United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Conferences of the Parties (COP): a short history




The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC) is an international environmental treaty produced at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. The objective of the treaty is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

The treaty itself sets no mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms. In that sense, the treaty is considered legally non-binding. Instead, the treaty provides for updates (called "protocols") that would set mandatory emission limits. The principal update is the Kyoto Protocol, which has become much better known than the UNFCCC itself.

The UNFCCC was opened for signature on May 9, 1992, after an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee produced the text of the Framework Convention as a report following its meeting in New York from 30 April to 9 May 1992. It entered into force on March 21, 1994. As of December 2009, UNFCCC had 192 parties.

One of its first tasks was to establish national greenhouse gas inventories of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals, which were used to create the 1990 benchmark levels for accession of Annex I countries to the Kyoto Protocol and for the commitment of those countries to GHG reductions. Updated inventories must be regularly submitted by Annex I countries.

The UNFCCC is also the name of the United Nations Secretariat charged with supporting the operation of the Convention, with offices in Haus Carstanjen, Bonn, Germany. Since 2006 the head of the secretariat has been Yvo de Boer. The Secretariat, augmented through the parallel efforts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), aims to gain consensus through meetings and the discussion of various strategies.

The parties to the convention have met annually from 1995 in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was concluded and established legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Conferences of the Parties

1995 - COP 1, The Berlin Mandate
1996 - COP 2, Geneva, Switzerland
1997 - COP 3, The Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change
1998 - COP 4, Buenos Aires
1999 - COP 5, Bonn, Germany
2000 - COP 6, The Hague, Netherlands
2001 - COP 6 bis, Bonn, Germany
2001 - COP 7, Marrakech, Morocco
2002 - COP 8, New Delhi, India
2003 - COP 9, Milan, Italy
2004 - COP 10, Buenos Aires, Argentina
2005 - COP 11/MOP 1, Montreal, Canada
2006 - COP 12/MOP 2, Nairobi, Kenya
2007 - COP 13/MOP 3, Bali, Indonesia
2008 - COP 14/MOP 4, Poznań, Poland
2009 - COP 15/MOP 5, Copenhagen, Denmark

Parties to UNFCCC are classified as:

* Annex I countries (industrialized countries and economies in transition)
* Annex II countries (developed countries which pay for costs of developing countries)
* Developing countries.

Annex I countries which have ratified the Protocol have committed to reduce their emission levels of greenhouse gasses to targets that are mainly set below their 1990 levels. They may do this by allocating reduced annual allowances to the major operators within their borders. These operators can only exceed their allocations if they buy emission allowances, or offset their excesses through a mechanism that is agreed by all the parties to UNFCCC.

Annex II countries are a sub-group of the Annex I countries. They comprise the OECD members, excluding those that were economies in transition in 1992.

Developing countries are not required to reduce emission levels unless developed countries supply enough funding and technology. Setting no immediate restrictions under UNFCCC serves three purposes:

* it avoids restrictions on their development, because emissions are strongly linked to industrial capacity
* they can sell emissions credits to nations whose operators have difficulty meeting their emissions targets
* they get money and technologies for low-carbon investments from Annex II countries.

Developing countries may volunteer to become Annex I countries when they are sufficiently developed.

Some opponents of the Convention argue that the split between Annex I and developing countries is unfair, and that both developing countries and developed countries need to reduce their emissions unilaterally. Some countries claim that their costs of following the Convention requirements will stress their economy. This was one reason given by George H. W. Bush, then President of the United States, for not forwarding the Kyoto Protocol to the United States Senate for ratification. Other countries point to research, such as the Stern Report, that calculates the cost of compliance to be less than the cost of the consequences of doing nothing.
[edit] Annex I countries

Annex I countries (industrialized countries):

Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America

(40 countries and separately the European Union)

Annex II countries (developed countries which pay for costs of developing countries)
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America

