United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - UNFCCC's Significance

Climate change is a matter of important global concern to citizens of all nations on earth. Some of the countries contributed majorly due to greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Some countries are facing the major brunt of this climate change in the form of sea-level rise, cyclones etc, erratic weather conditions etc. UNFCCC is a major step in the direction to control the downward spiral of climate change.

This article will deal with UNFCCC in detail as the topic would be of importance in the IAS Exam for both Prelims and Mains.

The first global conference on climate change was held in 1972 in Stockholm, Sweden. This conference ushered in numerous global negotiations and international agreements on the environment. All of these culminated in the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at Rio, in 1992.

Key Facts about UNFCCC for UPSC

What is UNFCCC and what is its objective?

It is a Multilateral Environmental Agreement to control greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Where is the UNFCCC headquarters located?

The secretariat is located in Bonn, Germany.

Location of the conference

It was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

When was UNFCCC adopted?

The UNFCCC was adopted on 9th May 1992

How many countries are signatories of the agreement?

There are 165 countries who are signatories of the agreement.

How many countries are parties of the UNFCCC?

197 countries are parties to the UNFCCC.

Is the UNFCCC legally binding?

The UNFCCC sets a framework for limiting the emissions of greenhouse gases by individual countries. It is not legally binding.

How did India push in Differentiated Responsibilities at UNFCCC?

  1. India had a huge population below the poverty line
  2. GDP per capita was very low compared to US, China, E.U.
  3. Per capita emissions in India was extremely low compared to developed Western Countries.
  4. Per capita, electricity consumption in India was very low compared to the global average.
  5. The difference in material wealth between developed and developing countries was a major factor in determining the capabilities of nations in addressing climate change.

Categories of Parties (Countries) associated with UNFCCC

The categories of countries that are signatories to UNFCCC are given in the table below:

Category of Parties Meaning
Annex I 43 parties (countries) come under this category. The countries that come under this category are developed countries.
Annex II 24 countries of Annex I also come under Annex II countries. The countries in this category are expected to provide technical and financial assistance to countries coming under the category of developing countries.
Annex B The countries in this category are Annex I countries, who have first or second-round Kyoto greenhouse gas emissions target.
Least-developed countries (LDCs) 47 Parties (countries) come under the category of LDCs. These countries are given special status under the treaty taking into consideration their limitations adapting to the effects of climate change.
Non Annex I Parties(countries) that are not listed in Annex I that comes under the category of low-income developing countries.

Climate change was considered as a problem of stocking greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), it means total emissions accumulated over a period of time. India was hardly responsible for the impending problem. A scientific study carried on greenhouse gas emissions from a time period 1850 to 2012, it was estimated that the US, China and the European Union would contribute to 50 per cent of temperature increase by 2100. The total emissions share in the given time period would be US – 20%, EU – 17%, China – 12%. On the other hand, India is responsible for only 5%. In UNFCCC these major differences in historical responsibility in causing climate change were duly recognised as Common but Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR).

The above details would be of help to candidates preparing for UPSC 2020 exams from the perspective of mains examination.

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