Monday, February 1, 2016


By Anton Antonio
February 1, 2016

The persistent question from most climate change observers is how come nothing substantial was achieved in the 20 Conferences of the Parties (COPs) which started in 1992 and culminated in 2015 at the Paris Climate Talks or COP 21.  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, is a just a framework agreement and recommends no particular level of reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  More importantly, as a mere framework agreement, it also lacks an enforcement mechanism.  In fact, the target in climate change mitigation being suggested in the previous COPs held was only 2 degrees Celsius using the pre-industrial period as benchmark.

Here is a researched material on the UNFCCC…  “The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty negotiated at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992, then entered into force on 21 March 1994.  The UNFCCC objective is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.  The framework set no binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanism.  Instead, the framework outlines how specific international treaties (called “protocols” or “agreements”) may be negotiated to set binding limits on greenhouse gases.  Initially an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee produced the text of the Framework Convention during its meeting in New York from 30 April to 9 May 1992.  The UNFCCC was adopted on 9 May 1992, and opened for signature on 4 June 1992.  UNFCCC has 197 parties as of December 2015.  The convention enjoys broad legitimacy, largely due to its nearly universal membership.  The parties to the convention have met annually from 1995 in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change.  In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was concluded and established legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the period 2008-2012.  The 2010 Cancun agreements state that future global warming should be limited to below 2.0 degrees Celsius relative to the pre-industrial level.  The protocol was amended in 2012 to encompass the period 2013-2012 in the Doha Amendment which was – as of December 2015 – not entered into force.  In 2015 the Paris Agreement was adopted, governing emission reductions from 2020 on through commitments of countries in ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions.  One of the first tasks set by the UNFCCC was for signatory nations to establish national greenhouse gas inventories of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals, which were used to create the 1990 benchmark levels for accession of Annex I countries to the Kyoto Protocol and for the commitment of those countries to GHG reductions.  Updated inventories must be regularly submitted by Annex I countries.”  (Wikipedia)

The passing of 20 COPs made people, especially climate scientists, worried that an acceptable GHG emission-limiting mechanism will never be realized.  But prior to COP21, or the Paris Climate Talks of 2015, the best strategy was laid on the table… the NDC or Nationally Determined Contributions.  In this initiative, individual countries were given the freedom to set their own individual targets.  And summing up these targets translated to a 1.5 degrees Celsius commitment from all participating parties… not the previously targeted 2.0 degrees Celsius.  With this, there is now better hope with what was started by the UNFCCC.

Thoughts to promote positive action…

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Wikipedia (2016).  “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”.  Retrieved on February 1, 2016 from

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