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The main international agreements on climate change are United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.
The first international acknowledgement of the problem of climate change and the need for action was in 1992, during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was approved as a key element in international efforts to combat global warming. The Framework Convention came into force on 21 March 1994 and has so far been ratified by 193 states (see current status of ratification).
The objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
Since it came into force, the parties at the Summit—the countries that ratified, accepted or approved, or have acceded to the Convention— meet annually at the Convention of the Parties (known as COP). The aim is to promote and supervise the application of the UNFCCC and to continue talks on the most appropriate way to approach climate change. The successive decisions adopted by the COP during its meetings now constitute a set of standards for the practical and effective application of the Convention.
In December 1997, following two and a half years of negotiations, the third session of the Conference of the Parties (COP3) was held in Kyoto, Japan. The aim of COP3 was to establish a binding protocol on emissions reduction. As a result, 38 industrialised countries undertook to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% in the period 2008-2012 compared to 1990 levels.
The Kyoto Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005 and, has so far been ratified by 189 countries (see current status of ratification ).
The entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol enabled, amongst other things, the putting into operation of the Marrakech Accords (2001) (basic rules for the application of the flexible mechanisms of the Protocol) and, what is more important, it constituted a boost for a new crop of international efforts to combat climate change beyond 2012.
We are currently in a phase of intensive negotiations to define a future agreement at COP15 in Copenhagen, for after 2012, that can gather all countries significantly, both the most developed countries, such as the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia and the EU, and countries with emerging economies, such as South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, India and China.