COP 21 under the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is scheduled to take place end of this year. You might be wondering what significance is this to you? Well, you will soon find out. However, here’s a friendly advice to you, take a moment to read about what UNFCCC is all about from this article written by Emily Oi Yen Tse, one of our Malaysian Youth Delegation team member. And trust us, you will want to start learning about it now because soon enough, you will start hearing even more about UNFCCC and everything related to climate change. Get a head start now before it’s too late!
The all mighty, UNFCCC
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an intergovernmental treaty to address global climate change (UNFCCC, 1992). In June 1994 at the Rio de Janeiro United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the famous Earth Summit, the convention is officially opened for signature. On 21 March 1994, UNFCCC entered into force after the ratification of the 50th country. To date, there are 195 ratified countries including United States of America.
The ultimate objective of the convention is to achieve stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system (UNFCCC, 1992). No specific level is mentioned in the objective, only that it should be maintained at a “safe” level. However, recent development of negotiations have endorsed a few levels specifically focusing on CO2 emission level (Ackerman et al., 2009). It is advised the safe level should be achieved within a time frame so that it is sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, as well as ensuring sustainable food production and economic development. In order to achieve the objective, all parties who signed the convention shall be guided by a few principles and commitments according to respective circumstances and needs.
Institutions of the Convention
There are several institutions and bodies work within the framework of the Convention including those established by the Convention as well as other bodies established by the Conference of Parties (COP) to assist their operations. There are institutions and bodies such as the expert bodies, allied groups, as well as joint working groups.
- The Conference of the Parties (COP)
COP is the supreme body of the Convention which holds the highest decision-making authority. It meets annually and reviews the implementation of the Convention, adopts decisions to further develop the Convention’s rules, and negotiates substantive new commitments.
2. Subsidiary bodies (SBs)
The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) provides advice to the COP on matters of science, technology and methodology, including guidelines for improving standards of national communications and emission inventories. The Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) helps to assess and review the Convention’s implementation, for instance by analysing national communications submitted by Parties. It also deals with financial and administrative matters.
The Secretariat mandate is to make practical arrangements for the sessions of the Convention bodies, assist Parties in implementing their commitments, compile and disseminate data and information, and confer with other relevant international organizations.
Participants of the Convention
Each Party to the Convention is represented at sessions of the Convention bodies by a national delegation who represent and negotiate on behalf of their government. Parties are grouped into 3, which are Annex I, Annex II; and Non-Annex I according to respective economic situations and commitments. Read more about the various Annex here.
States that are not Parties to the Convention may attend sessions of the COP and SBs as observers, if they have been invited by the COP President, and if no objections have been raised by more than 1/3 of the Parties present. Observer states which mostly include of Intergovernmental organisations (IGOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are entitled to participate in the sessions, but are not entitled to vote.
Accredited representatives of the media may also attend sessions of the COP and subsidiary bodies as observers.
Commitments, Mitigation and Adaptation
The Convention defines two interrelated policy responses to climate change–mitigations and adaptations. All Parties that are involved in the Convention are subjected to general commitments to respond to climate change including gather and share information on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, national policies and best practices.
The Convention also set more stringent mitigation commitments for developed country Parties listed in Annex I. They are required to adopt policies and measures to limit their emissions and enhance sinks. It has established a not legally binded target for these Parties to return their GHG emissions to an acceptable by the year 2020. Developed country Parties included in Annex II are required to provide financial resources to developing countries to help them comply with their commitments and in adaptation, and to take steps for transfer of technologies.