The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was debated at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and adopted the same year in New York.
The UNFCCC, in effect since 1994, aims to reinforce international public consciousness regarding the problems related to climate change.
In 1997, the signatory governments agreed to incorporate an additional treaty, the now famous Kyoto Protocol, which includes specific and legally binding measures to fight climate change.
Similarly, since 1988, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has examined the scientific research and offered the governments summaries and advice on climate problems.
The objective of the UNFCCC is the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere:
- At a level that prevents dangerous human interference with the climate system.
- Within a time-frame that allows ecosystems to adapt in a less traumatic way to climate change.
- Assuring that food production is not threatened.
- Permitting economic development to continue in a sustainable manner.
The bases of the Convention
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change “sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change”, according to the Convention’s official website.
It also recognizes that the climate system is a shared resource whose stability can be affected by industrial activities and other emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
By virtue of the Convention, the governments:
- Compile and share information regarding greenhouse gas emissions.
- Undertake national strategies to mitigate the problem of greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the predicted effects.
- Cooperate to prepare for and to adapt to the effects of climate change.
The text of the Convention was opened to signatures in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. A year later, 166 governments had signed. The governments that have not even signed the more basic Convention (free of the binding emissions reduction action measures established in the Kyoto Treaty) can agree to it at any moment.
The signatories of the Convention are divided into three groups:
- Annex I countries: industrialized countries. These countries (with the exception of the U.S. and Australia, which have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol) agree to reduce their emissions below their 1990 levels. If they cannot do so, they must buy emission credits or invest in conservation measures.
- Annex II countries: developed countries which pay, in a voluntary way, so that developing countries reduce their emissions.
- Group of developing countries, which do not have to comply with these emissions reduction objectives.
What can be done
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change establishes various steps of action to reduce the consequences of already irreversible climate change. Among the measures, they emphasize:
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a point developed in the Kyoto Treaty.
- Expand forest area and protect already existing forests.
- Change lifestyles and the standards that provoke them.
- Adaptation measures to confront the already inevitable changes.
The cultures and habits of millions of people -particularly, if they waste energy or use it efficiently- have important repercussions on climate change. The same applies to politicians and government regulations.