16 December, 2023
Do you know what ‘COP28’ stands for? A few days ago, I posed that question to two politically savvy people. Both knew that it was the tag for the climate summit in the UAE, then fairly prominent in the news, but neither had the faintest idea why, although one suggested – tongue-in-cheek – that since the host was a petro-state, perhaps it meant ‘Cop-out’. In fact, ‘COP’ is an acronym for ‘Conference of the Parties’, an event that it was agreed should be held annually to follow up the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change signed as far back as1992; the number ‘28’ was added to the Dubai gathering to signify that it was the twenty-eighth such meeting to take place.
Of course, ‘COP’ is language well known to governments, lobbyists, academics and journalists interested in climate diplomacy; and its meaning can be readily deduced by the politically savvy in the few days a year when it is a news headline. But what of everyone else; that is, the vast majority? How to deal with climate change is such an urgent question that nothing should hinder stimulation of the broadest public interest in the international procedures for tackling it. I believe it to be imperative, therefore, that instant understanding of the name of the annual event designed to avoid governments’ backsliding on climate promises should not be restricted to the cognoscenti. Let these annual conferences in future be called ‘Climate Emergency Summits’. These words do not lend themselves to a catchy acronym (CES29?) but some things need to be spelled out. (Following up diplomatic agreements is so important that I devote an entire chapter to the subject in my Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 6th ed.)