Information for the public

Who and what is COP 23?

Strictly speaking, the UN Climate Change Conference consists of three conferences under one umbrella, each with different signatories. Firstly, COP 23 brings together representatives of all those countries that have signed and ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This international Conference of the Parties (COP) will be convened in Bonn for the 23rd time; hence the acronym COP 23.

Since 2005, COP has been expanded to include the Parties that signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol (Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP)), and since 2016 also includes the signatories of the Paris Agreement (Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA)). The full title of the Climate Change Summit would therefore be COP 23/CMP 13/CMA 1.

The annual Conference of the Parties is the supreme decision making body of the UNFCCC. Under this international convention, all industrialised countries have committed themselves to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Where and when is COP 23 taking place?

The international Climate Change Conference 2017 will be held in Bonn from 6 to 17 November 2017. The Republic of Fiji currently holds the COP Presidency, while Germany is acting as technical host. However, many delegates will travel to Bonn one week early for preliminary meetings.

What are the objectives of COP 23?

Government delegates will negotiate details regarding the implementation of the Paris Agreement of 2015. The expected outcome is a so-called "Book of Rules" to be approved by the next Climate Change Conference in Poland in late 2018.

Just like in previous years, large and colourful meetings of climate activists from all over the world and all walks of society, the scientific community, industry, politics, religious communities and environmental associations, will run parallel to the official negotiations.

They will all travel to Bonn to challenge the Climate Change Conference critically and present their demands – through events, political discussions, exhibitions, performances and cultural entertainment of their own. There is already keen interest in participation.

How was the decision made to hold the Climate Change Conference in Bonn?

The United Nations take an internal decision on which country will hold the next UNFCCC Presidency based on rotation. According to the rotation cycle, the 2017 conference would be hosted by a country from the Asian group. The rule in previous years was that the holder of the COP Presidency also hosts the conference.

The Republic of Fiji – a small group of islands in the South Pacific – was prepared to take on the chair of the Conference, but it is not going to host the Conference in Fiji.

UNFCCC’s Rules of Procedure stipulate that in such cases, the Climate Change Conference shall take place at the headquarters of the UNFCCC Secretariat, that is, in Bonn. This was confirmed at the last international Climate Change Conference held in Marrakech in November 2016.

Why is COP 23 being held in Bonn as opposed to the German capital of Berlin?

UNFCCC’s Rules of Procedure stipulate in principle that the Climate Change Summit be held in Bonn, the offices of the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Unless there are other countries that are prepared to host the Conference. For instance, in recent years the conference was hosted in Morocco, France and Peru.

Does such a COP not cost far too much money?

The UN Climate Change Conferences do cost a lot of money. However, if one considers these costs relative to the progress achieved in climate action up to now, these costs are absolutely justified. The actual costs of COP23 are not yet known and can only be quantified after the climate summit.

Would a video conference suffice for climate change negotiations?

Obviously, hosting an international Climate Change Conference goes hand in hand with tremendous logistic and financial effort, often with adverse effects on the environment caused by the large air traffic volumes. However, there is no adequate substitute for it, such as video conferences. Video conferences are suitable for exchanging facts, however, they are not conducive to direct and informal exchange, generating ideas, building trust or giving arguments a platform to grow.

There is no other UN process which attracts public interest in the same way and of which such a large number of people keep track actively and critically. This is what the process draws its strength from to a large extent. For more information on the environmentally-sound and sustainable organisation of the conference see below.

What topics will be addressed by COP 23?

As an island state particularly affected by the impacts of climate change (the technical term is "vulnerable"), Fiji attaches great importance to the topics of adaptation to the impacts of climate change and resilience against climate change. Moreover, it is Fiji’s goal to get non-government players on board and more intensively involved.

What difference could COP 23 make?

The decisions taken during the international Climate Change Conference before the eyes of the international community have great political clout. This was demonstrated impressively at COP 21 in Paris. For the first time, the contracting Parties were able to agree on a Climate Agreement which holds all countries accountable. This agreement commits the international community to the internationally binding target of limiting the rise in global temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement also stipulates that the world must become greenhouse gas-neutral in the second half of this century.

