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Objectives of the UNFCC to Address Climate Change Issues

Discuss about the Objectives Of Climate Changes Issues.

The climate of the earth has always been subjected to changes where some of the changes can be attributed to natural causes but majority of the changes results from human activities like atmospheric emissions, deforestations, transport and industry, etc. From the intensifying sea levels that enhance the risk of disastrous torrent to the shifting of weather patterns, which threatens the food production, the variations in climate has a global impact. The United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) had set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with an intent to provide an objective basis of scientific information. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCC] has been established as a initial step in dealing with the climate change problem and prevent the ‘dangerous’ human interference with the climate system and almost 197 countries have ratified the Convention (Change, 2015).

This essay aims at analyzing the objectives and principles of the convention to address the climate changes issues. The essay is divided into five main sections. The first section shall examine the objectives and factors based on which the UNFCC shall undertake decisions to resolve the climate change issues. The second section shall analyze the climate change issues to be addressed by the UNFCC. Thirdly, the essay shall analyze the various policy instruments that have been referred to in the UNFCC to address the climate change related issues. Fourthly, it shall examine how the procedures of the Conference of parties set out in the UNFCC shall acts as the means from consultation. Finally, it shall analyze the role and responsibilities of the Secretariat to coordinate the actions or measures initiated by the UNFCC to address the issues related to climate change.

Since Climate Change has a global impact, the emissions of the prolonged Green House Gases into the atmosphere from any sources on the globe will have an adverse impact on the atmospheric concentrations. As the dynamics of climate system is integrated worldwide, it is obvious that the potential impact of the climate change shall also affect every parts of the globe. Human emission of GHGs results from the use of energy and production by the governments, individuals and businesses as well as from the use of land, which include activities fundamental for modern life and improving the living standard of people in all parts of the world.

Factors to be Addressed by the UNFCC

According to Bulkeley and Newell (2015), establishment of the UNFCC was purported to prevent the degradation of the environment caused by humans on the planet and stabilize the climates system. The primary objective of the UNFCC has been clearly set out under Article 2 and its principle under Article 3 of the Convention. Under Article 2 of the Convention, it is clearly stated that the Convention aims at achieving stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to the extent that would prevent the harmful anthropogenic interference with the climate system, which is originating from the human activities all across the world. This can be achieved by conducting consistently as per the provisions of the convention. Pan et al., (2016) assert that this purpose is fit and is attainable within a particular period of time that is adequate to permit the ecosystems to adapt to the change in climate naturally. The period should be sufficient to ensure that production of food is not impeded or threatened and there is enough time to facilitate economic development to proceed sustainably (Change, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change., 2018).

This objective reveals the concern of the Convention with respect to the climate system of the earth that is jeopardized by the increase in atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Concentrations [GHC] resulting from increased anthropogenic GHC emissions. Bulkeley and Newell (2015) asserts that the Convention did not impose any restriction for the total GHC emissions and neither it signifies the total GHG concentration stage of the total GHC concentrations outside which dangerous anthropogenic is likely to interfere with the climate system. Further, Gale et al., (2015) agrees that the estimation of the evolution of these levels is dependent upon the scientific improvement and is subjected to several intricacies owing to the political requirement to consider the adaptability of the society to the changing climate conditions. The other important factor that has been set out in the objective of the Convention is the need to alleviate atmospheric concentrations of GHGs close to the present levels, which necessitates reduction in the current emissions significantly. This is because after the emission of GHCs, it remains within the atmosphere for a significant time, such as carbon dioxide that remains for a century or more after it is emitted.

According to Field et al., (2014), the legal principles of the Convention stipulated under Article 3 states that they itself shall provide guidance to the Parties to the Convention to undertake actions in preventing the climate change issues. However, List (2014) argues that the principles do not form an exhaustive list. As per Article [3.1], it emphasized on the principles of equity that was also incorporate under Principle 7 of the Rio Declaration. According to Principle 7 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, “States shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem.”

