The Sad History of the United Nations COP Meetings on Climate Change

I will describe the United Nations Climate Change Conference and updates to the continuing series of conferences. This will be continually updated. So far they all have been disappointing and inadequate. (The New Progressive Alliance is in special consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council.)





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The United Nations periodically holds COP (Conference of the Parties) meetings on dealing with climate change. The first was held in 1995. International meetings on the climate go back to 1972. I will update this for all COPs. (See below for more information and references.)

As Dr. Mann and Susan Hassol said, we must “be able to wrap our minds around two seemingly opposing realities: We are making substantial progress, and yet it’s wholly insufficient to the scale of the challenge.” (see reference 64) As the many references at the end of this article show the COP process certainly did not save us. Indeed by most measurements we are worse off and the consequences of long neglect are finally upon us. Anything short of ending fossil fuels starting seriously right now is inadequate. Many of the leaders of countries have either outright opposed COP goals (Russia, Australia, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil) or greenwashed their policies by pretending to support the environment while in fact supporting fossil fuel interests (Canada, United States, China, and many European countries). Some countries came with a sincere agenda.

Though very disappointing and clearly inadequate, the United Nations COP process has not been a total waste of time. Limiting financing of fossil fuels, slowing coal expansion, limiting methane emissions, and other measures are very small steps in the right direction. Also important are the lower level contacts with each other. Many leaders have lied or failed, but lower level representatives from many countries have communicated, compared notes, and are cooperating for the future. There are also documented efforts in each country to measure exactly how far or inadequate the climate efforts go at Climate Action Tracker. For climate action for different countries see also Climate Scorecard

2015 COP 21

I have read all of the initial international agreement COP 21 (COP 21 – for Conference Of the Parties #21 – Parties are countries.) signed on 12 December 2015. I have practiced law, though never dealt with international law except peripherally in the Navy.

This is certainly not a binding agreement with specific requirements which guarantee our safety. Though under Article 2 the parties will "pursue efforts to" limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C, each country can do whatever it wants to.  Pressure to do the right activity and enough of the right activity must come from its citizens. To say it is worthless goes too far, however, and I believe is too pessimistic. It does give us a point to demand progress, make comparisons between countries, and make public statements. 

Some points:

  • More writing is on adaptations than preventing the crisis.
  • “Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible…” (Article 4, paragraph 1)
  • It gives an out (Article 4, paragraph 15) for “concerns…with economies.”
  • Each party shall “promote sustainable development and ensure environmental integrity and transparency…” (Article 6 paragraph 2)
  • Countries shall share information and make it public. (Article 12)
  • Each party shall…provide…a national inventory report of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals…of greenhouse gases…” (Article 13, paragraph 7)
  • The parties will meet starting in 2023 and every five years take stock of the global outcomes. (Article 14 paragraph 2)

Later COPs

It is accurate to say these conferences have not presented a surefire ironclad way to prevent or even significantly reduce climate change. However, it would not be correct to say they are useless. They give  measurable goals and show which countries are fighting for fossil fuels. 

After analyzing the emission reduction pledges that all countries signing the Paris Agreement were asked to make and concluding they were too low the Climate Scorecard began its current program of climate change reporting and advocacy.

In the 2018 COP24 the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait shamefully allied to water down science. Poland displayed coal exhibits and refused to participate meaningfully in the event they were hosting. Though the United States is withdrawing from the agreement, both cities and states in the United States have pledged to follow it to the best of their ability. Further, it will take until at least 2021 for the withdrawal to become final and we can change our minds. Another good thing about the 2018 COP 24 is the nations have agreed to use the same measuring standards.

The 2019 COP25 was the worst COP to date. (See references 25-29) The UNEP Emissions Gap Report states that “even if all current unconditional commitments under the Paris Agreement are implemented, temperatures are expected to rise by 3.2°C, bringing even wider-ranging and more destructive climate impacts.” The United States, Russia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Australia blocked even slight progress and in fact regressed. Sadly, this means conventional methods for preventing this disaster simply has not worked for over half a century and we are out of time. Extra legal activities may now be necessary. We should not give in to despair and remember there are still positive signs. (See references 30 and 31)

The 2021 COP26 was held November 1-12, 2021 in Glasgow. (2020 was cancelled because of COVID.) Comments are at the beginning of this article. See references 34-49.

The 2022 COP27 was held November 6-19 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Given the sponsorship by huge plastic user Coca-Cola, the ever increasing number of fossil fuel representatives, and the environmental record of Egypt many were rightfully skeptical. Third world countries rightfully complained that they contributed least but suffered the most from climate change. (See Cost of Environmental Destruction.) That certainly is a legitimate complaint and was partially addressed by passing a "Loss and Damage" provision where emitter countries would help pay third world countries for climate destruction, although necessary details were postponed for later COP meetings. While this is an advance, there was nothing done to lessen the use of fossil fuels or the massive subsidies going to increase the use of fossil fuels.   (See Cost of Fossil Fuel Subsidies.)  Without lessoning fossil fuel use there will never be enough money to address the resulting ever increasing environmental destruction. See references 50-67.

