UNFCCC

In response to the ongoing climate crisis, governments and political figures across the globe must work together to consider the political solutions required to protect our environment. With the rapidly rising issue of the environment, it has become apparent to world leaders that a collective effort is required for the sake of humanity, which has led to the annual world collaboration at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

UNFCCC UNFCCC

Create learning materials about UNFCCC with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Table of contents

    You may find yourself pondering, What is the UNFCCC? How do they help the environment? Do they help the environment? What countries are involved? These are all questions we will answer in this explanation as we explore the along the key organisational structure, the Paris and Kyoto Agreements, the Conference of the Parties and political actions taken by the UNFCCC.

    UNFCCC meaning

    The Earth Conference in 1992, established the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change headquartered in Bonn, Germany, which then came into force on the 21st March 1994 and has been ratified by 197 countries. The treaty was established to call for ongoing research, meetings and negotiations between different states to maintain the average temperature of the Earth, protect biodiversity and ensure the growth of the world was sustainable.

    UNFCCC

    This acronym stands for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is an environmental treaty states that it works to address the "dangerous human interference with the climate system".1

    In addition to the above, all the countries that have signed have agreed to share their sources of carbon omission and the ways it can be absorbed to form a national inventory. This means that each country submits their national carbon emissions which shows how much carbon they produce and uses these statistics policies to tackle the increasing amount of global carbon emissions.

    Although the secretariat works to help sustainability, a growing concern lies with the institution not having accounted for developing countries who will tend to need to increase their carbon emissions to accelerate their economy. For countries that are still economically developing, it is expected that their production of carbon emissions will increase with the development of standards and services, however, the UNFCCC policies do not include provisions for developing countries and instead treat every country the same.

    Climate policy

    A climate policy tends to set out specific targets on how climate change can be reversed. As we know, the UNFCCC came together to create some collective policies to tackle climate change and two of their most significant pieces of climate policy are the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.

    UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol

    UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol StudySmarterKyoto Protocol Country Targets, Wikimedia Commons

    The Kyoto Protocol was enforced from 16th February 2005 after a long period of ratification. The protocol was signed by 192 countries and set out an agreement for individual countries to meet certain emission limits. However, these limits were placed solely on developed countries and developing countries like India were able to continue increasing their carbon emissions. According to the UNFCCC, forming these targets led to a reduction in emissions by 5% from 2008 to 2012.2

    In the above picture we can identify three different categories:

    • Green: Countries that are fully committed to the protocol. These tend to be developed countries

    • Yellow: Countries that are partially committed but have some leeway due to the fact that they are still developing

    • Red: Countries that did not sign up to the protocol

    The emission targets were monitored in the following ways:

    1. Registry systems: The countries must record all transactions which the establishments monitor internationally to ensure all protocol is being followed

    2. Reporting: All countries submit their emissions annually and national reports at regular intervals

    3. Compliance: This system established that all countries are following their commitments, and if they are not can seek assistance

    4. Adaption: Assisting countries in adapting to the effects of climate change and also helps innovate technology to increase flexibility to climate change

    There is an adaption fund which can assist in financing projects and programmes in developing countries that have signed up to the Kyoto protocol

    During COP18 in Doha, Qatar The Doha Amendment was added to start from 2013-2020 in addition to the Kyoto protocol. However, this only came into force on the 31st of December 2020.

    UNFCCC Paris Agreement

    The Paris Agreement was enforced from 4th November 2016 and established in COP21 which took place in Paris. It came to be a landmark agreement whereby 196 countries agreed to work collectively to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, with the intention of returning to pre-industrial levels of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The ultimate goal was to reach this by 2050 to stop the worsening of the environment.

    In addition, the Paris Agreement is known to be legally binding, although there are various arguments as to what the extent for it is. This can especially be seen in countries such as America, where treaties need to be passed by Congress and not just an Executive Order by the President, which is what happened in this case by President Barak Obama, and also the reason why President Trump was able to withdraw the US from the agreement after he was elected.

    It is important to note this agreement is not legally binding unless specific countries pass it into their own law.

    The UK introduced Climate Change Act legislation in 2008, which contains targets that they themselves have to achieve, these usually coincide with agreements like the Paris Agreement. This is only legally binding for the UK.

    As the issue of climate change is rising and evidence is seen in day-to-day life, ordinary people have an increasing understanding of what can happen if their way of life has not changed which has increased pressure on governments, to introduce more policies to protect the Earth. So forming agreements not only helps the planet but also makes the electorate happy.

    So how does it work?

    The countries each submit plans called nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which express how they intend to reduce carbon emissions and how they will innovate to increase flexibility to climate change over a period of 5 years. The progress is then tracked via the enhanced transparency framework (ETF). In addition to this, a platform has been created where countries are able to help each other; this may be through finance, technology and capacity building.

