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UNFCCC stands for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is the main international agreement that targets climate change, founded in 1992. Today the abbreviation usually refers to the UN secretariat for climate change in Bonn. More so, UNFCCC is the framework of all of UNs work to fight climate change. In other words, it is the foundation of all the UN efforts to halt emissions. Within this agreement one can find both the Kyoto protocol and the Paris Agreement.

The history of UNFCCC

UNFCCC is a convention (agreement) from a world conference about climate and development. It took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The purpose of this meeting was to halt climate change. Or simply work against global warming caused by human activities. In other words, stop or reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. The convention entered into force in 1994. More so, in the following year, the UN opened a secretariat in Bonn, Germany. As of today, almost all of the nations in the world have signed the convention.


UNFCCC today

The 197 country members have agreed to accept policies that will mitigate climate change. Furthermore, the countries need to report their agendas and results on a reoccurring basis. However, the convention does not oblige nations to any concrete measurements. Thereby it is quite a loose agreement.

The climate convention states that industrialised countries are more responsible for climate change. This is logic since they are responsible for the largest part of the emissions. More so, most of the large economies of the world have built their fortune on fossil fuels. Hence greenhouse gas emissions. The industrialised nations are called “Annex I” countries. However, the group also includes some nations with “economies in transition”. Meaning that they are transitioning from a weak to a strong economy. The rest of the nations are called “Non-Annex I”.  Amongst other things, they are not asked to document their climate change efforts in the same way as the first group.

Additional Protocols to UNFCCC

To enforce the goals of UNFCCC, article 17 in the convention allows for additional protocols. Their function is to operationalise the stated purpose of UNFCCC. In other words, they are concrete actions or limitations for the member countries. The first one of these was the Kyoto Protocol, created in 1997.

The Kyoto Protocol established concrete and binding efforts to limit and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. These measures worked like individual targets for all the Annex I nations. 192 countries had signed the agreement when it entered into force in 2006. The Kyoto Protocol expired in 2020 and was replaced by the more ambitious Paris Agreement.

The secretariat

As mentioned, the abbreviation UNFCCC also refers to the secretariat in Bonn. For example, one of its tasks is to organise the COP-meetings. These are yearly climate meetings for all the member countries. Another example is that the secretariat handles the climate reports of all the nations. For instance, the UNFCCC secretariat takes care of the so called NDCs. These are the Nationally Determined Contributions of the Paris Agreement. Namely the national contributions that each nation agrees to, as a means to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.


Find out more at: UNFCCC


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