Everything you need to know about COP21

COP21 has been everywhere over the last couple of months. If you’re struggling to keep up with it all then we hope this will help clarify a few things for you, from what COP21 is to what you can do here at QMUL, we’ve got it covered.


In 1992, an international treaty was created at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. This treaty was called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It came into force in 1994 and has been ratified by 196 states – State Parties.

The State Parties meet annually at the Conference of the Parties (COP) and it is the 21st COP, hence COP21.


Politicians and world leaders from over 190 countries will be attending COP21 including David Cameron, Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi and Angela Merkel.



The primary objective of the annual COP is to review the UNFCCC’s implementation. Key conferences include COP3 where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted and COP11 where the Montreal Action Plan was produced.

The aim of COP21 is to achieve, for the first time in more than 20 years of UN negotiations, a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

The current greenhouse gas emission commitments run out in 2020 so governments are expected to come up with an agreement for at least the next decade.


The conference is being held between the 30th November and the 11th December this year.


This year the conference is being held in Paris and it will be one of the biggest international conferences ever held in France. Around 50,000 participants are expected, including 25,000 official delegates from UN agencies, NGOs, governments, intergovernmental organisations and civil society.

What is going to be agreed?

Nations that are responsible for more than 90% of global emissions have already come up with their targets – Indended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). An analysis of these INDCs, however, shows that these pledges will only be enough to keep global warming to about 2.7°C to 3°C. The EU, for example, has committed to cutting its emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels by 2030 and the US has committed to cut emissions by 26%-28% compared to 2005 levels by 2025.

It’s not all about emission reductions though as another key topic of discussion is finance for adaptation and mitigation. Poorer countries argue that rich countries should pay for the costs of extreme weather events which they say are caused by emissions from rich countries. They also want finance to help them invest in clean technologies to assist in mitigating future global warming.

Where the money will come from is a huge point of contention and could be a major obstacle to a Paris deal so it’s a topic to keep an eye on!

What can you do?

There is going to be a march through the streets of London the day before COP21 starts and an event has been created for QMUL on Facebook – register your interest online.

If you want to find out more these articles by the Guardian and Edie give good summaries of COP21. The COP21 website also has a wealth of information about the conference if you want to find out more and keep up to date with the conference as it happens.



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