A Guide to the UNFCCC and its Processes Understanding the UN Climate Change RegimeThe ConventionThe Kyoto ProtocolThe Paris AgreementMitigationAdaptationClimate FinanceTechnology TransferCapacity-BuildingINDCs and NDCsTransparencyScienceNegotiations


Get the Big Picture

This guide seeks to provide a starting point for newcomers to help them see the ‘big picture’ of the United Nations (UN) climate change regime, which is at the forefront of international action to combat climate change with its three major legal instruments – the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. It guides the newcomer through the various issues covered by the regime, such as mitigation, adaptation and support, in order to gain a better understanding of the global efforts to combat climate change and the ongoing work under the international regime. The guide also also explains the negotiation processes where governments come together to consider on-going efforts and take further steps to enhance them.

We hope the guide will enable you, the readers, to increase your knowledge and ownership of climate change issues that are of fundamental importance to us all.

This guide has been made possible by the generous support of the Government of Singapore.

the UN climate change regime

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How does this interactive guide work?

The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (referred to as the UNFCCC or the Convention) provides the foundation for multilateral action to combat climate change and its impacts on humanity and ecosystems. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement were negotiated under the UNFCCC and build on the Convention.

The objective of the UNFCCC is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. In pursuit of this objective, the UNFCCC establishes a framework with broad principles, general obligations, basic institutional arrangements, and an intergovernmental process for agreeing to specific actions over time, including through collective decisions by the Conference of the Parties, and as well as other international legal instruments with more specific obligations – such as the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement.

This interactive guide offers a starting point aiming to help new readers get an understanding of the United Nations climate change regime, the international negotiating process and the continuous global efforts to combat climate change. The guide provides short summaries of many of the key topics of the UN climate change process, along with visual aids and hyperlinks that guide the reader to the extensive information available on the UNFCCC website.

Science: why is there a need to act?

The international climate regime is built upon a clear understanding of the threats posed by, and the causes of climate change. More than a century and a half of industrialization, along with the clear-felling of forests and certain farming methods, has led to increased quantities of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. There are some basic well-established scientific links:

  • The concentration of GHGs in the earth’s atmosphere is directly linked to the average global temperature on earth;

  • The concentration has been rising steadily, and mean global temperatures along with it, since the time of the Industrial Revolution as a result from human activity, primarily the buring of fossil fuels and changes in land use;

  • As a consequence, there is need to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance sinks, and to adapt to the impacts from climate change.

This knowledge and understanding of climate change, its causes and effects, has been constantly growing in breadth and depth over the last decades. It is based on the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as well as on research findings of many other organizations. The IPCC now has a well-established role as the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It reviews worldwide research, issues regular assessment reports and compiles special reports and technical papers. The findings of the IPCC reflect global scientific consensus and are apolitical in character. Its assessment reports reflect the work and observations of thousands of scientists from around the world.

The recent years provided more clarity about human-generated (anthropogenic) climate change than ever before. The IPCC released its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), with its three Working Group (WG) reports and a synthesis report in 2014. The WG I contribution looks at the science of climate change. It is categorical in its conclusion: climate change is real and human activities are the main cause. For the first time, WG I could provide a comprehensive assessment of sea level rise, and its causes, over the past few decades. It was also able to estimate cumulative carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since pre-industrial times – (CO2 being the most abundant GHG that has resulted, in particular, from burning fossil fuels) – and provide a CO2 budget for future emissions to limit warming to less than 2 °C. About half of this CO2 budget was already emitted by 2011.
Thanks to the IPCC, this is what we know:

From 1880 to 2012, the average global temperature increased by 0.85 °C.

Oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and the sea level has risen. From 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded due to warming and ice melted. The sea ice extent in the Arctic has shrunk in every successive decade since 1979.

Given current concentrations and ongoing emissions of GHGs, it is likely that the end of this century will see a 1–2 °C increase in global mean temperature above the 1990 level (about 1.5–2.5 °C above the pre-industrial level). The world’s oceans will warm and ice melt will continue. Average sea level rise is predicted to be 24–30 cm by 2065 and 40–63 cm by 2100 relative to the reference period of 1986–2005. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries, even if emissions are stopped.

In addition, the contributions of the other two Working Groups contain comprehensive in-depth consideration on adaptation (WG II) and mitigation (WG III).

