The Convention on Climate Change sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. It recognizes that the climate system is a shared resource whose stability can be affected by industrial and other emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

  1. The Convention enjoys near universal membership.

    Under the Convention, governments:
    • gather and share information on greenhouse gas emissions, national policies and best practices
    • launch national strategies for addressing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to expected impacts, including the provision of financial and technological support to developing countries
    • cooperate in preparing for adaptation to the impacts of climate change

    COP in Marrakech. Photo: Å. Bjørke
  1. A major accomplishment of the Convention, which is general and flexible in character, is that it recognizes that there is a problem.
    That was no small thing in 1994, when the treaty took effect and less scientific evidence was available.
    (And there are still those who dispute that global warming is real and that climate change is a problem.)
    It is hard to get the nations of the world to agree on anything, let alone a common approach to a difficulty which is complicated, whose consequences aren't entirely clear, and which will have its most severe effects decades and even centuries in the future.
  1. The Convention sets an ultimate objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations "at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system.
    It states that "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."
  1. The Convention requires precise and regularly updated inventories of greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries.
    The first step in solving a problem is knowing its dimensions.
    With a few exceptions, the "base year" for tabulating greenhouse gas emissions has been set as 1990.
    Developing countries also are encouraged to carry out inventories.
  1. Countries ratifying the treaty -- called "Parties to the Convention" in diplomatic jargon -- agree to take climate change into account in such matters as agriculture, industry, energy, natural resources, and activities involving sea coasts.
    They agree to develop national programmes to slow climate change.

    * The Convention recognizes that it is a "framework" document -- something to be amended or augmented over time so that efforts to deal with global warming and climate change can be focused and made more effective.
    The first addition to the treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, was adopted in 1997.
  1. COP
    The annual big event within the frame of the UNFCCC is the Conference of the Parties (COP).
    Up to 10000 delegates; scientists, politicians, NGO representatives, industrial leaders, insurance companies and others meet for up to two weeks.
    At the COP held in Kyoto in 1997, the Kyoto protocol was ready for signing by the parties.