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Framework Convention on Climate Change

Framework Convention on Climate Change

Treaty

By: The United Nations

Date: May 9, 1992

Source: The United Nations. EPA Global Warming Publications. "Framework Convention on Climate Change." 〈http://yosemite.epa.gov/oar/globalwarming.nsf/content/ResourceCenterPublicationsReferenceFrameworkConventiononClimateChangeConvention.html〉 (accessed January 17, 2006).

About the Organization: The United Nations, or UN, is a global organization established in 1945. The purposes of the United Nations are to maintain international peace and security, to cooperate in solving international problems, and to be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations.

INTRODUCTION

Carbon dioxide is a gas that is naturally present in the atmosphere and is known to play an important role in maintaining the earth's temperature. Solar radiation enters the earth's atmosphere and heats the surface of the earth. Part of this radiation is then reflected back and leaves the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases play their role by trapping the exiting radiation and reflecting it back toward the Earth's surface. This causes heat to be retained within the atmosphere, which causes an increase in global temperature.

Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere by the burning of oil, natural gas, coal, and wood products. All of these processes have increased since the industrial revolution, and so carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere at increasing rates.

The impact of industrialization on carbon dioxide levels and temperature was considered by the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius (1859–1927) in his 1908 book Worlds in the Making. In this book, Arrhenius asserted that the burning of coal and the use of petroleum was increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which would cause a global temperature increase. At this time, it was known that carbon dioxide acted as a greenhouse gas by trapping heat in the atmosphere. However, the idea that the earth's temperature would rise as a result of the increased production of carbon dioxide was new.

At the time of Arrhenius's suggestion, he did not consider that a rise in global temperature would be a problem. Instead, he suggested that it would provide benefits including warming the colder regions of the earth and making them more suitable for growing crops. He also suggested that a warmer climate would be an improvement for people of all areas.

It was not until the 1980s that serious concerns were raised about the potential negative effects of global warming. Considering Arrhenius's claims, scientists generally accept that he was correct in linking human activities producing carbon dioxide to a rise in global temperature. However, most scientists do not agree that the rise in temperature is a positive thing. In contrast, global warming has become an environmental issue raising much concern.

While it is generally accepted that global warming is a problem, the exact effects are not certain. It is assumed that global warming will impact global weather and cause an increase in sea level. It is also thought that weather patterns could become more unpredictable, with more storms, hurricanes, cyclones, floods, and droughts likely. An increase in the global temperature could negatively impact agriculture, wildlife, and forests.

One of the difficulties that scientists face is trying to predict how global warming will impact local regions. However, even if local effects cannot be predicted, it is still assumed that there will be significant negative effects on various regions across the globe. This has made global warming an issue of global concern.

As an organization dedicated to international affairs, the United Nations has made global warming one of its areas of concern. In 1992, the Framework Convention on Climate Change was created by the United Nations to promote the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations so as to prevent the dangerous effects of global warming.

PRIMARY SOURCE

ARTICLE 2

OBJECTIVE The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems 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 3

PRINCIPLES In their actions to achieve the objective of the Convention and to implement its provisions, the Parties shall be guided, INTER ALIA, by the following:

  1. The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with Their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Accordingly, the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.
  2. The specific needs and special circumstances of developing country Parties, especially those that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, and of those Parties, especially developing country Parties, that would have to bear a disproportionate or abnormal burden under the Convention, should be given full consideration.
  3. 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 damage, 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 cost. To achieve this, such policies and measures should take into account different socio-economic contexts, be comprehensive, cover all relevant sources, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases and adaptation, and comprise all economic sectors. Efforts to address climate change may be carried out cooperatively by interested parties.
  4. The Parties have a right to, and should, promote sustainable development. Policies and measures to protect the climate system against human-induced change should be appropriate for the specific conditions of each Party and should be integrated with national development programmes, taking into account that economic development is essential for adopting measures to address climate change.
  5. The Parties should cooperate to promote a supportive and open international economic system that would lead to sustainable economic growth and development in all Parties, particularly developing country Parties, thus enabling them better to address the problems of climate change. Measures taken to combat climate change, including unilateral ones, should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade.

