UN Decoded: UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

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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3 December 2014