How and why have the international Climate Change Conferences come about?

The intention behind the first UN Conference on Environment and Development held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro was to address global problems such as hunger, poverty, war and the growing social divide between industrialised and developing countries. At the time, the 17,000 delegates, including some 130 heads of state, for the first time recognised the problem of excessive greenhouse gas emissions, in particular CO2 emissions and related climate change. As a result, anthropogenic climate change was officially recognised as a problem for the first time.

Delegates adopted the United Nationals Framework Convention on climate Change (UNFCCC). The Convention’s objectives are to prevent human interference with the planet’s climate system, slow down global warming and mitigate its consequences.

Why is climate change so harmful?

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the current rate, we can expect a global rise in temperature of up to 5 degrees Celsius in the next 100 years. This would correspond to the difference in temperature recorded between the last ice age and today. Even at half that rate, meteorologists predict an increase in the frequency of natural disasters such as droughts, heavy rainfall, heavy storms or floods. Coral reefs would become globally extinct, glaciers and large ice sheets at the North and South Poles would melt. The rising sea levels would render coastal regions and some Pacific island states like Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati uninhabitable. Millions of people may be forced to leave their homes. In addition, new wars could be sparked over fertile soil and scarce drinking water.

Is COP 23 the first international Climate Change Conference to be held Germany?

No. Bonn already has vast experience with UN Climate Change Conferences: COP 6-2 (2001) and COP 5 (1999) were held in Bonn. In addition, the first international Climate Change Conference COP 1 took place in 1995 in the German capital of Berlin.

How many summits have already taken place in total?

1992, Environmental Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1995, COP 1 Berlin, Germany
1996, COP 2, Geneva, Switzerland
1997 COP 3, Kyoto, Japan
1998 COP 4, Buenos Aires, Argentina
1999 COP 5, Bonn, Germany
2000 COP 6 The Hague, Netherlands
2001 COP 6-2 (continuation) Bonn, Germany
2001 COP 7, Marrakech, Morocco
2002 COP 8, New Delhi, India
2003 COP 9, Milan, Italy
2004 COP 10, Buenos Aires, Argentina
2005 COP 11, Montreal, Canada
2006 COP 12, Nairobi, Kenya
2007 COP 13, Bali, Indonesia
2008 COP 14, Poznan, Poland
2009 COP 15, Copenhagen, Denmark
2010 COP 16, Cancún, Mexico
2011 COP 17, Durban, South Africa
2012 COP 18, Doha, Qatar
2013 COP 19, Warsaw, Poland
2014 COP 20, Lima, Peru
2015 COP 21, Paris, France
2016 COP 22, Marrakech, Morocco
2017 COP 23, Bonn, Germany

Who will take over the Presidency from Fiji and where will COP 24 take place?

COP 24 will be held in Katowice in Poland.

Who is preparing COP 23?

The UNFCCC Secretariat and current holder of the Presidency are responsible for organising the conference and setting the conference agenda. This year, UNFCCC in its capacity as organiser, the Republic of Fiji as COP 23 President and Germany as the technical host are cooperating closely to make the conference a success. The Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and the city of Bonn are organising initiatives and activities of their own to help make the conference a success.

On behalf of the German government, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) is in charge of the climate negotiations and the conference and in cooperation with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is also preparing Germany’s role and contribution during COP 23.

Germany and Bonn will make use of this opportunity to showcase Germany as a UN location. Bonn is home to around 20 United Nations institutions with almost 1,000 employees- the UNFCCC Secretariat is the largest of these. In addition, the climate diplomats meet in Bonn every year during the summer for the COP preparatory conference. This year, the meetings of the UNFCCC subsidiary bodies were held from 8 to 18 May.

Where in Bonn will COP 23 take place and what activities are planned?

A new and innovative conference concept has been designed or COP23 which is intended to serve as an example for future climate change conferences. With the "one conference - two zones" concept, COP23 will highlight the importance of climate activities undertaken by various non-government players and supplement official negotiations.

The zone named Bula Zone by the Fiji Presidency ("bula" means "welcome" in Fiji’s native language) is approximately 20,000 square metres in size; it includes the World Conference Centre Bonn (WorldCCBonn), the existing UN Campus and temporary structures behind the Deutsche Welle buildings and will be host to the official climate negotiations.

