Each year, the Conference of the Parties (COP) brings together representatives from more than 180 countries to agree ways to tackle the challenges posed by climate change.
Joined by observers from intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations as well as the media, attendees meet under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This is an international environmental treaty with the objective of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous man-made interference with the climate system.
The UNFCCC itself sets no mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms. Instead, the treaty provides updates (called "protocols") that would set mandatory emission limits. The Kyoto Protocol is probably the most recognised of these, becoming better known than the UNFCCC itself.
The 17th UNFCCC Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Durban in 2011, was a turning point in the climate change negotiations. Here, governments recognised the need to draw up the blueprint for a fresh universal, legal agreement to deal with climate change beyond 2020.
Parties to the convention have met annually since 1995 to assess progress in meeting the UNFCCC's objective. This year the 20th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP 20) is being held in Lima, Peru from 1 to 12 December.
Last updated: 1 December 2014