UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE (UNFCCC)

UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE (UNFCCC)

Basic and Background

  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty which seeks to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, with the aim of preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with the earth’s climate system.
  • The UNFCCC, signed in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development also known as the Earth Summit, the Rio Summit or the Rio Conference
  • It is a framework which requires individual participating countries to commit to stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • There are 197 parties to the convention, who meet annually in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change.

Objective

  • According to Article 2, the Convention’s ultimate objective is “to achieve, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.
  • This objective is qualified in that it “should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner”.

Structure

  1. The Conference of the Parties (COP)
    • Article 7.2 defines the COP as the “supreme body” of the Convention, as it is its highest decision-making authority.
    • The climate change process revolves around the annual sessions of the COP.
  1. COP President and Bureau
    • The office of the COP President normally rotates among the five United Nations regional groups. The President is usually the environment minister of his or her home country. S/he is elected by acclamation immediately after the opening of a COP session. Their role is to facilitate the work of the COP and promote agreements among Parties.
    • The work of the COP and each subsidiary body is guided by an elected Bureau. To ensure continuity, it serves not only during sessions, but between sessions as well.
  1. Subsidiary Bodies (SBs)
    • The Convention establishes two permanent subsidiary bodies (SBs), namely the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), by Article 9, and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), by Article 10. These bodies advise the COP.
    • The SBSTA’s task is to provide the COP “with timely advice on scientific and technological matters relating to the Convention”.
    • The SBI’s task is to assist the COP “in the assessment and review of the effective implementation of the Convention”
  1. The Secretariat
    • The secretariat, also known as the Climate Change Secretariat, services the COP, the SBs, the Bureau and other bodies established by the COP.
  1. Other Bodies
    • Other bodies have been set up by the COP to undertake specific tasks. These bodies report back to the COP when they complete their work
    • COP 1 established two ad hoc groups to conduct negotiations on specific issues.
    • COP 11 established the “Dialogue” to exchange experiences and analyse strategic approaches for long-term cooperative action to address climate change.

Kyoto Protocol

  • The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997.
  • India ratified Kyoto Protocol in 2002.
  • The Kyoto Protocol came into force in February 2005.
  • There are currently 192 Parties.
  • USA never ratified Kyoto Protocol.
  • Canada withdrew in 2012.
  • Goal: Fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas concentrationsin the atmosphere to “a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
  • Kyoto protocol aimed to cut emissions of greenhouse gases across the developed world by about 5 per cent by 2012 compared with 1990 levels.
  • The Protocol is based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
  • Kyoto Protocol is the only global treaty with binding limits on GHGemissions.

Classifications of Parties Associated with UNFCCC

The classifications of countries that are signatories to UNFCCC are given in the table below:

Category of Parties Meaning
Annex I 43 parties (countries) come under this category. The countries that come under this category are developed countries.
Annex II 24 countries of Annex I also come under Annex II countries. The countries in this category are expected to provide technical and financial assistance to countries coming under the category of developing countries.
Annex B The countries in this category are Annex I countries, who have first or second-round Kyoto greenhouse gas emissions target.
Least-developed countries (LDCs) 47 Parties (countries) come under the category of LDCs. These countries are given special status under the treaty taking into consideration their limitations adapting to the effects of climate change.
Non Annex I Parties (countries) that are not listed in Annex I that come under the category of low-income developing countries.

 

Kyoto Protocol Emission Target Gases

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2),
  • Methane (CH4),
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O),
  • Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6),
  • Groups of hydro fluorocarbons (HCFs) and
  • Groups of Perfluorocarbons (PFCs).

Paris Deal

  • It is an international agreement to combat climate changeand to reduce, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The aims of the Paris Agreement are:
    • Keep the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.
    • Pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
    • Strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
  • Nationally determined contributions (NDCs)were conceived at Paris summit which requires each Party to prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that it intends to achieve.
  • Paris Agreement replaced earlier agreementto deal with climate change, the Kyoto Protocol.
  • In theParis agreement, there is no difference between developing and developed countries. In the Kyoto Protocol, there was a differentiation between developed and developing countries by clubbing them as Annex 1 countries and non-Annex 1 country.

India’s efforts

  • India has achieved a reduction of 21% in the emission intensity of its GDP between 2005 and 2014, which fulfils its pre-2020 voluntary target.
  • Renewable energy installed capacity has increased by 226%in the last 5 years and stands more than 87 GW.
  • 80 million LPG connectionsare provided in rural areas under PM Ujjwala Yojana, with clean cooking fuel and a healthy environment.
  • More than 360 million LED bulbshave been distributed under the UJALA scheme, which has led to an energy saving of about 47 billion units of electricity per year and reduction of 38 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
  • India has also leapfrogged from Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV) to Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) emission norms by April 1, 2020, which was earlier to be adopted by 2024.

