The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) entered into force on 21 March 1994. Today, it has near-universal membership.
The UNFCCC is a “Rio Convention”, one of three adopted at the “Rio Earth Summit” in 1992. Its sister Rio Conventions are the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification. The three are intrinsically linked and now also incorporate the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
Preventing “dangerous” human interference with the climate system is the ultimate aim of the UNFCCC. The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the UNFCCC, which commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets.
Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities."
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005.
The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in 2016, builds upon the UNFCCC and – for the first time – brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.
The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives.
The Agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework.
HSI has been involved in climate negotiations for decades, arguing for forest protection to be included as part of the global strategy to mitigate greenhouse gases. We advocated for a mechanism to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) as part of an international emissions trading scheme. Deforestation and degradation is responsible for an estimated 18-25% of global greenhouse gas emissions and yet it was omitted from the Kyoto Protocol, and REDD lost out to a sustainable development mechanism in the Paris Agreement.
Humane Society International says governments must accept that all remaining intact natural forests are essential to combat climate change and that deforestation and forest degradation must cease.
Header image: istock.com/Warwick Lister-Kaye