The UNFCCC has an excellent and comprehensive interactive timeline, here is a summary of some of the big moments.
World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
UN General Assembly adopted resolution 45/212 calling for a negotiation of an “effective framework convention on climate change”
UNFCCC was adopted and opened for signature on June 12, 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, better known as the Rio Earth Summit. This event was also where the UN Convention of Biological Diversity (UNCBD) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification were opened for signature.
UNFCCC entered into force on March 21, 1994 after receiving 50 ratifications.
1995 | COP 1
The first COP was held in Berlin, Germany in March 1995.
1997 | COP 3
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan on 11 December 1997.
Russia and Canada ratify the Kyoto Protocol bringing the treaty into effect on 16 February 2005
2007 | COP 13
COP parties agreed to a Bali Action Plan to negotiate GHG mitigation actions after the Kyoto Protocol expired in 2012.
2009 | COP 15
After much anticipation and build up, the world was disappointed that COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark did not result in an agreement on binding commitments after the Kyoto Protocol commitment period ended in 2012. Leaders from the United States, Brazil, China, Indonesia, India and South Africa agreed to what would be called the Copenhagen Accord which recognized the need to limit the global temperature rise to 2°C based on the science of climate change.
2011 | COP 17
The Durban Mandate was negotiated in Durban, South Africa in 2011. It provided the mandate “to develop a protocol, another legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties. This mandate should be fulfilled no later than 2015 and enter into force by 2020.” This provided the basis for the Paris Agreement negotiations.
2014 | COP 20
The idea of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, the INDCs, was born in Perú’s “Lima Call for Climate Action”. The INDCs specify a country’s climate action targets and are, when submitted to the UNFCCC becoming NDCs.
This pre-established groundwork led to the successful negotiation of the Paris Agreement that would happen later.
2015 | COP 21
In France, on 12th of December 2015, the Paris Agreement was reached.
The Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP) was established to develop the Agreements operational details.
2016 | COP 22
The Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action was launched in 2016 in Morocco at COP22, which called for broad societal participation in climate action. COP22 was at the same time the first meeting of the CMA, the conference of the signatory parties to the Paris Agreement. In Marrakech, the five year work plan for the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage was approved.
2017 | COP 23
In Bonn, Germany under the leadership of Fiji the Talanoa Dialogue, a facilitated dialogue process on upping ambition, was launched.
2018 | COP 24
In Katowice Poland, governments adopt a set of guidelines for implementing the Paris Agreement. The agreed 'Katowice Climate Package' finalized nearly all of the PAWP items and operationalizes the climate change regime contained in the Paris Agreement, promotes international cooperation and encourages greater ambition. At COP24, countries signed the “rulebook” for the Paris Agreement, but failed to agree upon all important implementation issues within it; this work is planned to be taken up at COP26.
2021 | COP 26
Originally, COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom was scheduled for November 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. COP26 is significant because the rulebook is set to be finalized and countries are asked to increase the ambition of their NDCs (ambition mechanism). It is still not clear yet whether or in which format those two major events can be held in 2021.