What is the UNFCCC?
The UNFCCC is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which was created at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, June, 1992.
The aim of the UNFCCC is to keep levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous climate change. When the treaty was first created, no legally binding targets were set. Instead the treaty set provisions for updates, known as ‘protocols’, which would set mandatory emission limits. The principal update is the Kyoto Protocol, which has become much better known than the UNFCCC itself.
The UNFCCC entered into force in March 1994. There are currently 192 parties or countries signed up to the treaty. Since 1994 there has been a Conference of Parties (COP) that meets on a yearly basis to assess the progress that is being made in tackling climate change. One of the key elements of the UNFCCC is the idea that signatories should combat climate change ‘on the basis of equality and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities’. This means that all the parties involved have a responsibility, but developed nations must carry the burden, as they have greater capabilities. The UNFCCC is also based on the principle of the ‘polluter pays’ i.e. whoever is polluting is responsible for paying for the damage.
One of the first achievements of the UNFCCC was to establish a national greenhouse gas inventory, as a count of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals. Accounts must be regularly submitted by signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.