Monday, 14 December 2009


Jargon may be useful shorthand but it also obscures understanding. It’s hard to keep track of all the acronyms used in climate change negotiations, and even harder when they get changed.

COP is easy to understand. COP15 at Copenhagen is the 15th Conference of the Parties (signatories) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Early COPs drew up the Kyoto Protocol, a legal commitment to take various actions to curb global warming. But not all parties ratified it – notably the USA – so at COPs there are parallel sessions of the MOPs, the Members of the Parties that have ratified Kyoto. For a while the events were billed as COP/MOPs.

Then, for reasons I cannot recall, the MOP got changed to the CMP: the Conference of the Parties acting as the Meeting of the Parties (a terrible acronym). Even so, many people still refer to COP/MOP because it flows off the tongue more easily.

These things can matter. On the first day of the conference China objected to the fact that the conference logo only included COP and not CMP: did this not imply that the intended outcome would be the sweeping aside of the Kyoto Protocol with the legally binding commitments it makes upon its members? The logo got hastily adjusted.

A key negotiating issue is whether a new protocol should be created that will displace Kyoto, or whether a twin track approach will be followed with a new agreement existing in parallel to the old. Negotiators who want a serious outcome insist that it be legally binding, and Kyoto does that, but the very word ‘Kyoto’ is political anathema to the Americans and any reference to it will make it difficult for Obama to sell a deal to the Senate.

One reason why the letters CMP are said to stand in reality for ‘Conference Missing a Party!’

No comments: