UNFCCC - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UPSC GS-III]

UNFCCC is an acronym for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It came into force on 21st March 1994. It has been ratified by 197 countries and is called to have a near-universal membership. The countries that have ratified the convention are called the UNFCCC conference of parties (COP). The latest, COP26, was scheduled to be held in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rescheduled conference would most likely be held in November 2021 hosted in Glasgow by the UK in partnership with Italy. Learn more relevant facts about UNFCCC for UPSC in this article.

The topic, “UNFCCC’ is one of the important ones in Environment & Ecology syllabus of the IAS Exam. Read about similar important environment conventions below:

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.

It is called the Rio Convention along with its sister conventions:

  1. UN Convention on Biological Diversity and
  2. UN Convention to Combat Desertification. 

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 Signatory Parties are there of the Agreement?

  • As of 2020, the UNFCCC has 197 signatory parties.

When does its supreme decision-making body meets?

  • Its supreme decision-making body, the Conference of the Parties (COP), meets annually to assess progress in dealing with climate change.

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.


There are a total of 25 COPs to UNFCCC that have met since 1994.  The list of UNFCCC Conference of Parties is given below:

UNFCCC Conference of the Parties
UNFCCC COP1 1985, Berlin
UNFCCC COP2 1996, Geneva
UNFCCC COP3 1997, Kyoto
UNFCCC COP4 1998, Buenos Aires
UNFCCC COP5 1999, Bonn
UNFCCC COP6 2001, The Hague
UNFCCC COP7 2001, Marrakesh
UNFCCC COP8 2002, New Delhi
UNFCCC COP9 2003, Milan
UNFCCC COP10 2004, Buenos Aires
UNFCCC COP11 2005, Montreal
UNFCCC COP12 2006, Nairobi
UNFCCC COP13 2007, Bali
UNFCCC COP14 2008, Poznan
UNFCCC COP15 2009, Copenhagen
UNFCCC COP16 2010, Cancun
UNFCCC COP17 2011, Durban
UNFCCC COP18 2012, Doha
UNFCCC COP19 2013, Warsaw
UNFCCC COP20 2014, Lima
UNFCCC COP21 2015, Paris
UNFCCC COP22 2016, Marrakesh
UNFCCC COP23 2017, Bonn
UNFCCC COP24 2018, Katowice
UNFCCC COP25 2019, Madrid

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