Science: The State of the Climate

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issues a statement on the state of the global climate every year. It is based on multiple international datasets maintained independently by global climate analysis centres and information submitted by WMO Members’ National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and Research Institutes and is an authoritative source of reference. Because the social and economic impacts of climate change have become so important, WMO partnered with other United Nations organizations for the first time in 2016 to include information on these impacts. Since 2016, the WMO provide an annual statement on the state of the global climate at the COP.

  • Science
  • Impacts

What does the UN climate change regime do?

Climate change is inherently global in nature. The emissions of long-lived GHGs into the atmosphere from sources anywhere on the globe will affect atmospheric concentrations. As the dynamics of the climate system are globally integrated, the potential impacts of climate change can affect all parts of the globe. Human emissions of GHGs occur primarily from the production and use of energy by individuals, businesses and governments, and from land use—these are all activities that are essential for modern life and for raising the standard of living for people everywhere. The composition of the world’s atmosphere is impacted by GHG emissions for countries around the world, and the effects of those changes affect everyone. Hence, there is motivation and need for collective, global action under the UNFCCC – global action that calls for decision making at many levels: international – through intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and process –, regional, national, sub-national, and local – including by local governments, individuals, communities, multinational firms and local enterprises.

Under the UN climate change regime, governments:

  • Consider latest scientific information and agree on actions to be taken – collectively and/or invididually – e.g. launch national strategies and measures for reducing GHGs and adapting to the expected adverse impacts of climate change, or both;
  • Gather and share information on GHG emissions, national policies and best practices, and develop international guidance (e.g., modalities, guidelines, methologies);
  • Cooperate, including by mobilizing and providing finance, technology and capacity-building to developing countries, in support of the planning and implementing of mitigation measures (actions to reduce the emission of GHGs into the atmosphere) as well as adaptation measures (actions needed to respond, increase resilience and reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change).

The governments that have ratified the UNFCCC — known as Parties to the Convention—have met annually as the Conference of the Parties (the COP) since 1995 to take stock of their progress, monitor the implementation of their obligations and continue talks on how best to tackle climate change. Currently, there are 197 Parties to the Convention.

Governments have also negotiated a protocol to the Convention. The Kyoto Protocol was agreed in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. It includes an obligation and individual legally-binding emission reduction targets for developed countries, as they are responsible for the largest share of current and historical GHG emissions. Since the Protocol’s entry into force in 2005, meetings of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (the CMP) have been held (in conjunction with the annual COP) to review the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

Ten years later, on 12 December 2015, governments adopted the Paris Agreement, which entered into force on 4 November 2016. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (the CMA) shall keep the implementation of the Agreement under regular review. It met for the first time in conjunction with COP 22, held in Marrakesh Morocco, in November 2016.

The Convention established two permanent subsidiary bodies namely the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), to support the COP. The SBI and the SBSTA also serve the CMP and the CMA.

The many decisions taken by the COP and the CMP at their annual sessions now make up a ‘rulebook’ (including detailed modalities, procedures and guidelines) for the effective implementation of the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol. Through these decisions, the COP and CMP also established a number of institutional arrangements and specialised bodies, often referred to as 'constituted bodies', to support Partie, such as the Adaptation Committee, the and Standing Committee on Finance, the Technology Executive Committee - and many others. An overview of all Convention and Kyoto Protocol bodies can be found here.

In addition, since 2016, Parties are developing the rulebook for the Paris Agreement through the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA), the SBSTA and the SBI, with the involvement of various of the constituted bodies and overseen by the COP.

Thus a complex architecture for global climate governance has been developed under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol and is currently developing under the Paris Agreement.

Under this architecture, Parties agree to further actions as they develop national programmes, plans and measures to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts, as well as on support for such actions. The Convention also obliges Parties to share technology, provide financial support and to cooperate in other ways to reduce GHG emissions, especially from energy, transport, industry, agriculture, forestry and waste management, which together produce nearly all GHG emissions attributable to human activities.

The obligations and rules under the UN climate change regime also calls on each Party to report on its national efforts to combat climate change and to develop GHG inventories that list its national sources (such as factories and transport) and its sinks (forests and other natural ecosystems that absorb GHGs from the atmosphere).

  • How does the UNFCCC work?

the Convention

Summary of the Convention

The Convention (UNFCCC), adopted on 5 June 1992, recognized that there was a serious problem, which was remarkable for its time. In 1994, when the Convention entered into force, there was less scientific evidence than there is now. The UNFCCC borrowed an important concept from one of the most successful multilateral environmental treaties in history (the Montreal Protocol, 1987): it required Member States to act in the interests of human safety, even in the face of scientific uncertainty.

The ultimate objective of the Convention is to stabilize GHG concentrations “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-induced) interference with the climate system”. It also 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”.

The Convention puts the onus on developed countries to lead the way. As they are the source of most past and current GHG emissions, industrialized countries are expected to do the most to reduce emissions, that is, to implement measures to mitigate climate change. In the UNFCCC, they are referred to as Parties included in Annex I to the Convention (Annex I Parties). They encompass all of the 1994 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and include 12 countries with economies in transition from Central and Eastern Europe.

The Convention also charts the beginnings of a path to strike a delicate balance. Economic development is particularly vital to the world's poorer countries. Such progress is difficult to achieve, even without the complications added by climate change. The Convention takes this into consideration by accepting that the share of GHG emissions produced by developing nations will grow in the coming years. Nonetheless, in the interests of fulfilling its ultimate goal, the Convention seeks to help such countries limit emissions in ways that will not hinder their economic progress.

Recognizing that even with efficient mitigation efforts, the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change is unavoidable, the Convention catalyses adaptation to climate change and provides overall guidance on its assessment, planning and implementation. It acknowledges the vulnerability of all countries to the effects of climate change and calls for special efforts to ease the consequences, especially in developing countries that lack financial resources.

In the early years of the Convention, adaptation received less attention than mitigation, partly because Parties wanted more certainty on the impacts of and vulnerability to climate change, partly because mitigation was perceived as the more urgent collective task. When the IPCC Third Assessment Report was released, adaptation gained traction, and Parties agreed on a process to address adverse effects and to establish funding arrangements for adaptation. Currently, work on adaptation takes place under different Convention bodies. The Adaptation Committee (AC), established under the Cancun Adaptation Framework (CAF), is a major step towards coherence in addressing adaptation.

The Convention also establishes a financial mechanism to provide financial resources to developing country Parties to assist them in their climate change actions. Further support structures have been established by decisions of the Conference of the Parties (COP), such as a technology mechanism and the Paris Committee on Capacity Building.

Furthermore, the Convention requires Parties to develop a national inventory of GHG emissions and to report on their mitigation policies and measures, again placing the lead on developed countries.


UNFCCC – 20 Years of Effort and Achievement

November 1988

IPCC Established

November 1990

IPCC and Second World Climate Conference Call for Global Treaty

April 1995

UNFCCC Entry into force COP 1 Berlin

August 1996

UNFCCC Secretariat Moves to Bonn

January 2005

EU Emissions Trading Launches

December 2005


January 2006

Clean Development Mechanism Opens

November 2006


December 2007


January 2008

Joint Implementation Mechanism Starts

December 2008


See the complete UNFCCC timeline for more details

Summary of the Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted on 11 December 1997. Owing to a complex ratification process, it entered into force on 16 February 2005. Currently, there are 192 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. In short, the Kyoto Protocol operationalizes the Convention by committing industrialized countries to limit and reduce GHG emissions in accordance with agreed individual targets. The Convention itself only asks those countries to adopt policies and measures on mitigation and to report periodically.

The Kyoto Protocol is based on the principles and provisions of the Convention and follows its annex-based structure. It only binds developed countries, and places a heavier burden on them under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities”, because it recognizes that they are largely responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere.

In its Annex B, the Kyoto Protocol sets binding emission reduction targets for 36 industrialized countries and the European Union. Overall, these targets add up to an average 5 per cent emission reduction compared to 1990 levels over the five year period 2008–2012 (the first commitment period). In 2012, the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol was adopted for a second commitment period, starting in 2013 and lasting until 2020. However, the Doha Amendment has not yet entered into force; a total of 144 instruments of acceptance are required for entry into force of the amendment.

The Kyoto Protocol architecture was built and shaped on the basis of nearly two decades of experience, hard work and political will. There are two essential elements for the Kyoto Protocol.

The first element was the binding emission reduction commitments for developed country Parties. This meant the space to pollute was limited, and what is scarce essentially commanded a price. GHGs—most prevalently CO2—became a new commodity. The Kyoto Protocol began to internalize what was recognized as an unpriced externality.

The second element was the establishment of flexible market mechanisms, which are based on the trade of emissions permits. Kyoto Protocol Parties bound to targets are required to meet them largely through domestic action—that is, by reducing their emissions at home. But they can meet part of their targets through three market-based mechanisms that ideally encourage GHG abatement to start where it is most cost-effective, for example, in the developing world. It does not matter where emissions are reduced, as long as they are removed from the atmosphere. This has the parallel benefits of stimulating green investment in developing countries and including the private sector in this endeavour to cut and hold steady GHG emissions at a safe level. It also makes leap-frogging—that is, the possibility of skipping the use of older, dirtier technology for newer, cleaner infrastructure and systems, with obvious longer-term benefits—more economical. The Kyoto Protocol also established a rigorous monitoring, review and verification system, as well as a compliance system to ensure transparency and hold Parties to account. Further information on the Kyoto Protocol can be found here.

