Transcript UNFCCC

United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate
Change [UNFCCC]
Peter E. Farrell
Honors Seminar: Energy, Society &
Climate Change
Basic Presentation
A Brief History of the Climate
Change Process:
 In 1979 the first World
 In 1990 the IPCC, estab.
Climate Change
Conference recognized
climate change as a
serious problem & called
on all governments to
address it.
 Between 1980-1990 a
number of
conferences focusing on
climate change were held.
in 1988 by the UNEP &
WMO, issued its First
Assessment Report in
which it confirmed the
existing scientific
evidence for global
climate change.
 In Dec. 1990, the UN
General Assembly
approved the start of treaty
negotiations on the
UNFCCC & a deadline
was set for the June 1992
Rio “Earth Summit”.
History (Continued)
 The UNFCCC was
signed by 154 states at
the Rio de Janeiro
Earth Summit.
 More importantly, the
convention entered
into force on March
21st 1994
 In February 1995, the
Conference of the
Parties (COP)
became the
Convention’s ultimate
What is the UNFCCC?
 In general terms, the UN Framework
Convention provides an overall framework
for intergovernmental efforts to address
climate change. More specifically, it
establishes an objective & principles,
commitments for different groups of
countries, & a set of institutions all of which
work to enable continued talks as well as
future action to address global climate
The Basic Science Accepted by
 First & foremost, the Convention recognizes that ever
increasing amounts of anthropogenic (I.e. human
produced) Greenhouse gas emissions are increasing the
atmosphere’s ability to absorb infra-red radiation. As a
result, a lot of energy that would normally be reflected
back into space is being trapped within Earth’s
atmosphere, which in turn increases the Earth’s surface
temperature, keeping it warmer than it would otherwise be.
 More specifically, the IPCC projects that global mean
surface temperatures to increase by 1.4-5.8 degrees Celsius
by 2100, which is the fastest rate of change since the end
of the last ice age (10,000 years ago).
 In addition, the IPCC expects global mean sea levels to rise
by 9 – 88cm by 2100.
 So what?
Major Problems Associated with
Global Climate Change
 Predicted changes in
 Climate & agricultural
rainfall patterns will
increase the threat of
drought & floods in many
 Melting glaciers &
thermal expansion of sea
water may raise sea levels,
threatening low-lying
coastal areas & worst of
all small islands!
zones may shirt towards
the poles, which would
result in reduced crop
yields for mid-latitude
countries such as the U.S.
 Ultimately, the
Convention recognizes
that climate change has
the potential to produce
“dramatic negative
impacts on human health,
food security, economic
activity, water resources &
physical infrastructure”.1
UNFCCC’ Ultimate Objective
 According to Article 2, the ultimate objective of
the Convention is “to achieve stabilization of
atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at
levels that would prevent dangerous
anthropogenic interference with the climate
 The Convention further stipulates that “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, & to enable economic development
to proceed in a sustainable manner.”3
UNFCCC Principles
 First, the UNFCCC principle of ‘common but
differentiated responsibilities’ responds to the
fundamental issue of fairness, or lack thereof, in
terms of addressing the climate change problem.
 Historically, industrialized countries have
contributed the most to the climate change
problem (mainly by way of ghg emissions).
Moreover, industrialized countries have more
resources to address the deleterious effects of
climate change.
1. Principle of Common but
Differentiated Responsibilities
 Conversely, developing countries are both,
more vulnerable to the predicted adverse
effects of climate change* and significantly
less able to respond to them (relative to
countries like the U.S., Japan, Western
Europe, etc.).
 Given this, the Convention responds in
three ways:
1. Principle of Common but
Differentiated Responsibilities
 1: The convention puts the majority of the
responsibility for battling climate change, as well
as the majority of the bill, on the wealthy,
industrialized countries*.
 2. The Convention recognizes that poorer nations
have a right to economic development.
 3.The convention also allows for the “full
consideration”4 of the specific needs &
circumstances of developing countries in any
actions taken by the COP.
2. Precautionary Principle
 The Convention’s precautionary principle
implies that “activities that threaten serious or
irreversible damage can be restricted or even
prohibited before there is absolute certainty
about their effects”5.*
 Indeed, under Article 3, the Convention calls
for “precautionary measures”6 to combat
climate change even if there is a lack of “full
scientific certainty”7 regarding a cause & effect
3. Principle of Cost-Effectiveness
 In response to the concern, among
industrialized countries, that the economic
costs of mitigating climate change should
be minimized, the Convention calls for all
policies & measures that deal with climate
change to be cost-effective.
