The UNFCCC is one of three conventions adopted at the “Rio Earth Summit” in 1992. Its sister Rio Conventions are the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification. The three are intrinsically linked. Preventing “dangerous” human interference with the climate system is the ultimate aim of the UNFCCC.
The idea of the Convention is that developed countries are the source of most past and current greenhouse gas emissions, and are therefore expected to do the most to cut emissions on home ground. The UNFCCC entered into force on 21 March 1994. Today, it has near-universal membership. There are 195 parties to the Convention.1
On 12 December 2015, the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP) adopted the Paris Agreement by decision 1/CP.21 which agrees to limit global temperature increases to well below 2C.
The ultimate objective is to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
Article 4: Commitments
1. All Parties […] shall
(f) Take climate change considerations into account, to the extent feasible, in their relevant social, economic and environmental policies and actions, and employ appropriate methods […] formulated and determined nationally, with a view to minimizing adverse effects on the economy, on public health and on the quality of the environment, of projects or measures undertaken by them to mitigate or adapt to climate change;
2. The developed country Parties and other Parties […] commit themselves specifically as provided for in the following:
(a) Each of these Parties shall adopt national policies and take corresponding measures on the mitigation of climate change, by limiting its anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and protecting and enhancing its greenhouse gas sinks and reservoirs.
These policies and measures will demonstrate that developed countries are taking the lead in modifying longer-term trends in anthropogenic emissions […].
(b) In order to promote progress to this end, each of these Parties shall communicate […] detailed information on its policies and measures […] as well as on its resulting projected anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases […] with the aim of returning individually or jointly to their 1990 levels these anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases […].