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With Madrid behind us and Glasgow on the horizon, it is a good time for Parties and others to consider the future of the annual COP. (By “COP,” I mean the climate conference writ large, rather than the “Conference of the Parties,” the narrower technical name for the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.) Madrid, while a remarkably successful venue in terms of logistics, left many not only disappointed at the Parties’ failure to reach agreement and signal an increase in ambition but also confused:

  • Why was there such a disconnect between the scientific imperative (as well as the public outcry) and the official outcome?
  • Why were the Parties unable to reach agreement, when the remit was so much smaller than the previous year and the compromises fairly apparent?
  • Did the issuance by a subset of Parties of “principles” they intend to follow have broader significance for climate governance?
  • Why was it like pulling teeth to get an important climate issue (the ocean/climate nexus) considered by the Parties to what is supposed to be the foundational agreement on climate change?
  • Why were emerging issues (e.g., law of the sea implications of sea level rise, carbon removal technologies) discussed only on the sidelines?
  • On the whole, why did the side events seem more like the main event?


Environmental Law | Law