Saturday Session at Options Coaching Academy in Dehradun, Uttarakhand on 02-05-2015.

Topic: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Day: Saturday

Faculty: Mr. Manoj Baliyan

A stimulating, structured and valuable lecture on “UNFCCC” was conducted by Mr. Manoj Baliyan.

The students appreciated and got benefited from the timely topic.





UN Framework Convention on climate change (UNFCCC): 1992

As the dangers of climate change were highlighted in the second world climate conference in Nov. 1990, the United Nations took major step to take appropriate global action to prevent the climate change in the light of the above, in may 1992, the UN framework convention on climate change was adopted by the global community which provides the basic framework to check the dangers to climate change.

The UNFCCC consists of 26 Articles and Articles 2 mentions in following words:

‘The ultimate objective of this convention is to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved with a time frame sufficient to allow eco-systems to adapt naturally to climate change to ensure that food production is not threatened and to proceed in a sustainable manner.’

The most important principle of this convention is listed in Article 3(1) which states, ‘the parties would protect the climate system for the benefit of the present and future generation of mankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Accordingly, the developed countries/parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.’

Article 7 of the convention establishes a mechanism called Conference of parties (COP) which shall be highest decision making and supervisory body under the convention.

The Conference of Parties (COP): Under the auspices of UN Framework of Convention on climate change the conference of parties or COP is the supreme decision making body. The Cop is held on annual basis. Since 1992 to 2014, 20 conference of parties have been held. Some of the major outcomes of the recent COPs are listed below:

  • COP 13 held in 1997 in Bali, Indonesia. It adopted Bali Road Map and Action Plan.
  • COP 15 was held in Copenhagen, Denmark on December 7-16, 2009. It adopted Copenhagen accord.
  • COP 16 was held in Cancun, Mexico on November 29 – December 10, 2010. It finalized Cancun Agreements.
  • COP17 was held on November 28 – December 9, 2011 in Durban, South Africa. It came out with Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.
  • COP 18 was held on November 26 – December 7, 2012 in Doha, Qatar. It adopted Doha Climate Gateway.
  • The 19 the conference of parties was held on November 7-22, 2013 in Warsaw, Poland. The major issue which dominated the conference was the mobilization of finances by developed countries for combating effects of climate change.

Lima conference of parties (COP), December 2014: The 20th round of annual climate change negotiations took place in Peru, Lima on December 1-12, 2014 with limited success due to differences between the developing countries and developed countries. The participant countries are preparing for a final draft of agreement to be signed in 2015 at Paris negotiations. The 2015 agreement is likely to contain carbon emission reduction targets for developed and developing countries.

In Lima COP the representatives of 196 countries took active participation. Indian delegation was led by her Environment Minister Prakash Jadvedkar. India represented the cause of developing countries. The crux of Indian argument was that the developed countries should bear the historical responsibility for carbon emission so far and therefore they should also bear the responsibility to provide finance and technology to overcome climate change impacts in developing countries. Also, the developing countries should not be burdened with binding carbon emission in a manner which hampers their development process. India also insisted to focus on adaptation aspects of climate change management whereas developed countries where in favour of focusing on mitigation measures. The adaptation aspects involve those steps which enable developing countries to cope with the harmful impacts of climate change which are already visible in many of the developing and small Island countries. Mitigation measures involve those steps like reduction in carbon emission which eliminate the root causes of climate change crisis. The developing countries are organized under the banner of G-77 and other smaller groups. However, the four leading developing countries have formed another group called BAISC (Brazil, South Africa, India, and China) for putting a common approach in these negotiations. This kind of polarization from both sides led to deadlock in the negotiation over many issues but primarily on how to divide responsibilities for climate change redressal mechanism between developed countries on the one hand and developing countries, India, China, and African countries on the other. In order to forge consensus on bare minimum points, the negotiations were advanced for more days up to December 14, 2014. After many rounds of meetings, the parties agreed on certain bare minimum points, which are include under the final document called as ‘Lima Call for climate Action’. The plan paves the way for final binding agreements signed in 2015 at Paris. The Paris Agreement will come into force in 2020. Some of the points included in the Lima call for climate Action are.

