The nations which participated in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, 1992 [UNCED] held at Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and which were determined to protect the climate system for present and future generations, signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992 on 9th May, 1992 which ultimately came into force on 21st March 1994.
The ultimate objective of UNFCCC is to achieve stabilization of GHG’s concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climatic system. The UNFCCC aims at achieving such a level within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystem to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner [Article 2].
Article 3 of the Convention states that the Contracting States shall be guided by the following principles:
- The parties shall protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of mankind, on the basis of their equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.
- The parties should take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damages, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures taking into account that policies and measures to deal with climate change should be cost effective so, as to ensure global benefits at the lowest possible costs.
- The parties have a right to sustainable development and should promote sustainable development.
- The parties should co-operate to promote a support and open an international economic system that would lead to sustainable economic growth and development in all States, particularly developing countries parties, thus enabling them better to address the problem of climate change.
Article 4(1) further requires that all parties, in accordance with their differentiated responsibilities and capabilities to formulate and implement programs which mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and facilitate adaptation to it; promote and co-operate in developing and applying and transferring technologies which reduces or prevents emissions of GHG’s; promotes sustainable management and conservation of sinks and reservoirs of all greenhouse gases; and take account of climate change and economic and environmental programs.
Initially, the developed countries are required to make and initiate measures to limit their GHG’s emissions with the aim of returning individually or jointly to their 1990’s level by the end of the decade i.e. year 2000, and enhance their sinks and reservoirs.
Article 5 of the Convention provides that the parties shall support and further develop international and intergovernmental programs and networks or organizations aimed at defining, conducting, assessing and financing research and data collection and systematic observation, taking into account the need of minimizing duplication of efforts.
Similarly, Article 6 provides that in carrying out their commitments under Article 4, the parties shall:
- Promote and facilitate at the national, regional and sub-regional levels, the development and implementation of educational and public awareness programs on climate change and its effects
- Public access to information on climate change and its effects
- Public participation in addressing climate change and its effects and developing adequate responses
- Training of scientific, technical and managerial personnel.
Article 7 sets in motion the establishment of COP which is to be the supreme body of the Convention. The COP shall keep under regular review the implementation of Convention and any related legal instruments that the COP may adopt and shall make within its mandate the decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of Convention. The COP shall adopt in its own rules of procedures as well as those subsidiaries bodies established by the Convention.
Article 9 of the Convention provides for the establishment of a subsidiary body for scientific and technological advice to provide COP and other subsidiary bodies, timely information and advice on scientific and technological matters relating the Convention. The subsidiary body shall:
- Provide assessment of the State of scientific knowledge relating to climate change & its effects;
- Prepare scientific assessments on the effects of measures taken in the implementation of the Convention;
- Identify innovative, efficient and state of the art technologies and know-how & advice on the ways and means of promoting developing and transferring such technologies;
- Provide advice on scientific programs, international co-operation in research and development related to climate change, as well as on ways and means of supporting endogenous capacity-building in developing countries;
- Respond to scientific, technological and methodological questions that the COP and its subsidiary body may put.
Article 14 provides for the settlement of disputes. In case of any disputes between the parties, the UNFCCC provides the following methods for settlement of disputes resolution:
- Through Negotiation;
- Voluntary submission to ICJ;
- Voluntary submission to Arbitration;
Article 15 and 16 provides for adoption and amendment to the Convention.
Article 17 talks about Adoption of Protocols to this Convention.
At last, Article 24 provides that there cannot be any reservation to this Convention.
Till date, the Kyoto protocol is the only Protocol to this Convention.