The UNFCCC (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as “the Climate Convention”) was signed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The conference, also known as the “Rio Conference,” brought together government leaders from around the world to sign the agreement.
The goal of the UNFCCC is to stabilize greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at levels that will not cause dangerous climate changes. Moreover, the aim is to stabilize emissions within a time frame that allows ecosystems to adapt to climate change naturally. The steps that are taken to do so must not endanger food production and must also be consistent with sustainable economic development. Today, virtually all members of the United Nations have signed and ratified the UNFCCC.
The UNFCCC operates on the principle that the rich, industrialised countries are mostly responsible for the climate changes to date, while the poor, developing countries will mainly suffer the brunt of the impacts. The convention thus states that the industrialised countries must be the first to take action and reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. At present, developing countries are not obliged to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. Industrialized countries, including countries with economies in transition (countries in Eastern and Central Europe and in the former Soviet Union), are required to develop national action plans to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and protect and develop forests and oceans that can absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The aim of the convention is for industrialised countries to assist the developing countries in becoming better prepared to tackle the impacts of climate change. The convention specifically requires industrialised countries to:
- Provide funding and technological assistance to help developing countries limit their emissions of greenhouse gases.
- Help the countries that are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of climate change to manage the costs of adaptation.
- Aquire environmentally sound technology and knowledge in addition to supporting technological innovation in developing countries.
Both industrialised and developing countries are required to:
- Aquire information about how much they emit and how much CO2 is captured in their oceans and forests.
- Provide information about steps taken to restrict emissions or adapt to climate change.
- Protect greenhouse gas sinks (such as oceans and forests).
- Co-operate on planning to deal with the impacts of climate change on coastal zones, water resources and agriculture.
- Co-operate on protecting areas threatened by flood or drought, especially in Africa.
- Inform the public about climate change and possible impacts.
The countries are also required to support an international economic system that will lead to sustainable economic growth and development in all countries, especially developing countries. This will better enable them to solve the problems that are caused by climate change.
Back to Basics-section
About this page:
Author: Camilla Schreiner - CICERO (Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo) - Norway. Scientific reviewers: Andreas Tjernshaugen - CICERO, Norway - 2004-01-20 and Dr. Knut Alfsen - Statistics Norway, Norway - 2003-09-12. Educational reviewer: Nina Arnesen - Marienlyst School, Oslo, Norway - 2004-03-10. Last update: 2004-03-27.