Summary of the Paris Agreement

At COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015, Parties to the UNFCCC reached a landmark agreement to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. The Paris Agreement builds upon the Convention and – for the first time – brings all nations into a common cause to undertake take ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to increase the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change, and at making finance flows consistent with a low GHG emissions and climate-resilient pathway. To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate mobilization and provision of financial resources, a new technology framework and enhanced capacity-building is to be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives. The Agreement also provides for an enhanced transparency framework for action and support.

The Paris Agreement requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts through “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. This includes requirements that all Parties report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts. There will also be a global stocktake every 5 years to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the agreement and to inform further individual actions by Parties.

The Paris Agreement opened for signature on 22 April 2016 – Earth Day – at UN Headquarters in New York. It entered into force on 4 November 2016, 30 days after the so-called “double threshold” (ratification by 55 countries that account for at least 55% of global emissions) had been met. Since then, more countries have ratified and continue to ratify the Agreement, reaching a total of 125 Parties in early 2017. The current number of ratifications can be found here.

In order to make the Paris Agreement fully operational, a work programme was launched in Paris to develop modalities, procedures and guidelines on a broad array of issues. Since 2016, Parties work together in the subsidiary bodies (APA, SBSTA and SBI) and various constituted bodies. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA) met for the first time in conjunction with COP 22 in Marrakesh (in November 2016) and adopted its first two decisions. The work programme is expected to be completed by 2018.

Essential Elements

The Paris Agreement, adopted through Decision 1/CP.21, addresses crucial areas necessary to combat climate change. Some of the key aspects of the Agreement are set out below:

  • Long-term temperature goal (Art. 2) – The Paris Agreement, in seeking to strengthen the global response to climate change, reaffirms the goal of limiting global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.
  • Global peaking (Art. 4) –To achieve this temperature goal, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) as soon as possible, recognizing peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of GHGs in the second half of the century.
  • Mitigation (Art. 4) – The Paris Agreement establishes binding commitments by all Parties to prepare, communicate and maintain a nationally determined contribution (NDC) and to pursue domestic measures to achieve them. It also prescribes that Parties shall communicate their NDCs every 5 years and provide information necessary for clarity and transparency. To set a firm foundation for higher ambition, each successive NDC will represent a progression beyond the previous one and reflect the highest possible ambition. Developed countries should continue to take the lead by undertaking absolute economy-wide reduction targets, while developing countries should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move toward economy-wide targets over time in the light of different national circumstances.
  • Sinks and reservoirs (Art.5) –The Paris Agreement also encourages Parties to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of GHGs as referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d) of the Convention, including forests.
  • Voluntary cooperation/Market- and non-market-based approaches (Art. 6) – The Paris Agreement recognizes the possibility of voluntary cooperation among Parties to allow for higher ambition and sets out principles – including environmental integrity, transparency and robust accounting – for any cooperation that involves internationally transferal of mitigation outcomes. It establishes a mechanism to contribute to the mitigation of GHG emissions and support sustainable development, and defines a framework for non-market approaches to sustainable development.
  • Adaptation (Art. 7) – The Paris Agreement establishes a global goal on adaptation – of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reduction of vulnerability to climate change. It aims to significantly strengthen national adaptation efforts, including through support and international cooperation. It also recognizes that adaptation is a global challenge faced by all. All Parties should engage in adaptation planning and are expected to submit and periodically update an adaptation communication on their priorities, implementation and support needs, plans and actions. Developing country Parties will receive enhanced support for adaptation actions.
  • Loss and damage (Art. 8) – The Paris Agreement significantly enhances the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage, which will develop approaches to help vulnerable countries cope with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow-onset events such as sea-level rise. The Agreement provides a framework for Parties to enhance understanding, action and support with regard to loss and damage.
  • Finance, technology and capacity-building support (Art. 9, 10 and 11) – The Paris Agreement reaffirms the obligations of developed countries to support the efforts of developing country Parties to build clean, climate-resilient futures, while for the first time encouraging voluntary contributions by other Parties. Provision of resources should also aim to achieve a balance between adaptation and mitigation. In addition to reporting on finance already provided, developed country Parties commit to submit indicative information on future support every two years, including projected levels of public finance.
    The agreement also provides that the Financial Mechanism of the Convention, including the Green Climate Fund (GCF), shall serve the Agreement. International cooperation on climate-safe technology development and transfer and building capacity in the developing world are also strengthened: a technology framework is established under the Agreement and capacity-building activities will be strengthened through, inter alia, enhanced support for capacity building actions in developing country Parties and appropriate institutional arrangements.
  • Climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information (Art 12) is also to be enhanced under the Agreement.
  • Transparency (Art. 13), implementation and compliance (Art. 15) – The Paris Agreement relies on a robust transparency and accounting system to provide clarity on action and support by Parties, with flexibility for their differing capabilities of Parties. In addition to reporting information on mitigation, adaptation and support, the Agreement requires that the information submitted by each Party undergoes international review. The Agreement also includes a mechanism that will facilitate implementation and promote compliance in a non-adversarial and non-punitive manner, and will report annually to the CMA.
  • Global Stocktake (Art. 14) – A “global stocktake”, to take place in 2023 and every 5 years thereafter, will assess collective progress toward meeting the purpose of the Agreement in a comprehensive and facilitative manner. Its outcomes will inform Parties in updating and enhancing their actions and support and enhancing international cooperation. For 2018 a facilitative dialogue is envisaged to take stock of collective progress towards the long-term emission reduction goal of Art 4.
  • Decision 1/CP.21 also sets out a number of measures to enhance action prior to 2020, including strengthening the technical examination process, enhancement of provision of urgent finance, technology and support and measures to strengthen high-level engagement.