Conference of the Parties 25 (COP25)

CoP

  • The COP is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP.
  • At COP, they review the implementation of the Convention and any other legal instruments that it adopts and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the Convention.

Objective

  • The prime objective of the people meeting in Madrid is to complete the rule-book to the 2015 Paris Agreement so that it starts getting implemented from 2020.
  • It will happen amid warnings that the world has not been doing enough to save itself from catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Warning

  • Unless countries scale up their actions significantly, there is little hope of keeping average global temperatures within 2ºC higher than pre-industrial trends.
  • This is the warning that is being reiterated by a series of reports from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other agencies through the year.

Why CoP25 failed?

  • The failure of the talks underlined starkly the massive gap between what scientists say the world’s nations need to do on climate change, and what the most powerful political leaders on the planet are prepared to even discuss.
  • According to scientist, talks focused on some of the rules for implementing the 2015 Paris agreement, but the overriding issue of how fast the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions has received little official attention.
  • Countries agreed in Paris in 2015 to revisit their climate pledges by 2020. But many countries were pushing this year for a clear call for all countries to submit more ambitious climate pledges next year.
  • But countries such as China and Brazil opposed placing any obligation on countries to submit enhanced pledges next year, arguing it should be each country’s own decision. They instead argued the focus should be on pre-2020 action by developing countries to meet their previous pledges
  • There was a recognition that tougher carbon targets are needed globally, but few countries came up with any and the resolve to come back next year with more ambitious plans was worded too weakly to satisfy most campaigners.

India’s stance

  • India played a mixed role at the recently concluded 25th Conference of Parties (CoP 25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at Madrid.
  • On the question of markets, India emphasised the transition of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) credits earned under the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement.
  • Pointed out that that excessively cheap emissions reductions enabled by the CDM as well as the possibility of double counting could corrupt the process.
  • India played a strong role in critiquing the developed world’s continuing poor record on climate action.
  • It argued that unless a stocktaking exercise of the fulfilment of various pre-2020 commitments by developed countries, India would not raise its climate ambition for its next round of Paris Agreement targets due in 2020.
  • India also took a lead in calling for more finance for developing countries for climate action.

Limitations of UNFCCC

  • Non-inclusive:Most scientists agree the most dangerous environmental air pollutants today are microscopic particulates that come from car engines and combustion-based power plants, but these pollutants are largely ignored by the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Slow progress:It took a long time for COP to bring Russia to agree into participating in the Kyoto Protocol. (until 2005)
  • UNFCCC failed to persuade USA to ratify the Kyoto protocol thereby keeping one of the largest emitter of greenhouse gases away from commitments.
  • Unsustainable targets:The world reached at almost 1degree Celsius warming post industrialization and the Paris contributions are not enough to maintain 2 degree Celsius levels.
  • Unsatisfactory Response:Many countries argued for a tougher target of 1.5C – including leaders of low-lying countries that face unsustainable sea levels rises in a warming world.
  • Financial Constraints:The agreement requires rich nations to maintain a $100bn a year funding pledge beyond 2020, which is not enough as highlighted by several pacific island countries.
  • Non-binding agreement:The US withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, citing, that the deal punished” the US and would cost millions of American jobs”, has created new barriers and more pressure on rest of the nations in achieving the targets of Paris agreement.
  • No enforcement mechanism: Under the Paris agreement, each country determines, plans, and reports its own efforts to mitigate global warming. The only penalty for non-compliance is a so-called “name and shame” — or “name and encourage” — system whereby countries that fall out of compliance are called out and encouraged to improve.

Way Forward

  • Adaptation is increasingly becoming central to efforts on mitigating the climate change impacts.
  • A greater readiness on the part of all nations is required to take forward the goals on mitigation.
  • Countries have to compromise on their erstwhile hard positions, to make progress in reducing emissions and building climate resilience.
  • It is entirely appropriate for countries such as India to insist on not taking on an even more unfair share of the global mitigation burden unless developed countries deliver on the minimal parameter of fulfilling their existing promises.
  • It is crucial that India continue to push developed countries in this fashion as the entire global climate action framework has been put in jeopardy by the inaction of big polluters.

Various initiatives launched under UNFCCC CoPs:

CoP 21, 2015:

  • Global Geothermal Alliance
  • Breakthrough Energy Coalition
  • Mission Innovation
  • 4 Per Thousand Initiative
  • Mobilise Your City Programme

CoP 22, 2016:

  • Biofuture Platform

CoP 23, 2017:

  • Below 50 Initiative

CoP 24, 2018:

  • Katowice Partnership for Electromobility

 

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