In 1992, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were, by then, inevitable.
By 1995, countries realized that emission reductions provisions in the Convention were inadequate. They launched negotiations to strengthen the global response to climate change, and, two years later, adopted the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol legally binds developed countries to emission reduction targets. The Protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. The second commitment period began on 1 January 2013 and will end in 2020.
There are now 195 Parties to the Convention and 191 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The UNFCCC secretariat supports all institutions involved in the international climate change negotiations, particularly the Conference of the Parties (COP), the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties (CMP), the subsidiary bodies (which advise the COP/CMP), and the COP/CMP Bureau (which deals mainly with procedural and organizational issues arising from the COP/CMP and also has technical functions). For a brief depiction of how these various bodies are related to one another, please see Bodies.
Making a contribution to sustainable development through support for action to mitigate and to adapt to climate change at the global, regional and national level.
Providing high-quality support to the intergovernmental process in the context of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol.
Creating and maintaining necessary conditions for an early, effective and efficient implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.
Providing and disseminating high-quality, understandable and reliable information and data on climate change and on efforts to address it.
Promoting and enhancing the active engagement of NGOs, business and industry, the scientific community and other relevant stakeholders in our work and processes, including through effective communication.
Creating and maintaining a caring working environment that is conducive to self-actualization of staff, information sharing and teamwork and allows the delivery of the highest quality products.
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 (Organisation 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 channelled 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 49 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.
The COP is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention. All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP, at which they review the implementation of the Convention and any other legal instruments that the COP adopts and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the Convention, including institutional and administrative arrangements.
A key task for the COP is to review the national communications and emission inventories submitted by Parties. Based on this information, the COP assesses the effects of the measures taken by Parties and the progress made in achieving the ultimate objective of the Convention.
The COP meets every year, unless the Parties decide otherwise. The first COP meeting was held in Berlin, Germany in March, 1995. The COP meets in Bonn, the seat of the secretariat, unless a Party offers to host the session. Just as the COP Presidency rotates among the five recognized UN regions - that is, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe and Western Europe and Others – there is a tendency for the venue of the COP to also shift among these groups