The 2023 COP28 was held held November 30 to December 12 in U.A.E. The New Progressive Alliance joined with other organizations and as an organization in special consultative status to the United Nations to influence COP 28. We urged the COP 28 to focus on a fossil fuel phaseout along with renewable energy and energy efficiency targets. We were not nearly as successful as we hoped to be. Though COP28 did at last mention for the first time the need to “transition away from fossil fuels,” there were no mandatory requirements. The fact that two COPs in a row were held in oil exporting countries plus the COP28 president, Sultan Al Jaber, is CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company show why COP 28 was so disappointing. See references 68-83.



It will take far more than government or United Nations activities. We still need outside pressure with groups like Extinction Rebellion. Though inadequate, United Nations activities do help. If you want to participate directly in United Nations activities through meetings or writing you can with the New Progressive Alliance because we are in special consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council. See So You Want to Volunteer for the United Nations 

Where does this leave us in the United States? Other countries have already surpassed us to a significant degree in the use of renewable energy.  Falling behind other countries in these areas makes us less competitive. The frequency and severity of weather related disasters will continue to increase and it will become more and more obvious how serious climate change is.

Sadly, almost all countries - certainly including the United States - pay fossil fuel companies orders of magnitude more than renewable energy.  (See Cost of Fossil Fuel Subsidies.) Leveling the playing field would help greatly.

Remember mentioning this agreement should be at most a a factor and not a primary argument. There is much animosity against the United Nations, some of it justified. Make your case with benefits of clean energy, better jobs, a more competitive economy, damage of fossil fuels, and cheaper long term costs before mentioning the UN agreement. Then it is good to end with a patriotic appeal that we as a nation can be as competitive as Costa Rica. (or one of the many other countries that have passed us.) I will continue documentation for further United Nations actions.

For 20 articles covering 20 different areas on the environment with over 2,500 references see



2-Wikipedia on 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference 


4-So You Want to Volunteer for the United Nations   


6-Opinion: Unnoticed, We Are Close to Destruction of Our Planet

7-NGO Releases Open Letter To UNFCCC Climate Secretariat & IPCC

8-The Environment



11-Paris climate agreement now international law - Landmark agreement now international law, but implementation is critical, IEA says.

12-Why Paris Climate Agreement Is Finally the Beginning of a Long Journey



15-Massive Gap Between Canada’s Emissions Projections And Paris Targets

16-COP23: Countries’ Plans Fall Short, More Ambition Is Needed

17-France and UK vow to make up for Trump's withdrawal of climate change funding - President Emmanuel Macron says France aims to close down all coal-fired power plants by 2021

18-US and Russia ally with Saudi Arabia to water down climate pledge

19-UN climate accord 'inadequate' and lacks urgency, experts warn


21-Katowice: COP24 Climate change deal to bring pact to life

22-UN climate change deal leaves door open for US to rejoin


24-The major emitters that are meeting their Paris Agreement pledges

25-COP25: Longest-ever UN climate talks end without action Summit derided as an utter failure as the world heads for 3.2°C of global warming

26-In Final Hours, COP 25 Denounced as 'Utter Failure' as Deal Is Stripped of Ambition and US Refuses to Accept Liability for Climate Crisis  "The only thing more disastrous than the state of UN climate negotiations at COP 25 is the state of the global climate."

27-The U.S. and Other Rich Countries Stonewalled $300 Billion Climate Relief Fund  Furious activists protested, but mandatory measures remained lacking as negotiations continue into the night on Friday.

28-Longest UN climate talks end with no deal on carbon markets  After two weeks of negotiations, delegates from almost 200 nations passed declarations that were criticised as too weak.

29-The U.N. climate negotiations are over, and they were a disaster

30-Here's how 6 countries are stepping up to meet the Paris climate goals

31-A tale of two COPs - What happened at COP25 and what comes next year

32-The world set a 2020 deadline to save nature but not a single target was met, UN report says

33-Climate change can affect diseases transmitted by insects, vectors: UN report - Humans are changing zoonotic disease systems and increasing their impact through habitat encroachment, human population pressure, the report said

34-Why COP26 Matters and How You Can Get Involved

35-Is COP26 the Answer We’ve Been Waiting For Or a Dangerous Fantasy?

36-COP Is Broken

37-World Leaders: We Will Not Accept More Empty Promises

38-1.8 Degrees C In Sight? Only if Everyone Keeps Their Promises 

39-'Too early' to assess accomplishments of Cop26, warn experts  

40-Countries’ Climate Pledges Built on Flawed Data 

41-Let’s emerge from Glasgow still in the fight  We must wrap our minds around two seemingly opposing realities: We are making substantial progress, and it’s wholly insufficient to the scale of the climate crisis challenge.  

