The negotiating process on climate change revolves around the sessions of the Conference of the
Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP), which meets every year to
review the implementation of the Convention. The COP adopts decisions and resolutions, published in
reports of the COP. Successive decisions taken by the COP make up a detailed set of rules for
practical and effective implementation of the Convention. The COP serves as the meeting of the
Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), which also adopts decisions and resolutions on the
implementation of its provisions. For the sake of simplicity, the COP/CMP is termed “United
Nations Climate Conference”. This term covers the entire event, including the sessions of the
subsidiary bodies to the Convention and the ad hoc working groups as well as the many side events and
exhibits held parallel to the talks and negotiations.
Why is the UN Climate Change Conference being held in Copenhagen?
Expressions of interest or invitations to host a climate change conference come from the governments
of a prospective host country and are decided by the COP. Following the procedural rules of the
Conference, the office of President normally rotates among the five UN regional groups. For 2009, the
Conference will take place within the Western European and Others Group (WEOG). When a COP is held at
the invitation of a host country, it is customary for the COP and CMP to elect as President a
Minister from that country, usually the Environment Minister. The last time WEOG held the Presidency
of the Conference was in 2005 (COP 11/CMP 1). The meeting took place in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and
was presided over by the Canadian Environment Minister. Whilst the Presidency rotates, the actual
location of the sessions can vary. Following technical missions to assess the facilities at the venue
envisaged by the host country, the Government and the UNFCCC secretariat conclude a Host Country
Agreement indicating all the facilities and equipment needed.
How many people will attend?
Traditionally, the COP/CMP attracts several thousand participants, including government
representatives and observer organizations. The sessions in Bali in 2007 attracted close to 11,000
participants, including some 3,500 government officials, over 5,800 representatives of UN bodies and
agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and nearly 1,500 accredited members
of the media. The UN Climate Change Conference in Poznań last year came close to that size, with
around 9,300 participants.
Who comes to the United Nations Climate Change Conferences?
Participation in COP 15 and CMP 5 is restricted to duly nominated representatives of Parties,
observer States, accredited observer organizations and accredited press/media. Those Parties to the
Convention that are not Parties to the Protocol may participate as observers in the CMP. Conferences
traditionally have a high-level segment attended by anywhere from 70 to 150 ministers and senior
officials, usually held during the last three days of the session. The high-level segment includes an
opening or welcoming event often with head of state participation. The UN Secretary-General is likely
to attend at least part of the meeting.
How much is the conference likely to cost?
When a Government offers to host a UNFCCC conference, the secretariat provides a list of
requirements, including an appropriate conference centre, equipment, security, logistics and
utilities. Some governments have ready-made facilities, and can deliver at relatively low costs.
Others need to either rent the facilities or construct temporary structure, at significantly higher
costs. The direct cost for the UNFCCC secretariat will be approximately US$ 2 million. Much of the
additional cost to the secretariat is indirect, relating to staff time and other efforts in preparing
substantive input, planning for and servicing the conference.
A finalised budget for government expenditure related to COP 15 has not yet been produced, due to a
number of uncertainties regarding the total number of delegates, the level of security measures
needed etc. At present, the Danish government has allocated approx. US$ 62 million on the government
budget to COP activities, but it is possible that the final amount will exceed this figure.
What is expected to happen politically in Copenhagen?
Parties agreed at Bali to jointly step up international efforts to combat climate change and get to
an agreed outcome in Copenhagen in 2009. Thus, an ambitious climate change deal will be clinched to
follow on the first phase of the UN’s Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The Copenhagen
agreed outcome need not resolve all details, but it must provide clarity on four key issues:
- Ambitious emission reduction targets for developed countries
- Nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries
- Scaling up financial and technological support for both adaptation and mitigation
- An effective institutional framework with governance structures that address the needs of
Copenhagen is to result both in a post-2012 outcome as well
as important decisions and start-up finance to immediately kick-start action on climate change in
What is worth covering from the perspective of the media?
A UN Climate Change Conference is both a political conference and a climate change
“fair”, attracting key members from governments and civil society who professionally deal
with climate change on a daily basis. Whilst the opening day and the high-level segment at the end of
the conference attract high level government participation, newsworthy events take place on a daily
basis. Such events are press briefings (up to fourteen on a single day) for example on the part of
governments, environmental organisations and UN bodies. These media briefings give an update on the
status of the negotiations are used to launch new studies and to announce key decisions. In addition,
several hundred side events are held in the course of every COP. Side-events, which the potential to
generate interesting news stories, are not only given by multilateral organisations, governments and
ngos, but for example academia and industry associations. As far as the political proceedings of the
COP/CMP are concerned, it should be noted that concluding negotiations usually go well into the night
of the final day of the conference.
To what extent is the conference carbon-neutral?
Denmark's first goal is to avoid all unnecessary emissions of GHG within the given conditions of
the conference. Every delegate can make a difference. Still, a conference of this size will always
produce a lot of GHG that cannot be reduced. Therefore, Denmark has decided to offset emissions for
COP 15 through a project in Bangladesh organised by the Danish Energy Agency. The DEA calculates this
project will cut more than 50,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year and improve air quality in one of
the world’s most polluted cities.