United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

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The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) considers what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with inevitable temperature increases. 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 the institutions involved in the climate change process, particularly the Convention of the Parties (COP), the subsidiary bodies and their Bureau.


Introduction

The Convention on Climate Change sets an framework for intergovernmental efforts to respond to climate change. 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. 189 countries have ratified the Convention, which entered into force on 21 March 1994.

Under the Convention, governments, collect 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; and cooperate in preparing for adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

Kyoto Protocol

The 1997 [Kyoto Protocol|Kyoto Protocol] shares the Convention’s objective, principles and institutions, but strengthens the Convention by committing Annex I Parties to individual, legally-binding targets to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and provides economic and market mechanisms to assist in those reductions. Only Parties to the Convention that have also become Parties to the Protocol (i.e by ratifying, accepting, approving, or acceding to it) are bound by the Protocol’s commitments. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at COP 3 in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 , 171 countries have ratified it, and it entered into force on 16 February 2005.

35 countries and the European Economic Community (EEC) are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below levels specified for each of them in the treaty. The individual targets for Annex I Parties are listed in the Kyoto Protocol’s Annex B. These add up to a total cut in greenhouse-gas emissions of at least 5% from 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008-2012.

The complexity of the negotiations meant there was unfinished matters even after the Kyoto Protocol itself was adopted. The Protocol provided the basic structures of its mechanisms and compliance system, but did not explain how the rules would operate. Although 84 countries signed the Protocol, indicating that they intended to ratify, many were reluctant to ratify and bring the Protocol into force before having a clearer picture of the treaty’s rulebook.

A new round of negotiations occurred for the Kyoto Protocol’s rulebook, in parallel with negotiations on ongoing issues under the Convention. This round finally culminated at COP 7 with the adoption of the Marrakesh Accords, which set out detailed rules for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol up to 2012.

Further Negotiations for the post-2012 period

The third session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG) will be held from 14-18 May. The third workshop under the Dialogue on long-term cooperative action to address climate change by enhancing implementation of the Convention took place from 16-17 May 2007, and deals with the period after 2012.

Bali Conference

United Nations Climate Change Conference - Bali, 3 - 14 December 2007 hosted by the Government of Indonesia, brings together representatives of over 180 countries together with observers from intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, and the media. The two week period includes the sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, its subsidiary bodies as well as the Meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol. A ministerial segment in the second week will conclude the Conference.

At the thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC and the third Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Bali, the focus needs to be on reaching international agreement on concrete steps to be taken in view of a framework to follow the end of the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period in 2012.

It is hoped that the Bali conference will be the culmination of a momentous twelve months in the climate debate and a breakthrough in the form of a roadmap for a future climate change deal. Early in the year, scientific evidence of global warming, as set out in the fourth assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), indicated that need to address an environmental problem, with much wider implications for economic growth, water and food security, and for people's survival - especially those living in the poorest communities in developing countries.

An international agreement needs to be found to follow the end of the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period, which ends in 2012. In order to avoid a gap between then and the entry into force of a new framework, the aim is to conclude a new deal by 2009 to allow enough time for ratification. The “Bali roadmap” could establish the process to work on the key building blocks of a future climate change regime, including adaptation, mitigation, technology cooperation and financing the response to climate change. But it would also need to set out the methodology and detailed calendar of work for this process.

According to the UNFCC, there is some reason for optimism. A major step forward was taken at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm in June, where the G8 leaders agreed to negotiate a post-2012 deal within the United Nations framework, with the goal to have an agreement in place by 2009. Significantly, this was supported by the Group of 5 countries with emerging economies: China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. Climate change has been discussed at many other high-level meetings around the world this year, including the United Nations Security Council, the UN Economic and Social Council, the General Assembly Special Thematic Debate and the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting.

In September, the United Nations Secretary-General hosted an unprecedented High-Level Event on Climate Change in New York, attended by over 80 heads of state or government. This was an expression of the political will of world leaders at the highest level to tackle climate change through concerted action, and they gave a clear call for a breakthrough at the conference in Bali. It was followed by the Major Economies Meeting on Climate Change and Energy Security in Washington on 27 and 28 September, where the United States government clearly voiced its desire to contribute to the UNFCCC process.


References

Website for the UNFCC
Website for the Bali Conference [1]


The main author of this article is Magdalena Muir
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.