What will happen in Copenhagen? To get an idea, one must remember that the Kyoto Protocol is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change –UNFCCC. It was signed by the 192 United Nations Member States and it is a text with an almost universal impact.
Every year, the signatory members – called parties – meet. This is the opportunity to call a big meeting called Conference of the Parties or COP. Each COP has a number. As the treaty came into force in 1994 (2 years after it was signed), the first meeting, or COP1 took place in 1995 in Berlin. The last meeting, COP14 was held in December 2008 in Poland. In 2009, COP15 will take place in Copenhagen. COPs bring together members of the UNFCCC and not just countries that ratified the Kyoto Protocol. This is why all countries, including the USA for example, send their representatives there.
Between the COPs, negotiators are busy: many meetings are organized between experts and ambassadors, to make progress on certain stumbling blocks. But a COP is an important event. The most important delegates of the signatory states attend, and sometimes even the Presidents or the Prime Ministers themselves. During the general assembly, each country has one vote. Also, this is when voting takes place – and therefore when decisions are made.
How can an agreement be reached? Some governments certainly think that accepting to reduce their emissions would not be in their best interests – this is the case of big emitters like China or the USA, for example. Some could even find it advantageous not to get involved in any agreement because they would thus take advantage of others’ reduced emissions without having to bear the cost.