United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC)

UNFCCC entered into force in 1994. Today, it has near-universal membership. The 197 countries that have ratified the Convention are called Parties to the Convention. USA has re-joined the UNFCCC after President Biden took over.

Preventing “dangerous” human interference with the climate system is the ultimate aim of the UNFCCC.

The ultimate objective of the Convention is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-induced) interference with the climate system.”

Parties to UNFCCC are classified as

  • Annex I countries: Industrialized countries and economies in transition
  • Annex II countries: Developed countries which pay for the costs of developing countries. Annex II countries are a sub-group of the Annex I countries.
  • Non-Annex I countries: Developing countries are not required to reduce emission levels unless developed countries supply enough funding and technology.
  • Setting no immediate restrictions under UNFCCC serves these purposes:
  • It avoids restrictions on their development because emissions are strongly linked to industrial capacity.
  • They can sell emissions credits to nations whose operators have difficulty meeting their emissions targets.
  • They get money and technologies for low-carbon investments from Annex II countries.
  • Developing countries may volunteer to become Annex I countries when they are sufficiently developed.
  • India is non-Annex party to UNFCCC.


  • The Kyoto Protocol was adopted on 11 December 1997. Owing to a complex ratification process, it entered into force on 16 February 2005. Currently, there are 192 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
  • In short, the Kyoto Protocol operationalizes the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by committing industrialized countries and economies in transition to limit and reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in accordance with agreed individual targets. The Convention itself only asks those countries to adopt policies and measures on mitigation and to report periodically.
  • The Kyoto Protocol is based on the principles and provisions of the Convention and follows its annex-based structure. It only binds developed countries, and places a heavier burden on them under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities”, because it recognizes that they are largely responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere.
  • In its Annex B, the Kyoto Protocol sets binding emission reduction targets for 37 industrialized countries and economies in transition and the European Union. Overall, these targets add up to an average 5 per cent emission reduction compared to 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008–2012 (the first commitment period).
  • Doha Amendment – In Doha, Qatar, on 8 December 2012, the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol was adopted for a second commitment period, starting in 2013 and lasting until 2020.
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