Factfile on UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, Copenhagen talks


The December 7-18 UN climate conference in Copenhagen is tasked with framing a new deal for tackling global warming and its impacts beyond 2012. Here is a factfile on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol and the talks.


The offshoot of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the UNFCCC provides a planetary arena for tackling climate change. It came into force on March 21 1994. The treaty has been ratified by 192 countries.

Governments swap information on greenhouse-gas emissions, on national policies and on "best practices" for combatting global warming. They also cooperate in helping countries adapt to climate impacts.


The UNFCCC's landmark achievement, the first international treaty to set down legally-binding targets for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions.

It was signed as a "framework" accord in 1997; its complex rulebook was completed in 2001; it took effect on February 16 2005. It has been ratified by 183 countries plus the European Community (EC).

Kyoto set down commitments for industrialised economies that would reduce overall emissions of six categories of greenhouse gases by "at least" five percent by a 2008-2012 timeframe compared to 1990.

Rich countries can trade in emissions or invest in cleaner-energy projects in former Soviet economies or developing economies in order to gain "carbon credits" that they can then offset against their quota.

Poorer countries do not having binding emissions targets. They make a general pledge to avoid pollution.

Kyoto has been badly wounded by the absence of the United States, which signed but refused to ratify the pact, and by massive overshoots in carbon emissions by Canada and Australia.

Supporters of Kyoto like its internationally enforceable compliance mechanisms. Critics flaw the agreement because emerging giants such as China, India and Brazil, which are now major carbon polluters, have no targeted emissions cuts.


Under a "road map" launched in 2007, the conference will focus on an agreement that will take effect after Kyoto's present commitment period expires at the end of 2012. It must take into account new scientific evidence about the growing danger from climate change.

These are the core goals:

- Forging a "shared vision" for long-term cooperative action, "including a long-term global goal for emissions reductions."

- Emissions curbs will be determined by "measurable, reportable and verifiable" actions to cut carbon output. For all developed countries, these will include "quantified emissions limitation and reduction objectives." For developing countries, no mention is made of emissions reductions. Instead, the talks will cover "nationally appropriate mitigation actions."

- Financial help to enable poor countries cope with the impact of climate change.

- Encouraging the transfer of cleaner technology through "effective mechanisms and enhanced means," including financial incentives but also the removal of obstacles, a shorthand term for trade barriers.

- Curbing emissions from deforestation, through "policy approaches and positive incentives" in developing countries as well as sustainable forest management and conservation.

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