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COP26 in Glasgow: how emissions from COP host nations have changed since the first meeting in 1995

COP host countries altogether have emitted 27.6% more million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air in 2019 compared to 1995 when the first meeting was held

Around 25,000 people including world leaders are expected to attend this year’s COP26 conference in Glasgow, which has been billed as the ‘last chance’ to turn the tide on climate change.

The conference, which has been held yearly since the first in Berlin in 1995, brings nations together to combat the growing effects and disasters of a warming planet.

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But, over the years, have the COP conferences actually made a difference to the amount of carbon dioxide emissions being emitted into the atmosphere?

NationalWorld takes a look at the countries which have hosted the COP conference and analyses whether their emissions have dropped or spiked since that first meeting in 1995.

Who are the COP host nations?

The countries which have previously hosted the crucial COP climate conference are:

  • 1995: Germany, Berlin
  • 1996: Switzerland, Geneva
  • 1997: Japan, Kyoto
  • 1998: Argentina, Buenos Aires
  • 1999: Germany, Bonn
  • 2000: Netherlands, The Hague
  • 2001: Morocco, Marrakech
  • 2002: India, New Delhi
  • 2003: Italy, Milan
  • 2004: Argentina, Buenos Aires
  • 2005: Canada, Montreal
  • 2006: Kenya, Nairobi
  • 2007: Indonesia, Bali
  • 2008: Poland, Poznań
  • 2009: Denmark, Copenhagen
  • 2010: Mexico, Cancún
  • 2011: South Africa, Durban
  • 2012: Qatar, Dohar
  • 2013: Poland, Warsaw
  • 2014: Peru, Lima
  • 2015: France, Paris
  • 2016: Morocco, Marrakech
  • 2017: Germany, Bonn
  • 2018: Poland, Katowice
  • 2019: Spain, Madrid
  • 2021: United Kingdom, Glasgow

Where the COP conference is held depends on the Presidency, which rotates among the five recognised UN regions - Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe and Western Europe and Others.

How have emissions changed since 1995?

In 2019, the COP host nations emitted 1,901 million tonnes more carbon dioxide into the air than in 1995 – 8,799 million tonnes versus 6,898 million, an increase of 27.6%.

That is according to figures from Our World in Data, gathered from the Global Carbon Project, a research partner of the World Climate Research Programme.

The figures show ‘production-based’ emissions – that is the emissions produced within a country’s borders.

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This is a stark contrast to one of the key goals of the COP conference, which is nations working together to bring down carbon dioxide emissions.

More than half of the countries emitted more carbon dioxide in 2019 than they did in 1995.

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Several developed nations such as the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany, have seen their carbon dioxide levels drop over the 24-year period.

Other advanced nations such as Spain and Japan have seen smaller decreases in carbon dioxide emissions from 1995 to 2019.

Nations such as India, Qatar, Morocco, Indonesia, Kenya and Peru have seen the worst carbon dioxide spikes since 1995.

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India and Qatar’s carbon dioxide emissions increased by over 200%, while Morocco, Indonesia, Kenya and Peru have seen increases of over 100%.

Every European host has seen a decrease while all but one of the nations in Asia, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East have seen an increase.

The data raises questions about whether more advanced nations have done enough to help less developed countries reduce their own emissions.

How has trade affected emissions?

Just measuring a country’s production-based emissions ignores the impact of producing all the goods that it imports from other countries.

Consumption-based carbon dioxide emissions however  accounts for trade, by excluding emissions from producing goods that a country ultimately exports, whilst adding in emissions for goods that it imports.

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Altogether the COP host nations have increased their consumption-based carbon dioxide emissions by 21.9% from 1995 to 2018.

Richer countries that might be expected to be large emissions importers such as the UK have still dropped their emissions.

However, switching from production-based figures to consumption-based changes the UK’s emissions drop from 34.7% to 16.6% – suggesting imports of goods with a large carbon footprint are in part offsetting efforts to reduce emissions at home.

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The same patterns arise again, with the more developed countries such as the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Germany reducing their consumption carbon dioxide emissions and the less developed nations seeing a huge spike.

India has the biggest increase, at over 200%, while Indonesia, Kenya, Peru and Qatar had increases of over 100%.

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Helen Clarkson, Climate Group CEO, highlights that while there are weaknesses in the COP process, “ultimately we don’t have the time to overhaul the system”.

“Rather than criticism, we need actors to throw their weight behind it and make it work,” she said.

“All countries, including past and present COP hosts, must do everything in their power to reverse ever-increasing emissions.

“Businesses, cities, national governments, and states and regions all have a significant role to play in moving towards a net zero carbon economy.

“Decisions taken now will be felt for many generations to come.

“Every decision, every investment, every target, needs to have the climate at its core.”

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