The Bonn Zone will be set up near the main southern entrance to the Rheinaue Park, in the Große and Kleine Blumenwiese (large and small fields of flowers) and will be approximately 35,000 square metres large. Temporary structures will be built and will house events and exhibitions on specific implementation projects and climate action solutions. All the events of the Global Climate Action Agenda will be held in the Bonn Zone. Governments, representatives of local authorities, Federal States and non-government players such as NGOs, representatives from the business community, industry, the scientific community and other parts of civil society will have the opportunity to present their climate action initiatives and projects. The objective is to give various players a platform to demonstrate that promising activities are already being implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to impacts of climate change and make the transition towards a sustainable society.

In addition to the activities and events on the conference premises, climate action events will also take place across the city of Bonn. These events are not sponsored by UNFCCC or the German government; however, they will provide an opportunity to shine a light on the wide range of climate players.

Who is represented at the international Climate Change Conference?

Negotiations will be conducted by representatives of the 197 UNFCCC member states. Observers are also authorised to attend negotiations. Observers are organisations admitted by UNFCCC which represent a broad spectrum of interest groups. In addition, the media will also be invited to attend press conferences and selected events.

Representatives from the scientific community, industry and civil society who have not received official accreditation from the UNFCCC Secretariat will convene in the Bonn Zone parallel to the official negotiations.

How many people are expected to attend COP 23?

Numbers are growing from one year to the next. In 2005, almost 10,000 attended the eleventh Climate Change Conference in Montreal, in 2009, 27,000 travelled to Copenhagen. This year, restrictions have been imposed due to the limited space. Organisers expect around 20,000 to 25,000 people.

How will construction and dismantling operations for COP 23 affect the city of Bonn?

Preparations began in the Rheinaue Park (Blumenwiese) in early August. However, this work does not require any long-term road closures. Since 14 August construction has been going on behind the Deutsche Welle buildings and in the Rheinaue Park on Große and Kleine Blumenwiese. These areas are fenced off during the construction phase and no longer accessible to the public and will remain so until dismantling is complete at the end of December. Only a small part of the Rheinaue Park will be affected by the construction work. The citizens of Bonn will be able to access all remaining areas and lanes surrounding the Blumenwiese. Please note that the police will carry out random identity checks during the conference period. It is therefore advisable to carry some form of official identification at all times.

During this time, the car park in Charles-de-Gaulle Straße on the Rhine riverbank will be completely closed off; a large part of the large Rheinaue car park in Ludwig-Erhard-Allee will be reserved for the conference. The minigolf course will remain open to all visitors, its car parks will, however, be available only to a limited extent. The car parks of Deutsche Welle and Deutsche Post DHL Group are and will remain accessible for their employees. There will be a checkpoint in place at the access road to Charles-de-Gaulle-Straße behind the underground car park to ensure access for residents and authorised construction vehicles only.

Once COP23 is concluded, rolled turf will be used to restore the construction site back into a meadow. Renaturation will only be possible in December once the temporary structures have been dismantled and will be dependent on weather conditions.

How can citizens get involved in COP 23?

Unfortunately, the public will not have access to the Bula Zone in the World Conference Centre Bonn (WorldCCBonn) where official negotiations will take place. This is standard procedure for all international Climate Change Conferences. This time however, the public will be granted limited access to part of the conference in the Bonn Zone in the Rheinaue Park. Citizens must register through the city of Bonn. In addition, events will be held across the city which will be subject to fewer restrictions.

Can citizens contribute to and help out at COP 23?

As a major event like the UN Climate Change Conference needs many helping hands, the United Nations Volunteer Programme (UNV) based in Bonn has also become involved. We will be looking for volunteers to provide organisational support with various aspects of the conference and within the conference zones. You will find information (in English) at the UNV homepage.

