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United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Kyoto Protocol
Conference of the Parties to the UNFCC (COP)
COP 17 Durban
Further Information

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (external link) was adopted as the basis for a global response to the problem of climate change. With 192 Parties, the Convention enjoys near-universal membership. The ultimate objective of the Convention is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

Under the Convention, governments:

  • gather and share information on greenhouse gas emissions, national policies and best practices
  • launch national strategies for addressing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to expected impacts, including the provision of financial and technological support to developing countries 
  • cooperate in preparing for adaptation to the impacts of climate change

The Convention entered into force on 21 March 1994.

Kyoto Protocol

The Convention is complemented by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (external link), which has 184 Parties. Under the Protocol, industrialised countries have committed to reducing their emissions by an average of 5% by 2012 against 1990 levels, committing to first and foremost take domestic action against climate change. The Protocol also allows them to meet their emission reduction commitments abroad through so-called “market-based mechanisms”.

The UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol are also designed to assist countries in adapting to the inevitable effects of climate change.

They facilitate the development of techniques that can help increase resilience to climate change impacts for example:

  • the development of salt-resistant crops
  • to exchange best practices with regard to adaptation.

Further information on the Kyoto Protocol on our website.

Conference of the Parties to the UNFCC (COP)

The negotiating process on climate change revolves around the sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP) (external link), which meets every year to review the implementation of the Convention. The COP adopts decisions and resolutions, published in reports of the COP.  Successive decisions taken by the COP make up a detailed set of rules for practical and effective implementation of the Convention.

The COP serves as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), which also adopts decisions and resolutions on the implementation of its provisions.

Statements by Minister Gormley at COP 13 in Bali and COP 14 in Poznan (doc, 33kb)

COP17 (Durban)

The 16th Conference of the Parties (COP 16) took place in Cancún, Mexico, in November/December 2010. The positive outcome at the Cancun COP was the re-establishment of credibility in the UNFCCC process after the perceived failure of the Copenhagen conference (COP 15) in 2009. The Cancun Agreements were the key outcome of COP 16 and comprise a set of decisions under the two tracks of the ongoing negotiations – one track under the Kyoto Protocol and the other (which also includes those countries that are not Parties to Protocol) under the Convention.  Some 90 developed and developing countries set domestic targets for reducing / limiting emissions.  While this was an important step, it represents at best only 60% of what is needed to stay below 2°C target.  Key issues which remain unresolved include peaking and long-term goal, insufficient level of ambition, legal form, Kyoto CP2, long-term finance

The next high level session – the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) – will take place in Durban, South Africa from 28th November to 9th December 2011. The challenge which the Parties now face is to build on the progress made at Cancun at the Durban conference in December.  Difficult political issues remain to be addressed, not least in relation to the legal form of a future international agreement, the timeframe for agreement and the need for mitigation action commensurate with the ultimate objective of the Convention.  In addition, Parties face the formidable task of avoiding a 'gap' in the international response to climate change when the commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol expires in December 2012. Ireland supports the case for strong urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to stay below a 2 degree Celsius increase in global temperature.  

Side Event

Ireland will host a side event at COP 17.  A new paper published by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with the support of the Government of Ireland, entitled Building the Climate Change Regime: Survey and Analysis of Approaches reviews  more than 130 proposals put forward by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academics to design a climate regime. Ireland will present the findings of the report at the side event on the 9th December 2011 in Durban.

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