(23 countries and separately the European Union; Turkey was removed from the annex II list in 2001 at its request to recognize its economy as a transition economy.)
[edit] U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was opened for signature at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro (known by its popular title, the Earth Summit). On June 12, 1992, 154 nations signed the UNFCCC, that upon ratification committed signatories' governments to a voluntary "non-binding aim" to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases with the goal of "preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with Earth's climate system." These actions were aimed primarily at industrialized countries, with the intention of stabilizing their emissions of greenhouse gases at 1990 levels by the year 2000; and other responsibilities would be incumbent upon all UNFCCC parties. The parties agreed in general that they would recognize "common but differentiated responsibilities," with greater responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the near term on the part of developed/industrialized countries, which were listed and identified in Annex I of the UNFCCC and thereafter referred to as "Annex I" countries.

On September 8, 1992, the US president George Bush transmitted the UNFCCC for advice and consent of the U.S. Senate to ratification. The Foreign Relations Committee approved the treaty and reported it (Senate Exec. Rept. 102-55) October 1, 1992. The Senate consented to ratification on October 7, 1992, with a two-thirds majority vote. President Bush signed the instrument of ratification October 13, 1992, and deposited it with the U.N. Secretary General.

According to terms of the UNFCCC, having received over 50 countries' instruments of ratification, it entered into force March 21, 1994.

Since the UNFCCC entered into force, the parties have been meeting annually in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change, and beginning in the mid-1990s, to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol to establish legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.[2] From 2005 the Conferences have met in conjunction with Meetings of Parties of the Kyoto Protocol (MOP), and parties to the Convention that are not parties to the Protocol can participate in Protocol-related meetings as observers.

1995 - COP 1, The Berlin Mandate

The first UNFCCC Conference of Parties took place in the spring of 1995 in Berlin, Germany. It voiced concerns about the adequacy of countries' abilities to meet commitments under the Convention. These were expressed in a U.N. ministerial declaration known as the "Berlin Mandate", which established a 2-year Analytical and Assessment Phase (AAP), to negotiate a "comprehensive menu of actions" for countries to pick from and choose future options to address climate change which for them, individually, made the best economic and environmental sense. The Berlin Mandate exempted non-Annex I countries from additional binding obligations, in keeping with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" established in the UNFCCC even though, collectively, the larger, newly industrializing countries were expected to be the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions 15 years hence.

1996 - COP 2, Geneva, Switzerland

COP 2 took place in July 1996 in Geneva, Switzerland. Its Ministerial Declaration was adopted July 18, 1996, and reflected a U.S. position statement presented by Timothy Wirth, former Under Secretary for Global Affairs for the U.S. State Department at that meeting, which

1. Accepted the scientific findings on climate change proffered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its second assessment (1995);
2. Rejected uniform "harmonized policies" in favor of flexibility;
3. Called for "legally binding mid-term targets."

1997 - COP 3, The Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change

COP 3 took place in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. After intensive negotiations, it adopted the Kyoto Protocol. Most industrialized nations and some central European economies in transition (all defined as Annex B countries) agreed to legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of an average of 6 to 8% below 1990 levels between the years 2008-2012, defined as the first emissions budget period. The United States would be required to reduce its total emissions an average of 7% below 1990 levels, however neither the Clinton administration nor the Bush administration sent the protocol to Congress for ratification. The Bush administration explicitly rejected the protocol in 2001.

1998 - COP 4, Buenos Aires

COP 4 took place in November 1998 in Buenos Aires. It had been expected that the remaining issues unresolved in Kyoto would be finalized at this meeting. However, the complexity and difficulty of finding agreement on these issues proved insurmountable, and instead the parties adopted a 2-year "Plan of Action" to advance efforts and to devise mechanisms for implementing the Kyoto Protocol, to be completed by 2000.
[edit] 1999 - COP 5, Bonn, Germany

COP 5 took place between October 25 and November 5, 1999, in Bonn, Germany. It was primarily a technical meeting, and did not reach major conclusions.

