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Conference of the Parties or COP is a broad term used to describe structured, periodic decision-making meetings of all parties to a certain multilateral agreement or convention.  Only countries that are a party to the specific agreement can participate in official negotiations, all other countries and members of broader society participate as observers.  


In the climate context, COP refers to gatherings of the countries that are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The COP gathers every single year unless the parties agree otherwise, most often in November and December. The COP normally moves from country to country based on which country is functioning as the president at the time. The COP presidency presides over meetings, ensures rules are followed, and normally exercises a great deal of diplomacy to advance discussions amongst the Member States. The presidency for COP rotates among the five UN regions - Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe, and Western Europe and Others.


You may also hear the terms “CMA” or “CMP”, these are terms that refer specifically to countries that have signed and ratified specific agreements under the UNFCCC.  The CMA is the term used for the gathering of the parties who have signed and ratified the Paris Agreement and CMP is the term used for the gathering of parties who have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol.  The COP serves also as the meeting of the CMP; they, therefore, all occur at the same time.  For example, COP22 in Marrakech, the first gathering after the Paris Agreement was signed, was COP22 (UNFCCC),  CMP 12 (Kyoto Protocol), CMA 1 (Paris Agreement).


The primary purpose of a COP is to review and monitor implementation of the agreement, and to negotiate any missing administrative or institutional arrangements or actions needed to promote effective implementation.

In actuality, COPs also function as a global gathering of the broader climate community. While the official negotiations are underway, there is a wide range of activity underway including side events, training opportunities, informal gatherings and meetings, actions and protests, and advocacy.

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There are a number of Subsidiary Bodies that meet in the lead up to a COP - usually in June in Bonn, Germany - to advance work on specific issues and provide input to the COP. There are two permanent subsidiary bodies – the SBSTA and the SBI – as well as other ad hoc subsidiary bodies.

  • Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBTSA) - provides information and advice on scientific and technological matters related to the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The SBSTA cooperates with relevant international organizations on scientific, technological and methodological questions.

  • Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) - assists in assessment and review of the implementation of the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. In addition, the SBI considers the biennial work programmes for the UNFCCC secretariat, which provide strategic direction on how the secretariat can best serve the Parties and the UNFCCC process.

Technical subsidiary bodies (referred to as constituted subsidiary bodies):

  • Adaptation Committee (AC)

  • Adaptation Fund Board (AFB)

  • Advisory Board of the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN)

  • Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM EB)

  • Compliance Committee

  • Consultative Group of Experts (CGE)

  • Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage

  • Joint Implementation Supervisory Committee (JISC)

  • Katowice Committee of Experts on the Impacts of the Implementation of Response Measures (KCI)

  • Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG)

  • Facilitative Working Group (FWG) of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform

  • Standing Committee on Finance (SCF)

  • Technology Executive Committee (TEC)

  • The Paris Committee on Capacity-building (PCCB)

To read descriptions of these bodiessee the UNFCCC’s website.


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