    Conference of the Parties (COP)

    The Conference of the Parties is an annual conference held by a host country to discuss climate change, sustainability and evaluating and maintaining the Paris Agreement and Kyoto Protocol, we will explore two of the most significant recent conferences, COP23 and COP26.

    UNFCCC COP23 Decisions

    COP23 was held at the headquarters of the UNFCCC, Bonn, Germany in 2017. The most significant decisions that were made were based on the Paris Agreement and establishing a ‘rulebook’ by COP24. The Talanoa Dialogue was also recognised to replace the Facilitative Dialogue, where countries were able to track their progress as well as increase their NDCs and the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a group of 30 countries (which has since increased) aimed to cut their use of coal as an energy source by 2030.

    Talanoa Dialogue: a process which was designed to help countries achieve and implement their NDC's by 2020.

    Facilitative Dialogue: a process which was designed to help countries achieve and implement their NDC's from 2018 to achieve their goals set out in the Paris agreement

    UNFCCC COP26

    COP26 logo, UNFCCC, StudySmarterCOPS26 logo, UK Government, OGL v3.0, Wikimedia Commons

    COP26 was held in Scotland, United Kingdom in 2021. A major decision was agreeing on the Glasgow Climate Pact which reiterated the goals of the Paris Agreement but also added the goal of ‘phasing down’ the use of coal in energy production, which was the first time it has been explicitly mentioned in any conference agreement, although it did signify to make it a net-zero emission rather not using it at all.

    Other important goals include car manufacturers pledging to reduce emissions to zero by 2040 and over 100 countries pledging to reverse deforestation. It is important to note, that as we get closer to 2050 when many countries have pledged to become net-zero we have seen an increase in awareness.

    The United Kingdom published the ‘Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener’,

    which lays out 10 key strategies for a green industrial revolution and to build back the economy in a ‘greener’ way as we emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic.

    UNFCCC Achievements

    We can see from the Climate Action Tracker, a research organisation that tracks climate change, that the goals of the Paris Agreement have not been completely met, but they are on the way.3 More countries have pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions and developments such as electric and hybrid cars, some countries abolishing the sales of fossil fuel cars by 2030 and increasing funding in sustainable energy, have committed the dedication of the world to work cohesively to reduce climate change.

    In November 2021, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa explored four key achievements made in COP26:4

    1. Adaptation: The UN now recognise that adaptation is as important as reducing emissions and a new programme has been created to assist with this, this will help assess climate impacts around the world including any losses and damages.

    2. Finance: There have been widespread agreements on increasing finance to help developing countries, whilst also recognising that developed countries have not reached their financial contribution goals from the Paris Agreement and that this needs to be developed as a matter of urgency.

    3. Bringing emissions down: The UN recognises that current methods to reduce emissions are working and renewable energy is becoming cheaper, but governments need to carry on pushing policies in regards to reducing emissions.

    4. Finalising guidelines: Guidelines in the Paris Agreement have been finalised between all parties, ensuring it is fair for all those involved.

    UNFCCC - Key Takeaways

    • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change came into force on the 21st of March 1994 and is headquartered in Bonn, Germany.
    • The treaty was established to call for ongoing research, meetings and negotiations between different states to maintain the average temperature of the Earth, protect biodiversity and ensure the growth of the world was sustainable.
    • The Kyoto Protocol was enforced from 16th February 2005 and set out an agreement for individual countries to meet certain emission limits.
    • The Paris Agreement was enforced from 4th November 2016 and established in COP21 which took place in Paris.
    • It came to be a landmark agreement whereby 196 countries agreed to work collectively to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, with the intention of returning to pre-industrial levels of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
    • The Conference of the Parties is an annual conference held by a host country to discuss climate change, sustainability and evaluating and maintaining the Paris Agreement and Kyoto Protocol.

    References

    1. UNFCCC, The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
    2. UNFCCC, What is the Kyoto Protocol?
    3. Home, Climate Action Tracker, March 2020.
    4. 4 Key Achievements of COP26, United Nations Climate Change, 2021.
    Frequently Asked Questions about UNFCCC

    Is the UNFCCC legally binding? 

    Treaties and agreements made via the UNFCCC are only legally binding if specific countries pass it into their own law. 

    What does UNFCCC stand for? 

    United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

    How many countries are in the UNFCCC? 

    There are 197 countries 

    What does the UNFCCC do? 

    The treaty was established to call for ongoing research, meetings and negotiations between different states to maintain the average temperature of the Earth, protect biodiversity and ensure the growth of the world was sustainable.

    When was the UNFCCC established?

    It was established at the Earth Conference in 1992 and then came into force on the 21st March 1994.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    When did the Kyoto Protocol come into force?

    When did the Paris Agreement come into force?

    What is the main goal of the Paris Agreement?

    Next

    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team UNFCCC Teachers

    • 10 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App