2000 - COP 6, The Hague, Netherlands

COP 6 took place between November 13-November 25, 2000, in The Hague, Netherlands. The discussions evolved rapidly into a high-level negotiation over the major political issues. These included major controversy over the United States' proposal to allow credit for carbon "sinks" in forests and agricultural lands, satisfying a major proportion of the U.S. emissions reductions in this way; disagreements over consequences for non-compliance by countries that did not meet their emission reduction targets; and difficulties in resolving how developing countries could obtain financial assistance to deal with adverse effects of climate change and meet their obligations to plan for measuring and possibly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the final hours of COP 6, despite some compromises agreed between the United States and some EU countries, notably the United Kingdom, the EU countries as a whole, led by Denmark and Germany, rejected the compromise positions, and the talks in The Hague collapsed. Jan Pronk, the President of COP 6, suspended COP-6 without agreement, with the expectation that negotiations would later resume [1]. It was later announced that the COP 6 meetings (termed "COP 6 bis") would be resumed in Bonn, Germany, in the second half of July. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the parties to the UNFCCC - COP 7 - had been set for Marrakech, Morocco, in October-November 2001.
[edit] 2001 - COP 6 bis, Bonn, Germany

2001 - COP 6 Bis, Bonn, Germany

COP 6 negotiations resumed July 17-27, 2001, in Bonn, Germany, with little progress having been made on resolving the differences that had produced an impasse in The Hague. However, this meeting took place after President George W. Bush had become the U.S. President, and had rejected the Kyoto Protocol in March; as a result the United States delegation to this meeting declined to participate in the negotiations related to the Protocol, and chose to act as observers at that meeting. As the other parties negotiated the key issues, agreement was reached on most of the major political issues, to the surprise of most observers given the low level of expectations that preceded the meeting. The agreements included:

1. Flexible Mechanisms: The "flexibility" mechanisms which the United States had strongly favored as the Protocol was initially put together, including emissions trading; Joint Implementation (JI); and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) which allow industrialized countries to fund emissions reduction activities in developing countries as an alternative to domestic emission reductions. One of the key elements of this agreement was that there would be no quantitative limit on the credit a country could claim from use of these mechanisms, but that domestic action must constitute a significant element of the efforts of each Annex B country to meet their targets.

2. Carbon sinks: Credit was agreed to for broad activities that absorb carbon from the atmosphere or store it, including forest and cropland management, and re-vegetation, with no over-all cap on the amount of credit that a country could claim for sinks activities. In the case of forest management, an Appendix Z establishes country-specific caps for each Annex I country, for example, a cap of 13 million tons could be credited to Japan (which represents about 4% of its base-year emissions). For cropland management, countries could receive credit only for carbon sequestration increases above 1990 levels.

3. Compliance: final action on compliance procedures and mechanisms that would address non-compliance with Protocol provisions was deferred to COP 7, but included broad outlines of consequences for failing to meet emissions targets that would include a requirement to "make up" shortfalls at 1.3 tons to 1, suspension of the right to sell credits for surplus emissions reductions; and a required compliance action plan for those not meeting their targets.

4. Financing: Three new funds were agreed upon to provide assistance for needs associated with climate change; a fund for climate change that supports a series of climate measures; a least-developed-country fund to support National Adaptation Programs of Action; and a Kyoto Protocol adaptation fund supported by a CDM levy and voluntary contributions.

A number of operational details attendant upon these decisions remained to be negotiated and agreed upon, and these were the major issues of the COP 7 meeting that followed.

