United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

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The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty addressing climate change, negotiated and signed by 154 states at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. It established a Secretariat headquartered in Bonn and entered into force on 21 March 1994.

The UNFCCC's ultimate objective is the "stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic human-induced interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner."[1]

The Kyoto Protocol, which was signed in 1997 and which entered into force in 2005, was the first implementation of measures under the UNFCCC until 31 December 2020. The protocol was superseded by the Paris Agreement, which entered into force in 2016. As of 2020, the UNFCCC has 197 signatory parties.[2]

COP meetings

The UNFCCC's supreme decision-making body, the Conference of the Parties (COP), meets annually to assess progress in dealing with climate change.

  • COP 1 took place from 28 March to 7 April 1995 in Berlin, Germany and agreed the first joint measures in international climate action.[3]
  • COP 2 took place from 8 to 19 July 1996 in Geneva, Switzerland. Its ministerial declaration was noted (but not adopted) on 18 July 1996, and reflected a United States position statement presented by Timothy Wirth, former Under Secretary for Global Affairs for the US State Department at that meeting.[4]
  • COP 3 took place in Kyoto, Japan from 1 to 10 December 1997. Adopted on 11 December 1997, the Kyoto Protocol only binds developed countries, and places a heavier burden on them under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities”, because it recognises that they are largely responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere.[5]
  • COP 4 took place from 2 to 13 November 1998 in Buenos Aires, Argentina where the Parties adopted a 2-year "Plan of Action" to advance efforts towards implementing the Kyoto Protocol, and Argentina and Kazakhstan expressed their commitment to take on the greenhouse gas emissions reduction obligation, the first two non-Annex (less developed) countries to do so.[6]
  • COP 5 took place between 25 October and 5 November 1999, in Bonn, Germany. It was primarily a technical meeting, and did not reach major conclusions.[7]
  • COP 6 took place from 13–25 November 2000, in The Hague, Netherlands and ended without agreement.[8]


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