The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change.
Over a decade ago, most countries joined an international treaty – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable.
It recognizes that the climate system is a shared resource whose stability can be affected by industrial and other emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The Convention enjoys near universal membership, with 192 countries having ratified.
Under the Convention, Governments:
- gather and share information on greenhouse gas emissions, national policies and best practices
- launch national strategies for addressing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to expected impacts , including the provision of financial and technological support to developing countries
- cooperate in preparing for adaptation to the impacts of climate change
The Convention entered into force on 21 March 1994.
More recently, a number of nations have approved an addition to the treaty: the Kyoto Protocol, which has more powerful (and legally binding) measures. The UNFCCC secretariat supports all institutions involved in the climate change process, particularly the Conference of Parties (COP), the subsidiary bodies and their Bureau.
The Conference of the Parties (CoP) is the "supreme body" of the Convention; it is the highest decision-making authority. It is an association of all the countries that are Parties to the Convention. The CoP meets every year, unless the Parties decide otherwise.
The Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) is the "supreme body" of the Kyoto Protocol. It is an association of those Parties to the Convention that have also ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The CMP meets every year during the same period as the CoP.
The Convention established two permanent subsidiary bodies:
- The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and
- The Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).
These bodies give advice to the CoP and the CMP, and each has a specific mandate. The SBSTA and the SBI traditionally meet in parallel, at least twice a year.
Workshops on specific issues are organized throughout the year.
Parties to the convention
The Convention divides countries into three main groups according to differing commitments
Annex I parties include the industrialized countries that were members of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) in 1992, plus countries with economies in transition (the EIT Parties), including the Russian Federation, the Baltic States, and several Central and Eastern European States.
Annex II parties consist of the OECD members of Annex I, but not the EIT Parties. They are required to provide financial resources to enable developing countries to undertake emissions reduction activities under the Convention and to help them adapt to adverse effects of climate change. In addition, they have to "take all practicable steps" to promote the development and transfer of environmentally friendly technologies to EIT parties and developing countries. Funding provided by
Annex II parties is channeled mostly through the Convention's financial mechanism.
Non-Annex I parties are mostly developing countries. Certain groups of developing countries are recognized by the Convention as being especially vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, including countries with low-lying coastal areas and those prone to desertification and drought. Others (such as countries that rely heavily on income from fossil fuel production and commerce) feel more vulnerable to the potential economic impacts of climate change response measures. The Convention emphasizes activities that promise to answer the special needs and concerns of these vulnerable countries, such as investment, insurance and technology transfer
The 48 parties, classified as least developed countries (LDCs) by the United Nations, are given special consideration under the Convention on account of their limited capacity to respond to climate change and adapt to its adverse effects. Parties are urged to take full account of the special situation of LDCs when considering funding and technology-transfer activities.
Several categories of observer organizations attend sessions of the Conference of Parties (COP) and its subsidiary bodies.
These include representatives of United Nations secretariat units and bodies, such as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), as well as its specialized agencies and related organizations, such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO)/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Observer organizations also include Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs), such as the OECD and its International Energy Agency (IEA), along with Non–Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
Since COP 11 and CMP 1, over 750 NGOs and 56 IGOs are admitted as observers. The NGOs represent a broad spectrum of interests, and embrace representatives from business and industry, environmental groups, indigenous populations, local governments and municipal authorities, research and academic institutes, parliaments, labour unions, faith groups, women and youth. Constituency groupings have emerged to facilitate interaction.
National reports - Contents and timetable
Parties to the Convention must submit national reports on implementation of the Convention to the Conference of the Parties (COP). The required contents of national communications and the timetable for their submission are different for Annex I and non-Annex I Parties. This is in accordance with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" enshrined in the Convention.
The core elements of the national communications for both Annex I and non-Annex I Parties are information on emissions and removals of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and details of the activities a Party has undertaken to implement the Convention. National communications usually contain information on national circumstances, vulnerability assessment, financial resources and transfer of technology, and education, training and public awareness; but the ones from Annex I Parties additionally contain information on policies and measures.
Annex I Parties that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol must include supplementary information in their national communications and their annual inventories of emissions and removals of GHGs to demonstrate compliance with the Protocol's commitments.
They are required to submit information on their national inventories annually, and to submit national communications periodically, according to dates set by the COP. There are no fixed dates for the submission of national communications of non-Annex I Parties, although these documents should be submitted within four years of the initial disbursement of financial resources to assist them in preparing their national communications.
- Official site of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
- For the essential background, click here
- For the UNFCCC Wiki link, click here
- The official website of the Department of climate Change, Government of Australia. It also has Australia's obligations under the UNFCCC - Click here
- Official websites of UNFCCC and also to the COP held until now. Also provides the list of countries who are party to the UNFCCC.
- Bonn Climate Change Conference - April 2013 - Click here