As from Monday 18 September 2017, it will be possible to register as a UN volunteer. We will keep you up to date on this website. To ensure adequate accommodation is provided for participants from NGOs on a limited budget, residents in Bonn and the surrounding areas are being called on to host conference participants. If you would like to provide a room free of charge and help strengthen Bonn’s image as a city and region that is outward-looking and open-minded, please find the form for hosts here: www.bonn-region.de/reiseinfos-service/private-host-cop23.html (in English and German)

Is it possible to participate in COP 23 as an observer organisation (NGO, IGO) and how can I register?

PParticipation of individual persons is generally not possible. Organisations that are not registered as Observer Organisations with the UNFCCC Secretariat can only register to attend the conference via registered Observer Organisations. The list of organisations with observer status can be found on the UNFCCC website. Organisations wishing to apply for UNFCCC observer status were able to do so until 31 August 2017 for COP24 in Poland.

How can I hold an official side event (presentation)?

Side events can be registered using the UNFCCC Side Events and Exhibits Online Registration System (SEORS). The deadline for registration for Observer Organisations was 21 July 2017. The deadline for registration of entities without observer status expired on 4 September 2017. Further details can be found here: seors.unfccc.int/seors

Registering a side event does not automatically guarantee registration for the conference. Observer organisations must submit a separate registration form to attend the conference.

How can I participate in the conference as an exhibitor?

The UN is offering exhibitors the opportunity to apply for an exhibition stand (approximately five square meters) at the conference. The deadline for registration for admitted observer organisations was 21 July 2017. The deadline for registration of entities without observer status expired on 4 September 2017. Further details can be found here: seors.unfccc.int/seors

Can I organise a cultural event or another climate-related event in Bonn during COP 23?

Yes, in principle, this is possible. The UNFCCC Secretariat and the city of Bonn are assisting organisers of cultural events and supporting programmes with communication and promotion. The registration form and further information can be found here: www.bonn.de

The deadline for registration was 31 August 2017.

Who is responsible for security during COP 23 and how does the conference affect the local people?

The United Nations as organiser of the conference exercise the property rights for the official negotiations in the Bula Zone and are responsible for security. The Federal Environment Ministry exercises property rights for the events of the conference taking place in the Bonn Zone and the police of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) will be responsible for safety of the participants. External security service providers will be employed in both zones, with the same security standards being applied in both.

The usual responsibilities shall apply outside of the two conference zones, the police of NRW will be primarily in charge of security. Any constraints imposed for security reasons should be minimised and lifted as soon as possible. The will be limited to what is absolutely essential and be as short as possible.

How many police officers will be employed?

The Bonn police force, supported by the permanent staff of the Cologne police, have been in constant contact for several months with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and those responsible at the United Nations. The safety of conference participants, local residents and Bonn citizens has top priority. To ensure this is achieved, as many police officers as required will be deployed.

Are protests expected during the Climate Change Conference?

Yes, traditionally, climate activists, environmental associations and initiatives organise demonstrations and peaceful protests during the climate change conferences. In doing so, they are asserting their constitutional right to assemble peacefully and unarmed (Article 8 of the German Basic Law). Even though the conference framework and programme have been set and we have been made aware of certain protests to be held, the police will also be taking into account recent events and knowledge gained e.g. from their experiences at the G20 summit in Hamburg in their plans. Together with the UN police, the police of NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) will ensure the safety of the international Climate Change Conference, the protection of the public and the right to freedom of assembly.

How will the conference affect the local people?

The German government, North Rhine-Westphalia and the city of Bonn are cooperating closely with the law enforcement agencies on a safety strategy for the conference in November. The strategy will ensure for instance, that the St. Martin processions can go ahead in Bonn without any obstructions. Constraints imposed for security reasons will be limited to what is absolutely necessary and be as short as possible.

How will the conference affect road traffic?

There will be efforts to minimise any disruptions to traffic as best as possible through careful traffic planning. In addition, no-parking zones may be imposed to improve the flow of traffic. These may obstruct both private transport as well as bus traffic. During this time, the car park in Charles-de-Gaulle Straße on the Rhine riverbank will be completely closed off; a large part of the large Rheinaue car park in Ludwig-Erhard-Allee will be reserved for the conference. The minigolf course will remain open to all visitors, its car parks will, however, be available only to a limited extent. The car parks of Deutsche Welle and Deutsche Post DHL Group are and will remain accessible for their employees. There will be a checkpoint in place at the access road to Charles-de-Gaulle-Straße behind the underground car park to ensure access for residents and authorised construction vehicles only.

