THE united nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC) is an international environmental treaty produced at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The treaty set the goal of reducing emissions of greenhouse gas in order to combat global warming.
The original framework of the treaty did not set mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual nations and contained no enforcement provisions; it is therefore considered legally non-binding. Rather, the UNFCCC stated that mandatory emission limits would be established by further "protocols" that would serve as updates of the con vention. The principal update is the Kyoto Protocol which, since its enforcement in 1997, has become more frequently referred to than the framework convention itself. While the FCCC was ratified by the U.S. Senate and signed by President George W. Bush in October 1992, neither the Bill Clinton administration nor the Bush administration sent the protocol to Congress for ratification. The Bush administration explicitly rejected the protocol in 2001. The Kyoto Protocol legally binds signatories to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of an average of 6-8 percent below 1990 levels between the years 2008-12, defined as the first emissions budget period. Under the Protocol, the United States would be required to reduce its total emissions an average of 7 percent below 1990 levels.
The FCCC was adopted at the United Nations Headquarters, New York on May 9, 1992. It was open for signature at the Rio de Janeiro from June 4-12,
1992. and thereafter at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, from June 20, 1992 to June 19,
1993. By that date, the Convention had received 166 signatures. The Convention took effect on March 21,
1994. Those States that have not signed the Convention may accede to it at any time. Its stated objective is "to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a low enough level to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." Signatories of the UNFCCC must submit a national greenhouse inventory, an accounting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals. The Convention on Climate Change sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. It recognizes that the climate system is a global and shared resource and that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases can have a deep impact on its stability. The FCCC enjoys near universal membership, with 191 countries having ratified. Through the FCCC, governments are committed to gather and share information on greenhouse gas emissions, national policies, and best practices; devise national strategies for addressing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to expected impacts; provide financial and technological support to developing countries so that they can face the challenges of climate change; and cooperate in preparing for adaptation to the impacts of climate change.
The FCCC divides its member countries into three main groups according to differing commitments. Annex I Parties include the industrialized countries that were members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1992. In addition, countries with economies in transition (the EIT Parties), including the Russian Federation, the Baltic States, and several Central and Eastern European States, are included in this group. Annex II Parties consist of the OECD members of Annex I, but not the EIT Parties. The FCCC requires them to provide financial resources to developing countries to organize emissions reduction activities and to adapt to adverse effects of climate change. In addition, Annex II Parties have to promote the transfer of environmentally-friendly technologies to EIT Parties and developing countries. Funding provided by Annex II Parties is directed mostly through the FCCC's financial mechanism.
Finally, non-Annex I Parties are, for the most part, developing countries. Certain groups of developing countries are recognized by the FCCC as espe cially vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, including countries with low-lying coastal areas and those affected by processes of desertification and drought. Other countries in this group have economies that rely heavily on income from fossil fuel production and commerce. These are thus recognized as particularly vulnerable to the potential economic impacts of climate change response measures. Through investment, insurance, and technology transfer, the FCCC stresses the importance of activities that will answer the special needs and concerns of these vulnerable parties. The 48 Parties, classified as least-developed countries (LDCs) by the United Nations, are given special attention under the FCCC 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 this group of countries when considering funding and technology-transfer activities.
Several categories of observer organizations also attend sessions of the Conference of Parties and its subsidiary bodies. These include representatives of United Nations secretariat units and bodies, such as United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), as well as its specialized agencies and related organizations, such as the Global Environmental Facility and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Observer organizations also include intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), such as the OECD and its International Energy Agency (IEA), along with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Since the 11th Conference of Parties, over 750 NGOs and 56 IGOs are admitted as observers. The NGOs represent a broad spectrum of interests, and embrace representatives from business and industry, environmental groups, indigenous populations, local governments and municipal authorities, research and academic institutes, parliaments, labor unions, religious groups, women, and youth.
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