COP UC Delegation FAQs

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the University of California observer organization accredited to participate in events hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):

What is the University of California observer organization?  

The UNFCCC admits several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) representing local governments, businesses, Indigenous peoples, and other entities as observer organizations to its meetings. At present, more than 3,000 entities are admitted as observer organizations. The University of California is in an NGO constituency known as RINGO, for Research and Independent Non-Governmental Organizations. Read here for more information.

When was the observer organization created and why is it based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego?

Officials at Scripps Institution of Oceanography submitted the original application to represent the University of California as an observer organization in 1998. The NGO was originally known as the UC Revelle Program on Climate Science and Policy. To this day, Scripps Oceanography administers the NGO, and the director of Scripps Oceanography, presently Margaret Leinen, serves as the head of the NGO. 

What types of UNFCCC events can I attend? 

Far and away, the most well-known and largest UNFCCC event is known as the Conference of the Parties (COP), a two-week negotiation session usually held in fall or early winter. There, delegations representing countries and groups of countries (the parties) seek accord on international climate change actions.

There are, however, other UNFCCC intersessional meetings held throughout the year that deal with specific topics or that are hosted by subgroups known as Subsidiary Bodies. There is more information on upcoming events on the UNFCCC website. The RINGO constituency can also facilitate participation by University of California delegates in other UNFCCC events. Read here for more information. 

What factors determine whom from the University of California is selected to attend UNFCCC events?

Within the UC system, demand for COP accreditations is high every year but the UNFCCC Secretariat typically only offers a limited number according to the capacity constraints of COP venues. 

The UNFCCC allows observer organizations to “split” accreditations so that some delegates can receive accreditation for the first week of a COP event and others for the second week. This enables organizations to increase the number of participants they can accommodate. 

We seek to ensure fair distribution of accreditation badges throughout the University of California system. Additionally we try to represent as diverse a range of research and draw participants from as many UC campuses as possible. 

How can accredited delegates participate in COPs?

The UNFCCC invites observer organizations to propose side events, which are 90-minute panel discussions held within COP venues. Observer organizations also organize physical or virtual exhibits through which delegates can promote their research or topics of interest as they interact with other COP attendees individually. 

Additionally, observer organizations can request to hold press conferences during COPs. More general information is available here. Note: all communications with the UNFCCC Press Office must come from the UC observer organization designated contact person. Delegates are advised not to contact the press office directly.

Individual countries and private organizations also host pavilions within COP venues. Most pavilions host side events that take place during the two-week period during which COPs take place.

Can the observer organization cover my travel costs?

No. Each delegate is responsible for securing their own funds. In many cases, delegate travel is funded using research funds or through private donations.

 Who are the observer organization’s personnel?

The University of California observer organization is headed by Margaret Leinen, the director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. The organization's designated contact person is Robert Monroe, associate communications director at Scripps Oceanography. The organization can be contacted via email at

How can delegates share their participation in a COP event?

UC-affiliated delegates are invited to share their experiences at COP through a designated Twitter account (@UCatCOP). They can also contribute content to other social media channels across the UC. Delegates also have opportunities to write first-hand stories or blog posts that would appear on this website and in affiliated campus newsletters.