Constraints imposed for security reasons will be limited to what is absolutely necessary and be as short as possible. According to the latest plans, there will be no road or bridge closures.

Will there be any changes in local and regional public transport during the conference?

Deutsche Bahn (the German rail service) has pledged to complete the new “UN Campus” train stop on time and that several regional trains will be running every hour during the conference period to allow participants to reach the conference centre faster from the new stop via public busses, special coaches and on foot. Special coaches will also be running to and from Cologne/Bonn airport. In addition, a shuttle service will also be operated between Platz der Vereinten Nationen (UN Campus) and Herbert-Wehner-Platz at the Rheinaue Park. Information desks with staff will be set up at important travel points (airports, trains stops etc.) to manage passenger flow.

The BMUB is working closely together with the Bonn municipal services company (Stadtwerke Bonn), transport associations and Deutsche Bahn on transport planning and reinforcement.

From 10 December onwards, when the new train timetable comes into effect, regular regional train services will service the UN Campus train stop.

How will information be provided to the public?

The BMUB will provide information before and during COP23 on the following two key topics: When preparatory construction work for the conference commences in the Rheinaue Park, the BMUB will cooperate with the city of Bonn to inform the local population on what is happening in the city before and during COP23. Since the end of July, we have been using information boards directly on the COP23 construction site to notify the public about plans and ongoing work and are also on site many days at an information stand. In addition, the BMUB has geared the citizens of Bonn up for the conference via the “Natürlich Bonn” (naturally Bonn) campaign. To accompany COP23, we will champion Germany’s climate protection policy with nationwide campaigns. In doing so, we will make use of posters, advertisements and online campaigns.

The BMUB and the Bonn police force will continuously provide information on all obstructions in the city via the media and online. In addition, the BMUB has created an email address specifically for citizens interested in COP23: COP23(at)bmub.bund.de

What positive effects do Bonn and NRW expect from the conference?

COP 23 is an excellent opportunity to present Germany, NRW and the UN Campus in Bonn as first-rate hosts. This will raise Bonn’s profile as a UN location. Furthermore, delegates’ impressions of Bonn and its surrounding area will boost international interest in North Rhine-Westphalia as a tourist destination.

Will it be ensured that the conference itself is run in a sustainable manner?

Yes. We are organising the conference to ensure the lowest greenhouse gas emissions possible. The Climate Change Conference will also receive EMAS certification (Eco Management and Audit System based on an EU regulation). To become certified all key environmental aspects of the conference must be identified and its environmental impacts must be kept to a minimum. The UNFCCC Secretariat and the German government are foregoing printed publications and materials as much as possible and instead are using electronic data transmission to ensure a conference that is as paperless as possible.

In addition, waste produced during the conference will be kept to a minimum. Recyclable material will be used to a large extent, predominantly vegetarian food will be served, food waste will be avoided as much as possible and our contract partners, including hotels, are being encouraged to take similar measures.

Other important aspects are fairness and inclusion i.e. ensuring that the needs of disabled people are taken into account in the preparation of and during the conference. Our activities will be reviewed by an external environmental auditor. Transparency on the environmental performance of the conference will be ensured through an environmental and sustainability report.

Will meat be served during the conference?

The food served during the conference will be mostly vegetarian. Non-vegetarian offers will exclusively comprise organic meat and certified fish. Overall, during the conference great importance will be attached to using regional and organic products. We are aiming for around 50 percent of the products to be organic.

Will nature conservation be taken into consideration alongside climate action in the organisation of the conference?

Unavoidable impacts of the temporary structures on nature will be limited to what is absolutely necessary. No trees will be felled to build the temporary structures. Where certain interferences cannot be avoided, compensation measures will be undertaken to ensure the environmental balance remains neutral.

Short glossary

APA – Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement

COP – Conference of the Parties

CMP – Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol

CMA – Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement

IGO – Intergovernmental organization

NGO – Non-governmental organization

UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Further information

International climate policy