Policy Instruments of the UNFCC

Shepherd (2014) argues that previously, GHG emissions are unevenly disseminated among the Parties and where parties are competent and possess several resources are used to address the reason and impact of the change in climate. Therefore, the principle stipulated under Article 3.1 requires industrialized countries to undertake measures to overcome the adverse effects of climate change. Article 3.2 addresses the different levels to which Parties to the Convention shall be affected by such changes and by undertaking measures to implement the Convention. Therefore, the Convention shall consider the specific requirements and conditions of the developing countries, in particular those who are susceptible to the unfavorable impact of climate change. Article 3.3 of the Convention discusses about the deterrent principle that is broadly reflected in the ecological agreements and environmental law.


Article 3.4 of the Convention, the measures and policies to safeguard the climate system should be such that it is appropriate for particular condition of each state party and be integrated with the national development programs as well. Further, [Article 3.5] promotes the rule of free trade and requires the parties to maintain an international economic system that will ensure sustainable economic growth and sustainable advancement in all Parties. The principles emphasizes on the fact that economic development is indispensable to address the issues related to climate change.

The UNFCC has been established to deal with issues related to climate change that was entailed in the Fifth Assessment Report issued by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC].  The report provides a broad assessment of sea level rise and its reason over the last few decades (Field, et al., 2014).  It states that from 1880 to 2012, there was an average rise in the global temperature by 0.85 degree Celsius. It resulted in an incline in ocean temperature and decline in the ice and snow amount, which has increased the sea level. From the period of 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level increased by 19 cm due to the expansion of the oceans because of melting of the ice. The sea ice has reduced in the Arctic in every decade since 1979 (List, 2014).

Further, if the present emissions and concentration of the GHGs is to be considered, there are high chances that by the end of this century, there will be an incline up to 1-2 degree Celsius in global mea temperature above the 1990 level. This will result in melting of ice and warming of oceans shall persist. It is expected that the climate change will continue for centuries even after the ceasing of the GHGs emissions. This is evident of the fact that such change in the climate will have major adverse impact on the planetary climate system and ecosystem that cannot be resisted.  It shall have an unpleasant impact on the ecosystem such as the Arctic Tundra and Amazon rainforest due to abnormal drying and warming. In addition, mountain glaciers are in disturbing retreat and the downstream effects of reduced water supply in the driest months shall have consequences that will affect generations.

Procedures of the Conference of Parties set out in the UNFCC

The impact of the climate change shall be significant in certain indigenous regions. One of such major areas to have an adverse impact is Kalahari Desert in Africa that is used for grazing as it is covered in vegetation. Excessive temperatures along with increased wind speeds shall cause degradation of the vegetation cover, thus, it would result in immense inconveniences for the indigenous people residing within the region. In the tropical rainforests of Asia, temperatures are expected to rise which may result in low rainfall, forest fires and crop failures (Seinfeld & Pandis, 2016).

In the South and Central America and Caribbean, it has wide-ranging diversity from the Chilean deserts to the tropical rainforests of Ecuador and Brazil. Due to deforestation and warming of the earth’s surface, the accessibility of the indigenous people to tuba crops and plants for grazing animals, medicine, food and hunting (Brügger, Dessai, Devine-Wright, Morton, & Pidgeon, 2015). The Caribbean being a coastal region shall face abnormal weather conditions like cyclones and health diseases. Water security and climate change may give rise to significant issues pertaining to accessibility to safe water of the population who are highly dependent upon the groundwater.

The Polar Regions like the Arctic is now facing climate change rapidly and significantly owing to the constant socio-economic and environmental changes. The concerns related to availability of traditional food sources, changes in weather predictions and safety of travelling in the changed climate may affect the livelihood of the people of the Arctic region.

The Pacific region consists of tiny island states that are influenced by the rising sea level owing to climate change. This region has been subjected to several natural disasters like nuclear testing, solid waste management, chemical waste disposal, etc. The issues pertaining to climate change in this region includes high tides causing floods. On the contrary, warmer temperature remains so high that it leads to bleaching of the coral reefs of the Pacific Island, which is a resource of primary productivity and provides shelter to the coral reef organisms. This reduction in the diversity and abundance of reef-building corals is likely to have a significant influence on the surrounding biodiversity (Bulkeley & Newell, 2015).

In regards to resolving the issues, several legal instruments were adopted to ensure degradation of climate due to human activities is prevented. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 but was enforced in 2005, which obligates the parties especially the industrialized countries to restrict and reduce the GHG emissions based on individual targets. The countries are asked to adopt measures and policies on mitigation and report regularly (Hansen & Sato, 2016).

