The gap between the internationally agreed climate objectives and tangible emissions reductions looms large. The authors explore how the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Conference of the Parties (COP), could develop to promote more effective climate policy.

The authors argue that promoting implementation of climate action could benefit from focusing more on individual sectoral systems, particularly for mitigation. They consider five key governance functions of international institutions to discuss how the COP and the sessions it convenes could advance implementation of the Paris Agreement: guidance and signal, rules and standards, transparency and accountability, means of implementation, and knowledge and learning.

In addition, the authors consider the role of the COP and its sessions as mega-events of global climate policy. They identify opportunities for promoting sectoral climate action across all five governance functions and for both the COP as a formal body and the COP sessions as conducive events.

Harnessing these opportunities would require stronger involvement of national ministries in addition to the ministries of foreign affairs and environment that traditionally run the COP process. It also would require stronger involvement of non-Party stakeholders within formal COP processes.