UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement

UNFCCC is a framework treaty which aims to prevent dangerous human interference with the global climate system. Unders its framework Paris Agreement has been signed, which goes into force in 2020, i.e. after the second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol ends. Here is some holistic information about UNFCCC, its various initiatives/activities, members, Kyoto protocol, Paris Agreement, their implementation mechanisms and the latest updates.

UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international environmental treaty adopted in 1992 Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro. Its objective is to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. The UNFCCC framework sets non-binding limits with no enforcement mechanisms, but outlines how specific treaties (protocols or agreements) may be negotiated to specify further action.

Members of UNFCCC:
The 197 parties to the convention are classified into:

Parties to the UNFCCC
  • Annex I countries – includes industrialised countries and economies in transition (moving from centrally planned to free market. such as former soviet republics).
  • Annex II – parties which are required to provide financial and technical support. includes rich countries from Annex I.
  • Non-Annex parties – low income developing countries

Initiatives/Updates:

  • REDD and REDD+ : forest management in developing countries 
  • Action for Climate Empowerment 2015 – focusing on public awareness, education, etc
  • 2017 Conference: COP 23 of UNFCCC organised by Fiji in Bonn (Germany).
  • Talanoa Dialogue 2018 – to help prepare updated or new NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) by 2020 – Talanoa is a Fijian word for inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue.
  • December 2018: Conference Of Parties 24 was hosted in Katowice, Poland. The conference agreed on rules to implement the Paris Agreement, that is to say the rulebook on how governments will measure and report on their emissions-cutting efforts. Also, 50 countries signed the Silesia Declaration, which emphasised the need to emission-reducing policies to ensure “a just transition of the workforce” and “create decent work and quality jobs”.

Kyoto Protocol 1997

  • established legally binding obligations for developed countries. based on common but differentiated responsibilities.
  • First commitment period 2008-2012
  • Second commitment period 2012-2020
    • based on Doha amendment to Kyoto Protocol 2012
  • Members
    • US didn’t ratify. Canada withdrew (2011) from Kyoto Protocol. All other Annex I parties have ratified it. India ratified Doha amendment in 2017
  • Flexibility Mechanisms – market instruments that can be used by Annex I parties in meeting their emission limitation commitments
    • International Emissions Trading
    • Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
      • provides for emissions reduction projects which generate Certified Emission Reduction units (CERs) which may be traded in emissions trading schemes
    • Joint Implementation (JI)
      • allows a country to invest in an emission reduction project (Joint Implementation Project) in other country as an alternative to reducing emissions domestically. where it may be cheaper, thus lowering cost of compliance.

2010 Cancun (Mexico) agreements state that future global warming should be limited to below 2 degree Celsius relative to the pre-industrial level.

Paris Agreement 

  • Successor to the Kyoto Protocol, it was adopted at Conference of Parties 21 in 2015.
  • Its implementation commences from 2020.
  • aim: to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius; and to achieve net zero emissions in the second half this century.
  • Green Climate Fund
    • (The Green Climate Fund is a fund established within the framework of the UNFCCC to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.)
    • Predecessor- Adaptation Fund 2001, was set up for implementing Kyoto Protocol.
  • Principles
    • The Paris Agreement emphasizes the principle of “Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capabilities”
    • Each country voluntarily determines, plans and regularly reports its own contribution it intends to make, referred to as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
    • The agreement is not legally binding, but politically encouraged by the global community.
  • Katowice 2018: At the 2018 Conference of UNFCCC organised in Katowice Poland, members agreed on rules to implement the Paris Agreement, that is to say the rulebook on how governments will measure and report on their emissions-cutting efforts. The agreement will serve as an important foundation in the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

More related information:

India has ratified the Paris Agreement. It has also promised to reduce its carbon emission intensity, i.e. emission per unit of GDP, by 33-35% from its 2005 levels by 2030.

Global Emissions of Carbon Dioxide:

Global CO2 emissions
  • India is the fourth largest carbon emitter country but has a very low per capita emissions
  • India – 4% of global emissions
  • World’s top two polluters – the US and China – together account for 40% of global carbon emissions.

Country-wise Cumulative per capita atmospheric CO2 emissions:


In 2016, Earth’s temperature was 1.3 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. With the rise in global temperature, the atmosphere would have a much higher moisture holding capacity. This would lead to more extreme rainfall events in future.

1 thought on “UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement

  1. Pingback: Carbon Sequestration – negative emission technologies and natural mechanisms | broadgk

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