United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC

The first Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change in 1990 did not have the certainty of the more recent 2007 report. It produced compelling, but by no means conclusive, evidence that greenhouse gases produced by human activity are having an impact upon global climate. The report had been preceded by a meeting of governments in Toronto in 1988, where they committed to stabilizing carbon dioxide by 2000 on 1990 levels and further reducing CO2 by 20 per cent, by 2005, on 1990 levels. There had been some hope that the 1992 convention would therefore be more than a framework convention and would, in fact, have targets. The omission of targets may be looked at by future generations as a severe lack of political leadership - one of the most severe shown by that generation of politicians.

The successful agreement of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 can probably be traced back to the United Nations Special Session of the General Assembly (UNGASS) to Review and Appraise the Implementation of Agenda 21. The meeting played out as an informal discussion place for many heads of state prior to Kyoto that enabled the protocol to be negotiated.

There is clearly confusion on what issues the UNFCCC should take up and what should be left to others. It's not clear to many how the jigsaw of climate change institutions should come together. The role of the UNFCCC is to:

• coordinate information-sharing about mitigation and adaptation for parties of the UNFCCC;

• support the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Executive Board and Joint Implementation Supervisory Committee (JISC);

• coordinate the Technology-Transfer Clearing House;

• run the Climate Change Information Network;

• support the work of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), which develops recommendations to assist the Conference of the Parties (COP) in reviewing and assessing implementation of the convention and the Kyoto Protocol;

• support the work of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), which advises on technical and scientific aspects of the UNFCCC's work.

So the UNFCCC ensures the space for governments to set targets and agree activities, and acts as a knowledge management hub.

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