42-Fossil Fuel Lobbyists Outnumber Any National Delegation at Climate Summit  

43-The UN’s Big Climate Summit Is Ignoring a Giant Red Flag - Not a single day will be devoted to food and agriculture, the source of a quarter of global emissions. 

44-(This was the official UN Climate Press Release at the close of COP26) COP26 Reaches Consensus on Key Actions to Address Climate Change 

45-Glasgow’s hope at a critical moment in the climate battle by Dr. Mann and Susan Joy Hassol 

46-‘Hot air in Glasgow means it’s time for radical leadership’: Read full letter signed by more than 200 academics - Hundreds of scholars sign open letter urging communities to lead their own ‘emergency response’ after ‘failure’ of Cop26 to slash dangerous greenhouse gas emissions 

47-Don't get too bummed out about COP26

48-Make use of the Glasgow Pact for the Climate!

49-Climate Action Tracker Newsletter for COP26

50-Greta Thunberg to skip ‘greenwashing’ Cop27 climate summit in Egypt

51-Leaders or laggards? Report analyzes net-zero pledges of US banks - Commitments, actions from 6 biggest banks fall far short of what’s needed for global climate goals.


53-Playing Both Sides Now at Upcoming Global Climate Talks - The U.N. Climate Change Conference uses the same PR firm as oil companies under pressure to pay for global warming costs.

54-Cop27: the climate carnage we've faced this year – video

55-Cop27 host accuses countries of making empty public pledges

56-Can COP27 convince Africa to ditch gas in green energy transition?

57-Why Is One of Big Oil's Top Greenwashing PR Firms Handling Media for COP27?

58-COP27: Sharp rise in fossil fuel industry delegates at climate summit

59-Climate carnage: whose job is it to save the planet? – documentary In a crucial year for the climate, award-winning Guardian environment editor Fiona Harvey reflects on 30 years of Cops and meets the politicians, activists and scientists asking who is responsible for saving the planet. (video)

60-Our leaders had a final chance to halt climate breakdown. They failed each and every one of us by

61-The 1.5C climate goal died at Cop27 – but hope must not

62-In low-energy finish, oil and gas escape censure at Cop27

63-The big takeaway from Cop27? These climate conferences just aren’t working

64-Michael E. Mann: Don't despair. It's never about a single COP.

65-'Let's Try Something New': Naomi Klein Calls for Boycott of Next COP Climate Summit  "Now is the time to decide not to do this all over again next year, when the summit will be in the UAE," argued the author and environmentalist.

66-COP27 Results and Outcomes - COP needs to evolve if it intends to survive and be relevant in the future. But is it already over? The UN meeting must find a way to regain credibility in the face of such incredibly high stakes. 

67-1.5 and 2°C: A Journey Through the Temperature Target That Haunts the World - Seven years have passed since the Paris Agreement, the most important climate pact to date. Everyone knows the limits of warming, but few know their origins and drivers.

68-Cop28 president’s team accused of Wikipedia ‘greenwashing’ - UAE using site to ‘control narrative’ amid criticism of oil boss leading climate summit, say critics

69-How Big Oil Conquered COP

70-Cop28 host UAE planned to promote oil deals during climate talks

71-The climate emergency really is a new type of crisis – consider the ‘triple inequality’ at the heart of it

72-Test for Success for COP 28

73-Cop28 president says there is ‘no science’ behind demands for phase-out of fossil fuels - Exclusive: UAE’s Sultan Al Jaber says phase-out of coal, oil and gas would take world ‘back into caves’

74-The Climate Summit Is a Sick Joke. You Should Be Angry and Afraid

75-Once Again, Al Jaber Tells The World Exactly Who He Is

76-Cop28 is a farce rigged to fail, but there are other ways we can try to save the planet

77-Transition Out of Fossil Fuels, Dawn of Renewables as COP28 Concludes

78-Failure of Cop28 on fossil fuel phase-out is ‘devastating’, say scientists - Climate experts say lack of unambiguous statement is ‘tragedy for the planet and our future’

79-What COP28 Means for Climate Coverage

80-Climate Crossroads: Hard-Won Progress at COP28

81-COP Tracker AI Holds Countries Accountable

82-COP Out: Wrapping Up a Useless Climate Summit That Should Fool Nobody

83-What Happened at COP28




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Showing 2 reactions

commented 2022-11-21 13:27:15 -0800 · Flag
I am utterly disappointed with the results of this conference. How much waste was generated by all the paperwork involved in planning this conference, all the aviation fuel needed to transport the attendees, etc. etc.?

I don’t think it accomplished the kinds of changes that are needed if we are to stave off a total climate disaster. Scientists are now predicting that the AMAZON is on the brink of a major environmental disaster.

I really feel we are past the “Tipping Point,” and I am very afraid my grandchildren have NO FUTURE on this planet.
commented 2016-01-01 03:02:06 -0800 · Flag
Good and informative article.