Introduction

The United Nations Framework Convention Climate Change (UNFCCC), initiated in 1992 and enforced in 1994, is the main framework for formulating and implementing international agreements for action on climate change.[1] Every year, the countries that are signatories to the UNFCCC, or “parties”, hold conferences for the governance of these agreements. The most famous of these conferences is the so called Conference of Parties (CoP). The Paris Agreement (PA) adopted at CoP-21 in 2015 and the Kyoto Protocol (KP) at CoP-3 in 1995, are two of the more famous agreements under the UNFCCC. The primary goal of these agreements is to control and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the impacts of GHG emissions. Finance, compensation, technology transfer, capacity building, loss and damage, etc. are secondary goals added to advance the primary goal.[2],[3]

The current conference CoP-24 in Katowice, Poland, is focused on agreeing on the finer details of PA, which would officially take over from the KP in 2020, subject to negotiations going through successfully. PA outlines a goal of keeping the increase in global average temperatures below 2°C, ambitious goal of 1.5°C. It has been signed on by all 197 parties except the United States of America. 174 parties have ratified the agreement.[4]


Glossary

UNFCCC: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The objective is to “stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at a level that will prevent dangerous interference with the climate system”.

2˚C: According to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a rise in the global temperature of more than 2˚C would have serious consequences, such as an increase in the frequency of extreme climate events.

Adaptation: Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.

Mitigation: In the context of climate change, a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. Examples include using fossil fuels more efficiently for industrial processes or electricity generation, switching to solar energy or wind power, improving the insulation of buildings, and expanding forests and other "sinks" to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Differentiation: The principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” in the Convention underpins the collective efforts to tackle climate change by differentiating between countries according to their historical responsibility and their capabilities.

INDC: Every state party to the UNFCCC was invited to communicate its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC), detailing the steps it is taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 or 2030.

Green Climate Fund: At COP 16 in Cancun in 2010, Governments established a Green Climate Fund as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention under Article 11. The GCF will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties. The Fund will be governed by the GCF Board.

Neutrality: The principle of carbon neutrality refers to offsetting greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions through projects to reduce emissions and/or buying carbon credits.

LDCs: Least Developed Countries. The world's poorest countries. The criteria currently used by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for designation as an LDC include low income, human resource weakness and economic vulnerability. Currently 48 countries have been designated by the UN General Assembly as LDCs.

REDD: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

GDP: Gross Domestic Product, a measure of the economy of a country

COP: Conference of the Parties. The supreme body of the Convention. It currently meets once a year to review the Convention's progress. The word "conference" is not used here in the sense of "meeting" but rather of "association". The "Conference" meets in sessional periods, for example, the "fourth session of the Conference of the Parties."

GHGs: Greenhouse gases. The atmospheric gases responsible for causing global warming and climate change. The major GHGs are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20). Less prevalent --but very powerful -- greenhouse gases are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

Annex I Parties: The industrialized countries listed in Annex I to the Convention, which committed to returning their greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000 as per Article 4.2 (a) and (b). They have also accepted emissions targets for the period 2008-12 as per Article 3 and Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol. They include the 24 original OECD members, the European Union, and 14 countries with economies in transition. (Croatia, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and Slovenia joined Annex 1 at COP-3, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia replaced Czechoslovakia.)

Annex II Parties: The countries listed in Annex II to the Convention which have a special obligation to provide financial resources and facilitate technology transfer to developing countries. Annex II Parties include the 24 original OECD members plus the European Union.

Kyoto Protocol: An international agreement standing on its own, and requiring separate ratification by governments, but linked to the UNFCCC. The Kyoto Protocol, among other things, sets binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions by industrialized countries.

IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. At COP 16 in Cancun in 2010, Governments established a Green Climate Fund as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention under Article 11. The GCF will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties. The Fund will be governed by the GCF Board.

All definitions were taken from UNFCCC at http://unfccc.int/essential_background/glossary/items/3666.php


[1] http://unfccc.int/essential_background/convention/items/6036.php

[2] http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php

[3] http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php

[4] http://unfccc.int/2860.php