United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - UPSC Notes

International organisations and groupings like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are important topics for the International Relations section of the General Studies paper-2 in the UPSC Syllabus.  In 2019, there were 21 questions from the Environment and Ecology Sections in the IAS Prelims. This number could also go up in the future if you consider the importance of issues like climate change, global warming, conservation and so on from the Environment and ecology section of General Studies paper-3.

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United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

UNFCCC is the primary multilateral treaty governing actions to combat climate change through adaptation and mitigation efforts directed at control of emission of Green House Gases (GHGs) that cause global warming. Even though climate change is a global concern some of the countries are majorly responsible for greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Many island nations are facing the major brunt of this Climate Change in the form of sea-level rise, cyclones, erratic weather conditions, etc. UNFCCC is a major step in the direction to control the downward spiral of climate change.

UNFCCC UPSC:- Download PDF Here


  • 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) in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, in 1992.
  • The treaty sets limits on GHG emissions on countries, but these are not binding and there are no enforcement mechanisms either.
    •  However, there are provisions for updates or protocols that can be used to set legally binding emission limits on countries.
  • The parties to the convention meet annually in the Conference of the Parties or COP to review the progress under the convention.

UPSC Prelims Facts - UNFCCC

Other Prelims Key Facts about UNFCCC for UPSC

How Many Countries are Signatories of the Agreement?

  • There are 165 countries that are signatories of the agreement.

How Many Countries are Parties of the UNFCCC?

  • 197 countries are parties to the UNFCCC.

To know more about the United Nations, visit the linked article.

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 come under the category of low-income developing countries.

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the third session of the UNFCCC. Read more about the Kyoto Protocol in the linked article. This protocol is based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, keeping in mind the socio-economic development of the concerned countries and the polluter pays principle.

Another important agreement within the UNFCCC is the Paris Agreement (COP 21) which aims to reduce and mitigate GHG emissions.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and India

  • India ratified the UNFCCC in 1993.
  • The nodal agency for the UNFCCC in India is the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • Since India is a developing country, it is not required to adhere to GHG mitigation commitments because of its relatively smaller emissions and also because of lesser technical and financial capacities.
  • India has been a big champion of the principles of Equity and Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capability (CBDR-RC) at the Convention.
  • This is primarily based on the belief that developed countries have largely been responsible for the huge emission levels, owing to their being industrialized decades before the other countries.
    • A scientific study carried on greenhouse gas emissions from the time period 1850 to 2012  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 of the US, European Union, and China is 20%, 17%, 12% respectively. 
    • On the other hand, India is responsible for only 5%. 
  • Another reason is that developing countries and LDCs would have to accord eradicating poverty and other developmental activities more priority as compared to environmental concerns. So, they should be allowed leeway in assessing capabilities in addressing climate change.
  • India has played an active role in taking steps to mitigate climate change, as the country is exposed to risks associated with climate change like erratic monsoons and natural calamities like floods, droughts, landslides, etc.
  • National Environment Policy, 2006 promotes sustainable development along with respect for ecological constraints and the imperatives of social justice.
  • The Government of India launched the National Action Plan on Climate Change in 2008. Read more about it in the linked article.
  • At COP 21 (Paris Agreement), India had made various commitments to be achieved by 2030. 
    • One commitment was to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
    • For more on the commitments made by India, check the article on Paris Agreement.
  • India was instrumental in the formation of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. Read more about it in PIB dated Nov 14, 2019.
  • In the UN Climate talks that were held in Poland, India reiterated that the CBDR principle must be adhered to even as there were growing concerns that developed countries were trying to dilute it.

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