Environmental Law Service

Climate Law Database

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992 (UNFCCC)

The UNFCCC sets a framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenges posed by climate change. First, it recognizes that the climate system can be affected by industrial (and other) emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It sets out an ultimate objective, which is stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system and establishes basic principles and tools to be used by Governments to achieve this objective. The Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC introduces quantified specific greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction commitments of (mostly) “industrialized” countries being parties to the Protocol, as well as a set of tools which can be utilized by Governments to achieve them.1 Recalling the aforementioned principles of the public international law, states, as sovereign actors, freely decided to assume obligations as parties to the UNFCCC (and its related documents – most notably the Kyoto Protocol). This in no way can be understood as “full harmonization” of national laws for the parties in this field. States are not restricted from implementing more rigorous climate policies within their jurisdiction. Accordingly, the general idea of a national Climate Change Act is in full compliance with the goals of the UNFCCC (as well as its related documents).

Supportive provisions of the UNFCCC (and its related documents) in relation to Climate Change Act

Long term GHG reduction target under a national Climate Change Act – Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the UNFCCC; Articles 2, 3 and 10 of the Kyoto Protocol. These emphasize the efforts of parties to formulate, implement and regularly update measures reducing GHG emissions in order to stabilize GHG concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

Climate change considerations as a horizontal requirement within the relevant processes under national law- Article 4 of the UNFCCC This emphasizes the efforts of parties to consider climate change in relevant national, social, economic and environmental policies and actions in all relevant sectors.

Domestic effort target Articles 6 and 17 of the Kyoto Protocol These emphasize the supplemental nature of flexible mechanisms (such as international emission trading) to national GHG reduction measures.

GHG reduction targets for aviation and shipping Article 2 of the Kyoto Protocol This emphasizes the necessity to implement measures to limit or reduce GHG emissions from aviation and marine bunker fuels.

Public participation Article 6 of the UNFCCC, Relevant provisions of the Aarhus convention. This emphasizes the importance of public access to information on climate change and its effects, as well as public participation in the development and implementation of measures addressing climate.