The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty produced at the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The objective of the treaty is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
The countries involved are known as parties to the treaty. As of 2014, UNFCCC had 195 parties. (1)
The parties have met annually from 1995 in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change. The COP events aim to gain consensus through meetings and discussion of various strategies.
Parties to UNFCCC are classified as:
- Annex I countries – industrialized countries and economies in transition
- Annex II countries – developed countries which pay for costs of developing countries
- Developing countries
Annex I countries which have ratified the Protocol have committed to reduce their emission levels of greenhouse gasses to targets that are mainly set below their 1990 levels. The UNFCCC collects and maintains the greenhouse gas inventories reported by each of the Annex I countries.
There are 40 Annex I countries plus the European Union. These countries are classified as industrialized countries and countries in transition:
Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America
There are 23 Annex II countries plus the European Union. These countries are classified as developed countries which pay for costs of developing countries:
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America
Under the Kyoto Protocol, developing countries are not required to reduce emissions unless developed countries supply funding and technology.
Setting no immediate restrictions on developing countries is intended to serve three 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.
Some opponents of the UNFCCC convention feel that the split between Annex I and developing countries is unfair, and that both developing countries and developed countries need to reduce their emissions.
Some countries, such as the United States, claim that their costs of following the convention requirements will stress their economy.
Other countries point to research, such as the Stern Review from UK, that calculates the cost of compliance to be less than the cost of the consequences of doing nothing.