The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC) is an international environmental treaty produced at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. The treaty is aimed at stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
The treaty as originally framed set no mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual nations and contained no enforcement provisions; it is therefore considered legally non-binding. Rather, the treaty included provisions for updates (called "protocols") that would set mandatory emission limits. The principal update is the Kyoto Protocol, which has become much better known than the UNFCCC itself.
The FCCC was opened for signature on May 9 1992 after an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee produced the text of the Framework Convention as a report following its meeting in New York from 30 April to 9 May 1992. It entered into force on March 21 1994. Its stated objective is "'to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a low enough level to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system'.
One of its first achievements was to establish a national greenhouse gas inventory, as a count of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals. Accounts must be regularly submitted by signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The UNFCCC is also the name of the United Nations Secretariat charged with supporting the operation of the Convention, with offices in Haus Carstanjen, Bonn, Germany. Since 2006 the head of the secretariat has been Yvo de Boer. The secretariat, augmented through the parallel efforts of the IPCC, aims to gain consensus through meetings and the discussion of various strategies.
Signatories to the UNFCCC are split into three groups:
Annex I countries agree to reduce their emissions (particularly carbon dioxide) to target levels below their 1990 emissions levels. If they cannot do so, they must buy emission credits or invest in conservation. Annex II countries, that have to provide financial resources for the developing countries, are a sub-group of the annex I countries consisting of the OECD members, without those that were with transition economy in 1992.
Developing countries have no immediate restrictions under the UNFCCC. This serves three purposes:
Developing countries may volunteer to become Annex I countries when they are sufficiently developed.
Developing countries are not expected to implement their commitments under the Convention unless developed countries supply enough funding and technology, and this has lower priority than economic and social development and dealing with poverty.
Some opponents of the Convention argue that the split between Annex I and developing countries is unfair, and that both developing countries and developed countries need to reduce their emissions. Some countries claim that their costs of following the Convention requirements will stress their economy. These were some of the reasons given by George W. Bush, President of the United States, for, as his predecessor Bill Clinton did, not forwarding the signed Kyoto Protocol to the United States Senate.
(40 countries and separately the European Union)
Annex II countries (developed countries which pay for costs of developing countries)
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was opened for signature at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) conference in Rio de Janeiro (known by its popular title, the Earth Summit). On June 12, 1992, 154 nations signed the UNFCCC, that upon ratification committed signatories' governments to a voluntary "non-binding aim" to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases with the goal of "preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with Earth's climate system." These actions were aimed primarily at industrialized countries, with the intention of stabilizing their emissions of greenhouse gases at 1990 levels by the year 2000; and other responsibilities would be incumbent upon all UNFCCC parties. The parties agreed in general that they would recognize "common but differentiated responsibilities," with greater responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the near term on the part of developed/industrialized countries, which were listed and identified in Annex I of the UNFCCC and thereafter referred to as "Annex I" countries.
On September 8, 1992, the US president George Bush transmitted the UNFCCC for advice and consent of the U.S. Senate to ratification. The Foreign Relations Committee approved the treaty and reported it (Senate Exec. Rept. 102-55) October 1, 1992. The Senate consented to ratification on October 7, 1992, with a two-thirds majority vote. President Bush signed the instrument of ratification October 13, 1992, and deposited it with the U.N. Secretary General.
According to terms of the UNFCCC, having received over 50 countries' instruments of ratification, it entered into force March 21, 1994. Since the UNFCCC entered into force, the parties have been meeting annually in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change, and beginning in the mid-1990s, to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol to establish legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
The UNFCCC Conference of Parties met for the first time in Berlin, Germany in the spring of 1995, and voiced concerns about the adequacy of countries' abilities to meet commitments under the Convention. These were expressed in a U.N. ministerial declaration known as the "Berlin Mandate", which established a 2-year Analytical and Assessment Phase (AAP), to negotiate a "comprehensive menu of actions" for countries to pick from and choose future options to address climate change which for them, individually, made the best economic and environmental sense. The Berlin Mandate exempted non-Annex I countries from additional binding obligations, in keeping with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" established in the UNFCCC even though, collectively, the larger, newly industrializing countries were expected to be the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions 15 years hence.
The Second Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (COP-2) met in July 1996 in Geneva, Switzerland. Its Ministerial Declaration was adopted July 18, 1996, and reflected a U.S. position statement presented by Timothy Wirth, former Under Secretary for Global Affairs for the U.S. State Department at that meeting, which
The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted by COP-3, in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, after intensive negotiations. Most industrialized nations and some central European economies in transition (all defined as Annex B countries) agreed to legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of an average of 6 to 8% below 1990 levels between the years 2008-2012, defined as the first emissions budget period. The United States would be required to reduce its total emissions an average of 7% below 1990 levels, however neither the Clinton administration nor the Bush administration sent the protocol to Congress for ratification. The Bush administration explicitly rejected the protocol in 2001.
COP-4 took place in Buenos Aires in November 1998. It had been expected that the remaining issues unresolved in Kyoto would be finalized at this meeting. However, the complexity and difficulty of finding agreement on these issues proved insurmountable, and instead the parties adopted a 2-year "Plan of Action" to advance efforts and to devise mechanisms for implementing the Kyoto Protocol, to be completed by 2000.
The 5th Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change met in Bonn, Germany, between October 25 and November 5, 1999. It was primarily a technical meeting, and did not reach major conclusions.
A number of operational details attendant upon these decisions remained to be negotiated and agreed upon, and these were the major issues of the COP-7 meeting that followed.
The main decisions at COP-7 included:
The United Nations Climate Change Convention (COP 11 or COP/MOP 1) was a global event which took place at the Palais des congrès de Montréal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada from November 28 to December 9, 2005.
The meeting, the 11th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was also the first Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the Kyoto Protocol since their initial meeting in Kyoto in 1997. It was therefore one of the largest intergovernmental conferences on climate change ever. The event marked the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol.
Hosting more than 10,000 delegates, it was one of Canada's largest international events ever and the largest gathering in Montreal since Expo 67.
The Montreal Action Plan is an agreement hammered out at the end of the conference to "extend the life of the Kyoto Protocol beyond its 2012 expiration date and negotiate deeper cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions."
See also COP 11 pages at the UNFCCC.
COP-13 and MOP-3 took place at Nusa Dua, in Bali, Indonesia, between December 3 and December 15, 2007. Agreement on a timelined negotiation on the post 2012 framework (a successor to the Kyoto Protocol) was achieved. These negotiations will take place during 2008 (leading to COP-14 and MOP-4 in Poznan, Poland)and 2009 (leading to COP-15 and MOP-5 in Copenhagen).
The overall goal for the COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference hosted by Denmark is to establish an ambitious global climate agreement for the period from 2012 when the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol expires.
It is expected that ministers and officials from 189 countries will take part. In addition, there will be participants from a large number of organisations.