UNFCCC stands for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is the most important 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 for all of the UN’s work to fight climate change. In other words, it is the foundation of all the UN efforts to halt emissions. Within the agreement are 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.
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, as they stand for largest part of GHG emissions. More so, most the world’s large economies have grown expansively thanks to the extraction of fossil fuels, an activity that releases GHGs. The industrialised nations are called “Annex I” countries. Although this 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 protocol 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.
As mentioned, the abbreviation UNFCCC also refers to the secretariat in Bonn. For example, this secretariat is responsible for organising the COP meetings. These meetings are yearly climate meetings for all the member countries (although COP can refer to other country meetings as well). The secretariat also handles the climate reports of all 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.