4. Principle of Sustainable
 In response to the justified concerns of
poorer developed countries regarding the
significant expense of implementing
UNFCCC objectives; the Convention, under
Article 4, recognizes that “[T]he parties
have a right to, and should, promote
sustainable development”8
Groups of Countries & Their
Differentiated Commitments –
Annex II (cont.)
 In addition, Annex II countries must “take
all practicable steps”9 to promote the
development & transfer of environmentally
friendly technologies to both EITs &
developing countries.
Groups of Countries & Their
Differentiated Commitments
 The Framework Convention divides
countries into three main groups each
assigned its own set of commitments.
 1. Annex I countries
 2. Annex II countries
 3. Non-Annex I countries
Groups of Countries & Their
Differentiated Commitments –
Annex I
 Who’s in it?
 What are their
 Annex I is composed
 Annex I parties are
subject to a specific
commitment to adopt
climate change
policies & measures
with the non-legally
binding aim to return
their GHG emissions
to 1990 levels by the
year 2000.
of 41 industrialized
countries, which
includes all the 1992
members of OECD. In
addition, 12 countries
with EIT have been
added to the list.
Groups of Countries & Their
Differentiated Commitments –
Annex II
 Who’s in it?
 What are their
 Only the OECD
 Annex II Parties are
required to provide
financial resources to
enable developing
countries to meet their
obligations under the
members of Annex I –
not the EITs – are
listed in Annex II of
the Convention.
Groups of Countries & Their
Differentiated Commitments –
Non-Annex I
 Who’s in it?
 Who’s in it…(cont.)
 All other countries not
 Within this group of
listed in Annex I –
mostly developing
countries – are known
as non-Annex I
developing countries
there is a subgroup of
48 countries known as
Least Developed
Countries (LCDs).
Groups of Countries & Their
Differentiated Commitments –
All Parties to the Convention
 What are their commitments?
 All parties – meaning those signatores that
have ratified the treaty – are subject to a set
of general commitments.
 Under these commitments, all Parties must:
 1. Prepare & regularly update national
climate change mitigation & adaptation
Groups of Countries & Their
Differentiated Commitments –
All Parties to the Convention (cont.)
 2. All Parties must participate in climate research,
systematic observation & information exchange,
as well as promote education, training & public
awareness relating to climate change.10
 3. Lastly, all parties must compile an inventory of
their greenhouse gas emissions, and submit reports
– known as “national communications” – on the
action(s) they are taking to implement the
Framework Convention
 1. Conference of the Parties (COP)
 2. Subsidiary Body for Scientific and
Technological Advice (SBSTA).
 3. Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).
 4. Convention Secretariat
 5. Global Environment Facility (GEF)
 6. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Framework Convention
Institutions/Mechanisms (cont.)
 1. COP:
 Serves as the supreme
decision-making body of
the Convention.
 Is composed of all Parties
to the Convention who
have ratified the treaty as
well as non-voting
observers as are deemed
 Meets yearly to review
implementation & to
adopt amendments,
protocols etc.
 2. SBSTA:
 Is responsible for
providing advice to
the COP on scientific,
technological &
methodological issues.
 Helps individual
countries prepare their
accurately & on time.
Framework Convention
Institutions/Mechanisms (cont.)
 3. SBI:
 4. Secretariat:
 Helps with the
 Prepares background
assessment & review
of of the Convention’s
 Analyses the national
submitted by the
 Organizes negotiating
 Compiles emissions
Framework Convention
Institutions/Mechanisms (cont.)
 5. GEF:
 Is the Convention’s
financial mechanism,
which channels funds
from Annex II
countries, as well as
other (private)
sources, to developing
countries on a grant
 6. IPCC:
 Submits regular
assessments on the state of
climate change science
every 5 years.
 Prepare shorter Special
Reports & Technical
Papers in response to COP
 Plays an important role in
the development of
common guidelines for
Parties to compile their
inventories of GHG.
The UN Framework Convention
on Climate Change…The “Key”
to Understanding the Kyoto
UNFCCC Article 17, Paragraph 4:
“Only Parties to the Convention
may be Parties to a protocol”12.
The End