2050 and a $3 trillion aid package for developing nations. Additionally, collaborative technological ventures between the US and China gained attention. Meanwhile, countries like India, aiming for net-zero by 2070, and Thailand, targeting net-zero by 2065, declared enhanced commitments—a significant elevation from their initial pledges made during COP21.
COP27 (2022): Countries agreed for the first time to offer "loss and damage" funding to severely impacted nations due to climate action. Yet, details on funding sources, access criteria, and defining vulnerable countries require further clarification. Overall, the efforts showcase a continued commitment to addressing climate challenges, though finer details await clarification for effective implementation.
Looking ahead to COP28 in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, 2023, decisions about the loss and damage fund are eagerly expected. As the world collectively navigates this pivotal moment, the holistic solutions, inclusive frameworks, and unprecedented cooperation may hold the key to unlocking a sustainable future for generations to come. What new strategies will emerge to truly move the needle and drive our global climate objectives across industries and society? Let us keep engaged and proactive in this journey together.
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