It's a cop out

Conference of the parties

 Since 1995 the self-proclaimed great-and-good of the climate movement have met to discuss measures to combat climate change. The meetings have taken place every year, except for the COVID hit year of 2020. Each meeting is referred to a Conference of the Parties. The Conference of the Parties, usually shortened to COP, is the supreme decision-making body of The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It works in parallel with the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which produces regular Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) reports. The latest is CMIP6.

In brief, the IPCC produce projections of climate change (with emphasis on temperature) and the UNFCCC proposes measures to moderate those changes. The following chart shows the number of participants at each of the annual meetings of the COP.

COP 26


The two largest meetings were those at Paris in 2012 (COP 21) and in Glasgow in 2021 (COP 26).

Participants are classed in three large groups. The first is parties to the convention and observer groups. The parties to the convention represent individual countries. The only observer group is the one from The Vatican. The second group, observer organisations, is comprised of:

1.       United Nations Secretariat units and bodies

2.       Specialized agencies and related organizations

3.       Intergovernmental organizations

4.       Non-governmental organizations

The final group is Media.

In the provisional list of participants published at the end of the meting the breakdown is:

-          Parties and observer states: 21,695

-          Observer organisations: 14,033

-          Media: 3,781

Making a total of 36,509.

There is however an anomaly in these figures. I developed a program to read the participants list, concentrating on the country representatives. Basically, it reads the first 4 characters of each line and looks for relevant honorifics, such as “Mr.” or “Sra.”. Only the first 4 characters are considered as some participants have more than one. The program only found 14,075 names. Cross-checking the number of names calculated against number of pages (770) and sampled names per page (17) gives 13,090. This confirms my figure.

The only conclusion is that the UNFCCC is guilty of participant inflation.

 So, who were they – the participants? The six countries, out of 194, with the largest number of participants were:

-          Brazil - 479

-          Democratic Republic of the Congo – 373

-          Turkey  - 373

-          Ghana  - 334

-          Russian Federation – 312

-          Kenya   - 307

In fact, 50 countries had 100 or more participants.

The delegates who flew the longest distance were New Zealand, 17,908 kilometres, and, not surprisingly, Pacific islands. The following table shows the total kilometres flown by the 20 participating countries with the largest number of kilometres in the air.

Country

Delegates

Distance

Air Km (million)

Brazil

479

8945

8.57

Democratic Republic of the Congo

373

6937

5.18

Bangladesh

291

8120

4.73

Kenya

307

7342

4.51

Japan

224

9282

4.16

Viet Nam

189

10056

3.80

Ghana

334

5587

3.73

Indonesia

156

11792

3.68

Uganda

218

6995

3.05

Papua New Guinea

110

13846

3.05

Canada

276

5299

2.93

Argentina

120

11320

2.72

Sudan

235

5324

2.50

Liberia

146

8485

2.48

Colombia

148

8320

2.46

Malawi

138

8531

2.35

Congo

169

6937

2.34

Zimbabwe

129

8860

2.29

Turkey

373

2912

2.17

Thailand

109

9638

2.10

 

Total kilometres flown by the 14,075 country representatives was 170 million, an average of 12,078 km.

The delegates from named countries were not the only people attending the COP. There were the observer organisations and the press. These totalled 13,818 (again less than claimed). These delegates do not, as a rule, state the country they came from. So, I have assumed that they average half the flight distance each relative to the country delegates. This adds 83 million air kilometres bring the total to 253 million kilometres.

Then there were the estimated 100,000 protesters who demonstrated in Glasgow. Many of these were local but there certainly groups from different parts of the world.

The dictionary defines the phrase “cop out” as “to avoid doing something that one ought to do”. If climate change is a real threat, then air travel should be curtailed. The message from Glasgow was that the delegates believe that flying is not a danger to the climate, or that they don’t care. Either way, COP 26 was cop out.


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