Role and Responsibilities of the Secretariat to Coordinate the Actions or Measures Initiated by the UNFCC to Address Climate Change Issues

The Kyoto Protocol is based on the principles of the Convention which is binding on the developed countries only by placing a heavier burden on such countries under the rule of “common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities”. This is because it has been observed that the developed countries are significantly accountable for the present high level of GHG emissions in the environment. This legal instrument was developed as the first commitment period but as a second commitment period, the Doha Amendment was enforced in addition to the Kyoto Protocol that is valid from 2013 to 2020. According to Seinfeld and Pandis (2016), the Kyoto Protocol was enforced, firstly, to bind the emission reduction commitments upon the developed country parties, which implied that it restricted the space to pollute and the Protocol shall start internalizing what is recognized as ‘priceless externality’.

The second component that the Protocol initiated was establishment of flexible market mechanisms that are based on permits for trade of emissions. Further, in order to establish an accurate review, verification, monitoring, the Protocol has established a compliance system and to ensure transparency between the parties and holding them accountable for any non-compliance.


In 2015, the Paris agreement was enforced to overcome climate change and to intensify and enhance the investments as well as the actions that are required to achieve a sustainable low carbon future. The Paris Agreement upholds a common cause and brings all the nations together to undertake effective measures to overcome climate change and adapt to its consequences by providing the nations with immense support to achieve the same (Fawcett, 2015).

The primary objective of the Paris Agreement is to fortify global reaction to the threats pertaining to climate change by keeping the rise in the global temperature below 2 degree Celsius that is above pre-industrial levels and attempts to reduce such raise in the temperature to 1.5 degree Celsius. The agreement intends to increase the capability of the countries to deal with the consequences of climate change and make continuous financial flow that is consistent with a low GHG emissions and climate-resilient pathway (Dimitrov, 2016). The Paris Agreement also establishes binding commitments upon the Parties to communicate maintain and prepare nationally determined contribution (NDC) and undertake domestic measures to achieve the same.

The Bali Climate Change Conference brought together representative of over 180 countries with witnesses from non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations and the media. Governments adopted the Bali Road Map, which provided a set of decisions that represented several forms of tracks that were considered as a key to achieve the global climate deal.  The Bali Action Plan introduced a new and wide-ranging process to enable the effective, full and sustained implementation of the Convention by introducing cooperative action. The Bali Plan was divided into 5 categories namely, adaptation, mitigation, shared vision, financing and technology. It further included a decision on forest management and deforestation, a decision on technology for developing countries, etc.

The Durban Climate Change Conference held in 2011 also provided an advance response on the international community’s to climate change. The negotiations in the meeting were held in an organized manner and improved the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, the Cancun Agreement and the Bali Action Plan.

In order to ensure effective implementation of the convention, a conference of parties [COP] was established as set out in Article 7 of the Convention. The COP is established to review the execution of the convention and any other legal instruments relevant to the Convention regularly (Pan, Chen, Zhang, Bao, & Zhang, 2016). Apart from reviewing the Convention, the COP is entitled to adopt and make necessary decisions within its authority for promoting the effective implementation of the Convention. The climate change process is associated with the annual sessions of the COP where all the signatories to the convention come together and attempts to introduce measures to resolve address the climate change issues. Article 7.7 of the Convention signifies COP as the ‘supreme body’ of the Convention because the COP is considered as the highest decision-making authority.

According to Article 7.2, the role of the COP has been set out to examine the commitments of the Parties as per the objective of the Convention. Brügger (2015) states that the COP is responsible to facilitate the coordination of measures adopted by the state parties to address the effects of climate change provided two or more countries request the COP to do the same. Further, the COP is responsible to assess the implementation of the Convention by the state parties. It shall further assess whether such parties have undertaken effective measures to achieve the primary objective of the Convention.