  1. This is the highly watered-down agreement that failed to include a formal review process of national Climate change efforts for the post- 2020 commitments that countries will make before Paris next year. Difficult issues such as whether the Paris deal will be legally binding were also left also undecided. The parties will submit their intentionally determined carbon reduction targets by March 2015 well before the Paris conference in December next year.
  2. In order to give solace to developing countries and India the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ was included in the final text. This principle was originally included in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), but was gradually watered down by the developed countries and was not included in the initial draft of Lima call for Climate Action. The US and Australia opposed the inclusion of this principle in the final draft. India, China and other developing countries demanded the inclusion of this principle in the final draft. Brazilian representative Antonio Marcondes said the removal of the concept of differentiations was tantamount to annihilation of the UN convention. However, it was agreed that the responsibility to take action to fight climate change lies with all nations of the world. Earlier, developing countries were insisting that they should be left out of this responsibility.
  3. Another solace to poor and developing countries was that the concerns of ‘loss and damage’ and ‘adaptation’ were included in the final draft. The final document of Lima Call for Climate Action urges parties to consider including an adaptation component in the pledges. It also urges the developed countries to consider providing financial support to poor countries for combating crisis of climate change.

However, one significant negative fallout of these negotiations was non committal provision for financial contribution by the developed countries to the global climate fund. It should be noted that this fund was created as a result of 2009. Copenhagen climate negotiations. The developed countries agreed to provide $100 billion per year till 2020 to the poor and small countries for coping with the negative consequences of climate change. This promise has not been fulfilled as yearly contribution of the developed countries to this fund is nearly $10 billion per annum only. I Lima conference also the developed countries did not make any promise to fulfill their commitment to provide financial contributions.

Critical Assessment

The Lima Call for Climate Action has evoked mixed response. The conference President Manuel Pulgarvidal, the Environment Minister of Peru, said every country was a winner from the decision. He remarked ‘Like all texts it is not perfect text, but with this text we all win without expectations. It is more-focused text. The text heeds everyone’s concerns and its does so in a balanced way.’ The European Union welcomed the outcome of the Lima negotiations and termed the final drafts as a step forward towards a global deal in Paris next year. It should be noted that the European Union announced in October 2014 that it will cut carbon emission by 40 per cent to 1990 level by the year 2030. The WWF climate change expert has termed this agreement as a lackluster plan with little scientific relevancy.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon also appreciated the final agreement but urged world leader to take more concerted efforts in this field. Indian government also claimed its victory as all the concerns raised by its delegation have been included in the final draft of Lima agreement. Yet the fact remains that the inclusion of certain core concerns of developing countries raised by the India like focus on adaptation, loss and damage, financial contribution etc is causal and non binding in nature. Thus, the euphoria of victory of developing countries is short-lived as these issues will resurface in the coming negotiations in 2015. Again, India may come under pressure during Paris Conference in 2015 to declare its carbon reduction targets in categorical terms because earlier China and the US have entered an agreement to declare their carbon reduction targets. The mixed response towards final outcome of Lima conference shows that it has tried to appease all section of participants and avoided the hard decisions at this juncture. This may pose problem in arriving at final agreement at Paris in 2015. The question of binding nature of Paris Agreement is put off, but it will re-emerge shortly. If the proposed climate change agreement is not binding and an effective monitoring mechanism is absent, the implementation of such agreement will face serious trouble in the time to come. The real problem lies with the persisting differences between the developing and developed countries on the core issues of these negotiations like adaptation Vs Mitigation, provision of finance and availability of advanced technology to poor countries and concerns of common but differentiated responsibilities.

The US and the other developed countries do not recognize China and India as developing countries as they term them as emerging economies. On this count, the US wants China and India to bear the equal responsibility like other developed countries, a position which is not accepted both by Indian and China in near future. Thus, the success of next round of negotiations at Paris in 2015 is contingent on the fact as to what extent the differences between the developed countries are bridged in the coming months. Thus major players should use the available time to reduce these differences and arrive at some consensus on core issues of Climate Change management.

The Core Issues of Climate Change Negotiations: Developed and Developing Countries: The climate change negotiations involve the four major aspects given below:

  1. The Mitigation- It involves consensus among the parties to reduce the greenhouse gas emission at level which ensures that global temperature does not increase more than 20 C over the pre-industrial levels. This is most crucial aspect of proposed negotiations, where the views of developed and developing countries are opposed to each other.
  2. Adaptation- This involves developing measures to enhance the capacity of nations particularly the vulnerable and poor nations to meet the consequences of climate change in effective manner. The effect of climate change shall be most severe on those nations which have poor adaptation capacity to cope with the climate change.
  3. Financial Agreements- The third aspect of the proposed climate change negotiation is to make agreement for funding the measures and programmes formulated for fighting and preventing the consequences of climate change. The developing countries already, poor in financial resources are hopeful that the rich countries should provide adequate financial resources for implementing climate change.
  4. Development and Transfer of Technology– The fourth aspect of this negotiation is the development and transfer for appropriate technology to the developing countries so that they can adopt mitigation and adaption measures. The poor countries hope that rich countries should commit to the prompt transfer of appropriate technology as these countries are not in a position to invest in the development of such technology.

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