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Framework Convention on Climate Change

In response to scientific predictions of man-made global warming, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) was adopted and signed by 162 countries in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit. With 26 Articles, consisting of objectives, principles, commitments and recommendations, the FCCC became a blueprint for precautionary action against the threat of global climate change. The ultimate objective of the FCCC was to:

achieve stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

To achieve this objective, Parties or countries to the Convention that have committed themselves to the FCCC, were guided by a number of principles. These proposed that:

  • the global climate should be protected for the benefit of present and future generations;
  • developed nations should take a leading role in combating climate change, in view of the fact that most of the greenhouse gas emissions are from developed nations;
  • the needs and special circumstances of developing countries, particularly those vulnerable to climate change, should be given full consideration;
  • a precautionary approach to mitigating or preventing the effects of global warming should be adopted, even when full scientific certainty is unavailable, to ensure the greatest possible global benefits at the lowest possible costs;

By adopting the FCCC, its objectives and principles, each Party was committed to a number of obligations, including the reporting of national greenhouse gas emissions, the development of greenhouse gas emission reduction programmes, the protection of greenhouse gas sinks such as forests, and the provision of education, training and public awareness concerning global warming. The United Kingdom signed the Framework Convention in 1992, ratified it in December 1993 and published its first UK Programme of Climate Change in January 1994. This Programme is currently being reviewed.

At the Earth Summit in 1992 it was agreed that those nations committed to the FCCC would meet regularly to review the progress made towards achieving greenhouse gas emission reductions. Since 1992 the Conference of Parties (COP) has met a number of times. At the Rio Earth Summit is was agreed that emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, should be stabilised at 1990 levels by the year 2000. Since then, the certainty of man-made climate change has become clearer. At the third Conference of Parties in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 participating nations agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5% by 2008-2012. When this Kyoto Protocol is ratified by enough countries, it will become legally binding.