The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the environmental treaty which governs the international negotiations taking place on various issues associated with the debate on climate change. In 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro; countries joined the treaty, to cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were, by then, inevitable.
Since being entered into force it has been ratified by 196 States, which constitute the “Parties” to the Convention – its stakeholders.
This Framework Convention is a universal convention of principle, acknowledging the existence of anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change and giving industrialized countries the major part of responsibility for combating it.
India signed the UNFCCC on 10 June 1992 and ratified it on 1 November 1993.
A long process of negotiations and debates have followed the entry into force of the UNFCCC. Major milestones include the Kyoto Protocol in 2005, where a longer-term vision took hold with the Bali Action Plan in 2007 and then the validation at Copenhagen in 2009 of a common goal of limiting global warming to 2°C. In 2010, the Cancun Conference was aimed at the creation of dedicated institutions for key points, including those for adaptation, the Green Climate Fund and the Technology Mechanism to make this goal effective.
The Durban platform (ADP), was created recognizing the need to draw up the blueprint for a fresh universal, legal agreement to deal with climate change beyond 2020, where all will play their part to the best of their ability and all will be able to reap the benefits of success together.
The “new instrument” will have to be adopted in 2015 and implemented from 2020, and that is the goal of the 2015 Paris Conference.
The Doha Conference called for necessary greater ambition and action on all levels on part of the industrialized countries in a second period of commitment to the Kyoto Protocol (2013-2020).
The 2013 Warsaw Conference made a crucial step towards reaching a universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015: all States were required to communicate their "contributions" – the efforts they intend to undertake to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions – before the Paris Conference, for them to be assessed during the first half of 2015.
The Conference of the Parties (COP), is the governing and supreme decision making body of the Convention, and advances implementation of the Convention through the decisions it takes at its periodic meetings. All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP, at which they review the implementation of the Convention and any other legal instruments that the COP adopts and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the Convention, including institutional and administrative arrangements. It meets every year in a global session where decisions are made to meet goals for combating climate change. Decisions can only be made unanimously by the States Parties or by consensus.
In 2015, France will be hosting and presiding the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP21/CMP11), otherwise known as “Paris 2015” from November 30th to December 11th.
COP21 will be a crucial conference, as it needs to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C, to be implemented from 2020.
Nations are working toward a new global climate change agreement later this year in Paris. These negotiations offer governments a critical opportunity to craft a broad, balanced and durable agreement strengthening the international climate effort.
Core issues in the negotiation include the legal nature of the agreement, differentiation of responsibility among developed and developing countries, ways to strengthen climate adaptation and support for developing countries, rules to ensure transparency and accountability, and ways the agreement can strengthen ambition over time.
The current year is also significant from the point of view of the post 2015 development agenda being finalised in September this year. The discussions for setting Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved till 2010 and coming up with high ambition, strong and binding climate change related commitments are key interrelated processes for which the year 2015 will be remembered for.