Every year the UN holds a massive set of climate talks called the Cop. This stands for Conference of the Parties, but it’s a long way from any Christmas party you or I might have been invited to. The parties here are just signatories to the UN climate change treaties, and the whole shebang is basically a big fight about the geekier ends of climate change.
Thousands of scientists, policy makers, government officials, academics and activists get together in a different location every year to discuss where we are when it comes to global action on climate change, and where we should be. This year’s Cop was held in Katowice, Poland and just finished last weekend. 196 countries signed a very very long report detailing their agreement from 2 weeks of intense negotiation.
So what did they actually decide? In Paris, back in 2015, the countries of the world agreed an ambitious target to keep global warming within safe levels. The aim of this year’s meeting was to agree how they’d get there - an “operating manual” for making the Paris agreement a reality if you will.
The 196 countries all agreed rules on how they should measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions, how they should report on the money they’re spending on tackling climate change, transparency in what they share and what to do if a country isn’t meeting its targets.
They made a plan to come together every five years to take stock of what every country is doing to cut emissions, and measure it against what scientists say is needed so gaps can be filled.
Many had hoped this meeting would be an opportunity to raise ambition. David Attenborough underlined this, at the start of the conference he gave a passionate speech about the very urgent need to take action. But it wasn’t to be. Although some countries hinted they’d increase their pledges to cut emissions, the agreement didn’t actually say they had to - so we can’t guarantee they’ll bother.
Plenty of protestors demanded much more from the leaders. People took to the streets to protest Poland’s reliance on coal, and activists stormed an event about coal hosted by the USA.
But it was 15 year old Greta Thunberg who really stole the show. She’s been going on strike from school since the summer to protest how little is being done about climate change. She told the conference: “We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past, and you will ignore us again… We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.”
This blog post was written by our climate activist pals over at 10:10.