A global effort

Climate change has global consequences. In order for the world to limit the warming of the planet, action is required across the world. It is the responsibility of all countries to take coordinated action to reduce emissions and to adapt to climate change.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The UNFCCC was created in 1992 as the main forum for international action on climate change. 195 countries have joined the international agreement (known as a convention). Negotiations focus on four key areas:

  • mitigating (reducing) greenhouse gas emissions
  • adapting to climate change
  • reporting of national emissions
  • financing of climate action in developing countries

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) commits all signatory nations to formulate, implement, publish and update measures to prepare for the impacts of climate change, known as ‘adaptation’. It also commits countries to cooperate on adaptation and provides a variety of support mechanisms for the implementation of adaptation measures in developing countries.

In 2010, the Cancun Adaptation Framework was adopted, and it was agreed that adaptation must be given the same priority as mitigation. The framework calls for further action on adaptation including reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience to climate change in developing countries.

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement is the first truly global effort to reduce emissions. To date, 160 UNFCCC parties have made voluntary pledges to reduce emissions up to 2030, including China, the US and the European Union (on behalf of the UK and other EU nations). The Paris Agreement also places significant emphasis on the need for adaptation action around the world.

One long-term goal of the Paris Agreement is to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. It also contains a commitment to reach a ‘balance of anthropogenic sources and sinks in the second half of the century’. Current pledges to reduce emission by 2030 would lead to lower global emissions than previous expectations, but further action will be required to keep warming to well below 2°C or 1.5°C. Recognising this gap in ambition, the Paris Agreement instituted a so-called ‘ratchet’ mechanism to steadily increase ambition.

In 2020 all countries will be obliged to re-submit their pledges for 2030 emissions reduction, with a view to increasing their ambition. This will be followed a global stocktake of progress in 2023 and further reviews every five years after that.

Conference of the Parties (COP)

The COP is the decision-making body of the international agreement (convention). All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP. A key task for the COP is to review the national communications and emission inventories submitted by Parties. The COP meets every year, unless the Parties decide otherwise.