A subtle initiation

While the inaugural COP1 in 1995 marked a promising start with the establishment of the ‘Berlin Mandate’, persistent disparities among nations signalled challenges ahead for future conferences

A subtle initiation

The first COP was held in Berlin from March 28 to April 7, 1995. The first COP was mostly about administrative and organisational matters and putting in place the various processes of conducting meetings.

The First COP

Before the first COP, there were eleven meetings of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change (INC). The INC meetings discussed various procedural and administrative matters as well as conceptual issues such as measurement of emissions, oceans and/or forests as sinks for absorbing greenhouses etc. The final session of INC, which was the eleventh session, was held in New York in February 1995, where the following matters were discussed: the preparations for COP1, the location of the Permanent Secretariat, rules of procedure for COPs, commitments of members, financial mechanisms and technical and financial support to developing countries.

The COP1 began its work under the new President, Angela Merkel, who was the German Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety at the time. Delegates from 117 Parties and 53 observer states participated in the first COP. Apart from organisational issues such as ratification procedures, Rules of Procedure and election of officers. The president also laid out how COP1 would be organised; there would be an initial negotiating segment followed by a Ministerial meet at the end. There would also be a Committee of the Whole (COW), which would discuss various issues and present them to the COP for further discussion and a final decision. It also agreed on ‘Activities Implemented Jointly’, which were the first multilaterally agreed measures for collective action on global climate issues. Some other issues decided were the location of the permanent secretariat at Bonn, budget of the Secretariat and financial procedures. There was, however, no consensus on Rules of Procedure and voting rules, which were deferred to the next COP.

It must be remembered that COP1 got together a number of countries at different stages of development and having very different climate priorities. The central issue before members was ‘adequacy of commitments’ and what action could be taken jointly, which would extend for the period beyond the year 2000. On the whole, the COP1 was able to make an encouraging beginning, and came to be known for the ‘Berlin Mandate’ which was basically the precursor to the Kyoto Protocol. The mandate laid out the rules for legally binding emission reduction targets.

The COP1 also put in place various subsidiary bodies such as the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), which would provide technical advice. An Ad Hoc Group on Article 13 (or AG-13) was also set up, which was basically about implementation issues. It was also agreed that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) would be the financial mechanism for the convention.

How did COP1 fare?

The very coming together of more than 100 countries to discuss climate change and global warming issues, and set emission targets and rules of the game, was in itself a remarkable achievement. That said, COP1 could make only modest progress. Even though there was a lot of discussion on emission targets and ‘adequacy of targets’, no concrete targets could be agreed on. The rules of procedure and voting rules also could not be agreed upon. The main reason for this was the feeling among developing countries that they were being asked to make unreasonably high commitments and the targets being considered by developed countries were just not enough. Developing countries made two main points: there should be common but differentiated responsibility and this should be based on a clear recognition of historical responsibility. In other words, equity concerns should be addressed and developed and developing countries should make different commitments based on equity, past emissions already made by developed countries and the future development needs of developing countries.

Financial commitments were another area of differences between developed and developing countries. While the GEF was agreed as a financial mechanism for the Conference, there was no agreement on where the finances were going to come from. While developed countries agreed to contribute to the GEF, there was no clear roadmap, timelines or quantum of funds to be deployed.


The COP1 had made a modest beginning, but clearly, there was a long way to go. The highlight of COP1 was the‘Berlin Mandate’, which laid the foundations for the Kyoto Protocol. On the other hand, differences between developing and developed countries on the emissions reduction commitments as well as financial commitments remained the main sticking points, which would have to be addressed in future conferences.

The writer is Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Mass Education Extension and Library Services and Department of Cooperation, Government of West Bengal

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