As per the process to carry out the responsibilities of COP set out in the UNFCC, the COP holds sessions that continues for two weeks concurrently with the Subsidiary Body for Implementation [SBI] and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice [SBSTA]. Few thousands of participants, which include the observers and government delegates and media representatives, attend the sessions. While the parties attend the sessions to discuss about outcomes of the previously undertaken measures to prevent further climate degradation or to introduce effective measures, the countries discuss about future actions depending upon the convenience and non-convenience of each country (Hulme, 2016). As mentioned earlier that the Kyoto Protocol was established with the objective to bind the developed country only, considering that it would become burden for the less developed countries that are vulnerable to the climate changes. For instance- the Geneva Ministerial Declaration gave a new thrust to the Kyoto Protocol negotiations according to which the state parties adopted resolutions of solidarity with countries that faces devastating extreme weather.

In order to determine whether state parties are undertaking measures to combat the effects of climate change, ministers also participate during the last few days of the sessions to present a brief of their respective national policy statements to the COP plenary sessions. At times, such sessions also include round table discussion to initiate an informal exchange of views among the ministers and the other delegate heads with respect to particular subjects.


According to Article 13 of the Convention, the COP establishes a multilateral consultative process during its first session at the requests of the state parties for resolving the questions related to the implementation of the Convention. The working group known as the Ad Hoc Group under Article 13 has designed this Multilateral Consultative process. The objective of the multilateral consultative process can be achieved by advising the state parties about the resolution of their difficulties or by implementing the Convention. It ensures that every state party have understood the underlying objective of the Convention and provides resolution to prevent any issues from arising any further (Creutzig, et al., 2015). The consultative process carried out by the COP ensures that any questions related to the implementation of the convention or communication of information are resolved and that state countries in need of financial resources to implement or undertake measures to achieve the objectives o the convention shall be provided with such assistance.

However, List (2014) argues that governments usually emphasizes more on managing tropical forestry under the UNFCC through the development program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus. This implies that UNFCC no longer deals with carbon dioxide emissions exclusively instead, it shares responsibilities with the other international organizations. Change (2018) agrees and states that the necessary attention that is required to be given to non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases is also beyond the UNFCC with the emergence of new governance with respect to this area and UNFCC has undergone minor reformations pertaining to this issue.

Further, despite being a legal obligation of the UNFCC, climate financing had also become shared responsibility between multiple international organizations. However, the reporting, verification and monitoring as well as the technology transfer are significantly dealt within the framework UNFCC.

According to Hulme (2016) the Secretariat is also known as the Climate Change secretariat who provides services to the COP, its Bureau, the SB and other bodies that are established by the COP. As per Article 8 of the Convention, the Secretariat is obligated to make assist parties in implementing the commitments are specific developing countries. The Secretariat must provide support while negotiations are carried on and make realistic planning for congregation of the Convention bodies like COP and SBs.

The Secretariat acts as a means to coordinate the actions by compiling GHG inventory data, coordinating in-depth reviews of Annex I Party national communications. It also carries out the undertaking that are specific to the work program and tasks adopted by the COP. Hulme (2016) states that the secretariat renders services to the bodies that has been established by the Kyoto Protocol that has led to the increase in the technical expertise within the secretariat. Thus, it can be said that the UNFCC secretariat endows the UNFCC with organizational support and technical expertise to the UNFCC institutions and negotiations. The Secretariat plays a significant role in facilitating the flow of authoritative information with respect to the implementation of the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol. This further includes the effective implementation of innovative approaches to alleviate climate change related issues and promote sustainable development.

The fact that the Secretariat acts as a coordinator is also evident as the Secretariat coordinates with other pertinent international organizations specifically the Global Environment Facility [GEF]. It also coordinates with its implementing agencies like the United Nations Development Programs [UNDP], World Bank, United Nations Environment Program [UNEP], the IPCC and other conventions that purport to prevent the degradation of the climate and safeguard the world from its detrimental consequences (Change, 2014).  

According to Shepherd (2014), the UNFCC has stipulated the essential roles played by the UNFCC Secretariat which implies that a Secretariat not only acts as a coordinator but also plays an equally significant role in engaging into contractual and administrative arrangements that is essential to discharge functions of the conventions. In the words of Seinfeld and Pandis (2016), a secretariat of the UNFCC is not only required to carry out responsibilities and perform responsibilities stipulated in the Convention but also carries out the obligations and functions required to be performed as per the COP. This signifies that the secretariat coordinates functions and the responsibilities of other conventions as well which may implies that the secretariat ensures that any assistance required to implement the objectives of the Conventions to address the climate change related issues is provided to the necessary country party.