2001 - COP 7, Marrakech, Morocco

At the COP 7 meeting in Marrakech, Morocco October 29-November 10, 2001, negotiators in effect completed the work of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, finalizing most of the operational details and setting the stage for nations to ratify the Protocol.[2] [3] The completed package of decisions are known as the Marrakech Accords. The United States delegation continued to act as observers, declining to participate in active negotiations. Other parties continued to express their hope that the United States would re-engage in the process at some point, but indicated their intention to seek ratification of the requisite number of countries to bring the Protocol into force (55 countries representing 55% of developed country emissions of carbon dioxide in 1990). A target date for bringing the Protocol into force was put forward: the August-September 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The main decisions at COP 7 included:

* Operational rules for international emissions trading among parties to the Protocol and for the CDM and joint implementation;

* A compliance regime that outlines consequences for failure to meet emissions targets but defers to the parties to the Protocol after it is in force to decide whether these consequences are legally binding;

* Accounting procedures for the flexibility mechanisms;

* A decision to consider at COP 8 how to achieve a review of the adequacy of commitments that might move toward discussions of future developing country commitments.

2002 - COP 8, New Delhi, India, October 23 – November 1, 2002

2003 - COP 9, Milan, Italy, 1 – 12 December 2003

2004 - COP 10, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 6 – 17 December 2004

2005 - COP 11/MOP 1, Montreal, Canada

COP 11 (or COP 11/MOP 1) took place between November 28 and December 9, 2005, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. COP 11 was also the first Meeting of the Parties (MOP-1) to the Kyoto Protocol since their initial meeting in Kyoto in 1997. It was therefore one of the largest intergovernmental conferences on climate change ever. The event marked the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. Hosting more than 10,000 delegates, it was one of Canada's largest international events ever and the largest gathering in Montreal since Expo 67. The Montreal Action Plan is an agreement hammered out at the end of the conference to "extend the life of the Kyoto Protocol beyond its 2012 expiration date and negotiate deeper cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions."

* Canada's environment minister, at the time, Stéphane Dion, said the agreement provides a "map for the future."

2006 - COP 12/MOP 2, Nairobi, Kenya

COP 12/MOP 2 took place between 6 and 17 November 2006 in Nairobi, Kenya. At the meeting, the phrase climate tourists was coined to describe some delegates who attended "to see Africa, take snaps of the wildlife, the poor, dying African children and women".[6]

2007 - COP 13/MOP 3, Nusa Dua, in Bali

COP 13/MOP 3 took place between December 3 and December 15, 2007, at Nusa Dua, in Bali, Indonesia. Agreement on a timeline and structured negotiation on the post 2012 framework (a successor to the Kyoto Protocol) was achieved with the adoption of the Bali Action Plan (Decision 1/CP.13). The Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) was established as a new subsidiary body to conduct the negotiations aimed at urgently enhancing the implementation of the Convention now, up to and beyond 2012. These negotiations will take place during 2008 (leading to COP 14/MOP 4 in Poznan, Poland) and 2009 (leading to COP 15/MOP 5 in Copenhagen).

2008 COP 14/MOP 4   in Poznan, Poland

United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 14/MOP 4 took place between 1–12 December 2008 in Poznań, Poland. Delegates agreed on principles of financing for a fund to help the poorest nations cope with the effects of climate change. And also they approved a mechanism to incorporate forest protection into efforts.

2009 - COP 15/MOP 5, Copenhagen, Denmark

COP 15 is currently taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark from 7 December to 18 December 2009.

The overall goal for the COP 15/MOP 5 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Denmark was to establish an ambitious global climate agreement for the period from 2012 when the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol expires. However, on November 14, 2009, the New York Times announced that "President Obama and other world leaders have decided to put off the difficult task of reaching a climate change agreement... agreeing instead to make it the mission of the Copenhagen conference to reach a less specific “politically binding” agreement that would punt the most difficult issues into the future."[5] It is expected that ministers and officials from 192 countries will take part in the Copenhagen meeting and that, in addition, there will be participants from a large number of organizations. A large part of the diplomatic work that lays the foundation for a post-Kyoto agreement has been undertaken up to the COP15.

A binding agreement for the post-Kyoto period is now expected to be postponed, "possibly to a second summit meeting in Mexico City later on."

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