ARTICLE 4

COMMITMENTS 1. All Parties, taking into account their common but differentiated responsibilities and their specific national and regional development priorities, objectives and circumstances, shall:

(a) Develop, periodically update, publish and make available to the Conference of the Parties, in accordance with Article 12, national inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, using comparable methodologies to be agreed upon by the Conference of the Parties;

(b) Formulate, implement, publish and regularly update national and, where appropriate, regional programmes containing measures to mitigate climate change by addressing anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, and measures to facilitate adequate adaptation to climate change;

(c) Promote and cooperate in the development, application and diffusion, including transfer, of technologies, practices and processes that control, reduce or prevent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol in all relevant sectors, including the energy, transport, industry, agriculture, forestry and waste management sectors;

(d) Promote sustainable management, and promote and cooperate in the conservation and enhancement, as appropriate, of sinks and reservoirs of all Greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, including biomass, forests and oceans as well as other terrestrial, coastal and marine Ecosystems;

(e) Cooperate in preparing for adaptation to the impacts of climate change; develop and elaborate appropriate and integrated plans for coastal zone management, water resources and agriculture, and for the protection and rehabilitation of areas, particularly in Africa, affected by drought and desertification, as well as floods;

(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, for example impact assessments, 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;

(g) Promote and cooperate in scientific, technological, technical, socio-economic and other research, systematic observation and development of data archives related to the climate system and intended to further the understanding and to reduce or eliminate the remaining uncertainties regarding the causes, effects, magnitude and timing of climate change and the economic and social consequences of various response strategies;

(h) Promote and cooperate in the full, open and prompt exchange of relevant scientific, technological, technical, socio-economic and legal information related to the climate system and climate change, and to the economic and social consequences of various response strategies;

(i) Promote and cooperate in education, training and public awareness related to climate change and encourage the widest participation in this process, including that of non-governmental organizations; and

(j) Communicate to the Conference of the Parties information related to implementation, in accordance with Article 12.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Framework Convention on Climate Change was an international treaty created based on the United Nation's recognition that climate change is a global issue and relevant to all countries. It was also created based on recognizing that human activities would increase the concentration of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, which would then cause an increase in global temperature, assuming that global warming will have a negative impact, even if the exact impact cannot be predicted.

The United Nations recognized that the management of carbon dioxide emissions needs to be based on a global agreement. It is not suitable for every country to develop their own standards because the decisions made by one country can impact other countries. This especially applies to those countries more vulnerable to changes in temperature, including developing countries in Africa, small island countries, and countries with low-lying areas vulnerable to flooding.

Based on these recognitions, the treaty requires that all countries provide information on their carbon dioxide emissions, implement plans to manage emissions and mitigate climate change, promote and cooperate in activities related to managing climate change, and take climate change into account when developing social, economic, and environmental plans.

The framework did not specifically require countries to reduce emissions and it did not set standards for emissions. However, it was a first step toward recognizing global warming as a significant environmental issue and achieving international cooperation on the issue.

In 1997, the Framework Convention on Climate Change was amended with the addition of the Kyoto Protocol. This addition required countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases and also set greenhouse gas emission limits.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Arrhenius, Svante. Worlds in the Making. New York: Harper & Row, 1908.

Climate Change Policy: A Survey, edited by Stephen H. Schneider and Armin Rosencranz. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2002.

Houghton, John. Global Warming: The Complete Briefing. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Leggett, Jeremy. The Carbon War: Global Warming and the End of the Oil Era. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Periodicals

Bolin, B. "The Kyoto Negotiations on Climate Change: A Science Perspective." Science 279 (1998): 330-331.

Web sites

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. "Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change." 〈http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/kpeng.html〉 (accessed January 17, 2006).

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