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Transcript
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Fact sheet: An introduction to the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol
Climate change science and effects
The effects of global climate change are becoming ever more evident. Scientists believe that
climate change is already causing more frequent occurrences of drought, flooding and rises in
malaria. Other phenomena attributed to climate change are increased incidents of hurricanes and
forest fires. Among the long-term impacts are rising sea levels and damage to crops which can
lead to wide-spread famine. Some of the most serious effects of climate change are occurring in
countries least prepared to counter them. Many African countries are among the most vulnerable
to the impacts of climate change.
Global warming is caused by an excess of heat-trapping gases, first and foremost carbon dioxide,
methane and nitrous oxides. These gases mainly result from the burning of fossil fuels, from
agriculture and from waste dumps. The gases prevent the sun’s energy from radiating back into
space after it has reached the surface of the earth, much like the glass of a greenhouse.
The Convention and the Protocol
In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was
adopted as the basis for a global response to the problem. With 194 Parties, the Convention
enjoys near-universal membership. The ultimate objective of the Convention is to stabilise
greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human
interference with the climate system.
The Convention is complemented by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which has 192 Parties. Under this
treaty, 37 industrialised countries and the European Community have committed to reducing
their emissions by an average of 5 percent by 2012 against 1990 levels. Industrialized countries
must first and foremost take domestic action against climate change. But the Protocol also allows
them to meet their emission reduction commitments abroad through so-called ”market-based
mechanisms”.
For example, one of the Protocol’s market-based mechanisms, the Clean Development
Mechanism (CDM), permits industrialized countries to earn emission credits through investment
in sustainable development projects that reduce emissions in developing countries.
The UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol are also designed to assist countries in adapting to the
inevitable effects of climate change. They facilitate the development of techniques that can help
increase resilience to climate change impacts – for example, the development of salt-resistant
crops – and to exchange best practices with regard to adaptation.
October 2010
page 1 of 2
2
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
For more information, you may also wish to refer to the Fact sheets on The Kyoto Protocol, and
the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP/CMP).
January 2007