Conclusion

From the above discussion, it can be inferred that climate change can be partially combated at lower expenses by eliminating greenhouse gases from the atmosphere for instance, improving forest management or planting trees. The several objectives and principles of the UNFCC Convention has been demonstrated in this essay that are being implemented through various Legal instruments and Action plans for combating the ill-effects of climate change.

The outcome of the human activities lead to storing of aerosols and gases in the atmosphere that forms the greenhouse gases [GHGs]. The impact of global warming is so significant that it started affecting the snow cover, sea level and rain causing shifts in the provincial patterns of climate signified by increasing atmospheric temperature that is ultimately affecting ecosystems and watersheds in other areas of the world (Mach & Mastrandrea, 2014). In order to deal with the climate change will require high-level effective political leadership by the climate diplomats. The meetings and sessions held by the COP including the delegate heads and powerful cabinet ministers who have the potential to cooperate with each other and look for opportunities to conduct trade over the disputed areas.   

It is important to promote effective interaction between climate policy and science in order to move forward with the climate negotiation successfully (Gale, Abanades, Bachu, & Jenkins, 2015). Scientific research persists to inform the international climate regime along with regional and national climate policies. In 2010, the COP had agreed to an enduring worldwide objective to reduce GHG emissions to prevent the incline in overall temperature below 2 degree Celsius. The COP decided to evaluate the sufficiency of the long-term global goal to ensure implementation of the commitments under the Convention.

A global organized study of the climate system is an essential requisite for improving technical knowledge on climate transformation and providing advice for informed policy-making. However, the Convention will persist to lay emphasize on the intergovernmental action to overcome climate change, also ensuring that finance, reporting, technology transfer and other structural or technical requirements are performed effectively as they form the foundation for such action.

References

Brügger, A., Dessai, S., Devine-Wright, P., Morton, T. A., & Pidgeon, N. F. ( 2015). Psychological responses to the proximity of climate change. Nature climate change, , 5(12), 1031.

Bulkeley, H., & Newell, P. (2015). Governing climate change. . Routledge.

Change. (2014). Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. UK and New York, NY.: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,.

Change. (2018, Mar. 23). United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Retrieved from [online] Unfccc.int.: Available at: https://unfccc.int/2860.php

Change, I. P. ( 2014). Climate Change 2014–Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Regional Aspects. . Cambridge University Press,.

Change, I. P. ( 2015). Climate change 2014: mitigation of climate change (Vol. 3). Cambridge University Press.

Creutzig, F., Jochem, P., Edelenbosch, O. Y., Mattauch, L., van Vuuren, D. P., McCollum, D., & Minx, J. (2015). Transport: A roadblock to climate change mitigation?. Science, , 350(6263), 911-912.

Dimitrov, R. S. (2016). The Paris agreement on climate change: Behind closed doors. Global Environmental Politics, , 16(3), 1-11.

Fawcett, A. A. ( 2015). Can Paris pledges avert severe climate change?. Science, , 350(6265), 1168-1169.

Field, C. B., Barros, V. R., Dokken, D. J., Mach, K. J., Mastrandrea, M. D., Bilir, T. E., & Girma, B. (2014). IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group .

Gale, J., Abanades, J. C., Bachu, S., & Jenkins, C. (2015). Special Issue commemorating the 10th year anniversary of the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on CO2 Capture and Storage. . International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control,, 40,1-5.

Hansen, J., & Sato, M. ( 2016). Regional climate change and national responsibilities. Environmental Research Letters, , 11(3), 034009.

Hulme, M. (2016). 1.5 C and climate research after the Paris Agreement. . Nature climate change, , 6(3), 222.

List, P. (2014). "Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change." .

Mach, K., & Mastrandrea, M. (2014). Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability (Vol. 1). C. B. Field, & V. R. Barros (Eds.). . Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Pan, J., Chen, Y., Zhang, H., Bao, M., & Zhang, K. (2016). Strategic options to address climate change. In Climate and Environmental Change in China : 1951-2012. (pp. 129-137). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Seinfeld, J. H., & Pandis, S. N. (2016). Atmospheric chemistry and physics: from air pollution to climate change. John Wiley & Sons.

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