A Brief History of UNFCCC (1992-2014)

A BRIEF HISTORY

The international political response to climate change began with the adoption of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, which sets out a framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The Convention, which entered into force on 21 March 1994, now has 195 parties.

In December 1997, delegates to the third Conference of the Parties (COP) in Kyoto, Japan, agreed to a protocol to the UNFCCC that committed industrialized countries and countries in transition to a market economy to achieve emission reduction targets. These countries, known as Annex I parties under the UNFCCC, agreed to reduce their overall emissions of six GHGs by an average of 5% below 1990 levels in 2008-2012 (first commitment period), with specific targets varying from country to country. The Kyoto Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005, and now has 192 parties.

LONG-TERM NEGOTIATIONS IN 2005-2009: Convening in Montreal, Canada, in 2005, the first Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 1) decided to establish the Ad Hoc Working Group on Annex I Parties’ Further Commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) in accordance with Protocol Article 3.9, which mandated consideration of Annex I parties’ further commitments at least seven years before the end of the first commitment period.

COP 11 created a process to consider long-term cooperation under the Convention through a series of four workshops known as “the Convention Dialogue.”

In December 2007, COP 13 and CMP 3 in Bali, Indonesia, resulted in agreement on the Bali Roadmap on long-term issues. COP 13 adopted the Bali Action Plan (BAP) and established the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) with a mandate to focus on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology and a shared vision for long-term cooperative action. Negotiations on Annex I parties’ further commitments continued under the AWG-KP. The deadline for concluding the two-track negotiations was Copenhagen in 2009.

COPENHAGEN: The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, took place in December 2009. During the high-level segment, informal negotiations took place in a group consisting of major economies and representatives of regional and other negotiating groups. Late in the evening of 18 December, these talks resulted in a political agreement, the “Copenhagen Accord,” which was then presented to the COP plenary for adoption. After 13 hours of debate, delegates ultimately agreed to “take note” of the Copenhagen Accord. In 2010, over 140 countries indicated support for the Accord. More than 80 countries also provided information on their national mitigation targets or actions. Parties also extended the mandates of the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP until COP 16 and CMP 6 in 2010.

CANCUN: The UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, took place in December 2010, when parties finalized the Cancun Agreements. Under the Convention track, Decision 1/CP.16, inter alia, recognized the need for deep cuts in global emissions in order to limit the global average temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Parties agreed to consider strengthening the global long-term goal during a Review by 2015, including in relation to a proposed 1.5°C target.

The Cancun Agreements also established several new institutions and processes, such as the GCF, which was created and designated as an operating entity of the Convention’s financial mechanism.

Under the Protocol track, the CMP urged Annex I parties to raise the level of ambition towards achieving aggregate emission reductions, and adopted Decision 2/CMP.6 on land use, land-use change and forestry. The mandates of the two AWGs were extended for another year.

DURBAN: The UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, took place from 28 November to 11 December 2011. The Durban outcomes covered a wide range of topics, notably the establishment of a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, a decision on long-term cooperative action under the Convention and agreement on operationalization of the GCF.

Parties also agreed to launch the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) with a mandate “to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.” The ADP is scheduled to complete these negotiations by 2015, with the new instrument entering into effect in 2020. In addition, the ADP was mandated to explore actions to close the pre-2020 ambition gap in relation to the 2°C target.

DOHA: The UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, took place in November and December 2012. The conference resulted in a package of decisions, referred to as the “Doha Climate Gateway.” These include amendments to the Kyoto Protocol to establish its second commitment period and agreement to terminate the AWG-KP’s work in Doha. The parties also agreed to terminate the AWG-LCA and negotiations under the BAP.

WARSAW: The Warsaw Climate Change Conference took place from 11-23 November 2013, in Warsaw, Poland. Negotiations focused on the implementation of agreements reached at previous meetings, including pursuing the work of the ADP. The meeting, among other things, adopted an ADP decision that invites parties to initiate or intensify domestic preparations for their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), and resolves to accelerate the full implementation of the BAP and pre-2020 ambition.

PREPARATIONS FOR CLIMATE SUMMIT 2014: On 24 September 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited global leaders and participants from business, finance, civil society and local communities to convene in September 2014 for the UN Climate Summit. The Summit, while not part of the official negotiating process under the UNFCCC, aims to mobilize political will to reach a global climate agreement at the Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015 and galvanize action on the ground across all sectors

Abu Dhabi Ascent: Held from 4-5 May 2014 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Ascent was hosted by Secretary-General Ban and the Minister of State and Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change, Sultan Al Jaber, UAE. The Ascent brought together 1,000 government ministers, and business, finance and civil society members to discuss new initiatives and partnerships to address climate change that would be further developed in the lead-up to the UN Climate Summit.

The Abu Dhabi Ascent identified action areas around which elements of the Climate Summit have been organized, including: short-lived climate pollutants; forests; agriculture; cities; transportation; resilience, adaptation and disaster risk reduction; climate finance; and economic drivers.

Source: IISD Volume 172 Number 18 - Friday, 26 September 2014