What is UNFCCC?
In 1992, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change. The treaty is a “Rio Convention” – one of three adopted at the “Earth Summit” held in Brazil in 1992. Its sister Rio Conventions are the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification.
By 1995, countries realized that emission reductions provisions in the UNFCCC were inadequate. They launched negotiations to strengthen the global response to climate change, and, two years later, adopted the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol legally binds developed countries to emission reduction targets. Its first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. The second commitment period began on 1 January 2013 and will end in 2020. Parties to the Convention are currently trying to hammer out a new international treaty that will be agreed to by the end of 2015.
The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. In 2010, governments agreed that emissions need to be reduced so that global temperature increases are limited to below 2 degrees Celsius.
Christiana Figueres, a national of Costa Rica, serves as Executive Secretary of the UNFCC. The Convention’s secretariat, located in Bonn, Germany, supports all institutions involved in the international climate change negotiations, including the Conference of the Parties (COP).
Currently, there are 196 Parties to the Convention and 192 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
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The effects of climate change are being felt around the world. From food crises to water scarcity, extreme weather to sea-level rise, climate change is adversely affecting human health and well-being. The world is just beginning to acknowledge these challenges. Shown, melting ice on Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon in Iceland, where the glacier has been receding due to rising temperatures. UN/E. Debebe
Governments have pledged to reach, by 2015, a universal legal climate agreement to limit global temperature rise to within 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, considered the upper limit of safety. But greenhouse gas levels are rising at an accelerated rate and the 2-degree threshold could be crossed by as soon as 2030. Above, smokestacks in China. World Bank/C. Carnemark
Much can be done to head off the advance of climate change and minimize its impact. This will require creative action and changes in the ways we live our lives. Shown, the city of Bizerte is one of seven Tunisian cities which recently committed to building resilience to disasters like flooding. Photo: Nabyl Baccar
The thirst for energy is one of the biggest challenges to mitigating climate change as populations and incomes grow. The current energy system relies heavily on fossil fuels which generate greenhouse gases and have a negative impact on our health. Above, a coal-fired power plant in Kosovo pumps ash into the air. World Bank/L. Aliu
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is key to slowing climate change. Once considered an "unrealistic" alternative, cleaner, renewable energies are becoming increasingly more competitive with fossil fuels. Pictured, Ain Beni Mathar integrated thermo-solar power plant in Morocco. World Bank/D. Smillie
Conventional agriculture is exacting a heavy toll on the environment, depleting the earth’s resources and producing significant amounts of greenhouse gases, the UN says. Climate-smart farming practices have the potential to boost farm yields and help reduce poverty while easing pressure on the ecosystem. Pictured, large-scale grain harvesting equipment in Uzbekistan. World Bank/A. Ilyasov
Reducing agricultural waste and inefficiency can go a long way toward protecting the environment, says the UN. Nearly 50 per cent of all food produced worldwide is lost while being grown, stored or marketed. Above, farmers sort tomatoes in Ethiopia. World Bank/S. Bachenheimer
Forests help regulate climate by storing carbon. They also protect our watersheds. But deforestation and forest degradation are threatening these invaluable resources at the rate of 32 million acres (13 million hectares) worldwide, a year. Shown, deforestation in Bhutan. World Bank/C. Carnemark
Investment in reforestation, and payments to landholders for conservation, could add value to the forest industry while increasing forest carbon storage, which is critical to mitigating the effects of climate change, the UN says. Pictured, in Haiti, school children restore a once-great pine forest that had been depleted to make room for farm land (2011). MINUSTAH/ L. Abassi UN
Manufacturing, too, is a contributor to climate change, responsible for 35 per cent of global electricity use and responsible for an estimated 20 percent of C02 emissions. Changing the way industries makes things could go a long way towards lessening their impact on the environment. Above, an industrial valve factory in Turkey. World Bank/S. McCourtie
Transport devours over half of the planet’s liquid fossil fuel, generates pollution and is responsible for about a quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. With the global vehicle fleet set to triple by 2050, according to the UN, investment in public transportation and vehicle efficiency could yield exceptional returns. Above, traffic congestion in Mexico. World Bank/C. Carnemark
To mobilize political will for climate action and lay the platform for a strong global climate agreement in 2015, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted a climate summit at UN Headquarters in September (2014) for leaders in government, finance, business and civil society. Here, a portable solar system outside a house in rural Mongolia. World Bank/D. Lawrence
To build momentum for the upcoming summit, a high-level meeting - dubbed the Abu Dhabi Ascent - took place in United Arab Emirates from 4 to 5 May 2014. High on the agenda were ways to expand renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, develop smart agricultural practices and cleaner transport, and increase financing for climate action. Above, UAE’s eco-vision, Masdar City. W. Brittlebank
"We are not here to talk. We are here to make history," said Secretary-General Ban as he opened the UN Climate Summit 2014 in September, appealing to world leaders to cut emissions and invest in climate solutions. Rising to the challenge, Governments and corporations issued a range of pledges to generate climate action. UN Photo/Cia Pak
Among new initiatives announced at the Summit, leaders pledged to cut global forest loss in half by 2020 and - for the first time - to end deforestation by 2030. This could reduce up to 8.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, says the UN - equivalent to removing the carbon emissions from the one billion cars on the world’s roads today. Shown, a view of mountains and forest in Canada. World Bank/Curt Carnemark
With 80 per cent of electricity in eastern and southern Africa generated from gas, oil or coal, a switch away from such fossil fuels would save 2,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, says the UN. Another new initiative announced at the Summit should reduce fossil fuel dependency on the region where electricity demands are expected to double in the next 25 years. Above, a power station in South Africa. World Bank/John Hogg
Transport is responsible for a quarter of energy-related global greenhouse gas emissions and claims about a fifth of all energy use, the UN says. Four global transport initiatives announced at the Climate Summit, aim to put the transport sector on track towards a low-carbon future and save trillions of dollars in fuel costs. Above, electric cars at UN Headquarters (file). UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
An unprecedented coalition of financial institutions joined forces with Governments and investors at the Summit, pledging to mobilize $200 billion to fight climate change in developing countries. "The Summit has created a platform for new coalitions and has brought leaders from both public and private sectors across the globe to not only recognize climate risks, but to agree to work together," said Ban. Shown, a footpath through wild flowers in Morocco. World Bank/Curt Carnemark
Make A World of Difference Credit: UNTV
I'm for climate action Credit: UNTV