The decision also welcomes the efforts of all non-Party stakeholders to address and respond to climate change, including those of civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities and other sub-national authorities. These stakeholders are invited to scale up their efforts and showcase them via the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action platform (http://climateaction.unfccc.int). Parties also recognized the need to strengthen the knowledge, technologies, practices and efforts of local communities and indigenous peoples, as well as the important role of providing incentives through tools such as domestic policies and carbon pricing.


What is mitigation?

As there is a direct relation between global average temperatures and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the key for the solution to the climate change problem rests in decreasing the amount of emissions released into the atmosphere and in reducing the current concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) by enhancing sinks (e.g. increasing the area of forests). Efforts to reduce emissions and enhance sinks are referred to as “mitigation”.

The Convention requires all Parties, keeping in mind their responsibilities and capabilities, to formulate and implement programmes containing measures to mitigate climate change. Such programmes target economic activity with an aim to incentivize actions that are cleaner or disincentive those that result in large amounts of GHGs. They include policies, incentives schemes and investment programmes which address all sectors, including energy generation and use, transport, buildings, industry, agriculture, forestry and other land use, and waste management. Mitigation measures are translated in, for example, an increased use of renewable energy, the application of new technologies such as electric cars, or changes in practices or behaviours, such as driving less or changing one’s diet. Futher, they include expanding forests and other sinks to remove greater amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere, or simply making improvements to a cookstove design.

  • Mitigation

What are Parties doing to mitigate climate change?

Under the UNFCCC, and notably under the Kyoto Protocol, developed counties have set economy-wide caps for their national emissions, while developing countries have generally focused on specific programmes and projects.

Following the 2009 Copenhagen Accord and the 2010 Cancun Agreements developed countries have communicated quantified economy-wide emission targets for 2020 and developing countries have agreed to implement nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) with support from developed countries. In addition, developed country Parties to the Kyoto Protocol – at the end of the first commitment period under the Protocol (2008-2012) – adopted a second commitment period with targets for 2013-2020, in the form of the Doha Amendment. For developing countries the Kyoto Protocol’s clean development mechanism (CDM) has been an important avenue of action for these countries to implement project activities that reduce emissions and enhance sinks.

In the process leading up to the Paris Conference all countries, developed and developing, prepared intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), which outline national efforts to reduce emissions and increase resilience. As a result, a diversity of efforts was communicated, including absolute and relative quantified national targets, sectoral targets and programmes, and others. The new concept of INDCs was eventually formalized under the Paris Agreement as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), and Parties are requested to prepare and communicate successive NDCs every five years.

Parties to the Convention have also cooperated increasingly to reduce GHG emissions from deforestation in developing countries. Developing countries are encouraged to contribute to mitigation actions in the forest sector by undertaking activities to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conserve forest carbon stocks, implement sustainable management of forests and enhance forest carbon stocks (REDD-plus). The Paris Agreement also recognizes the importance of sinks, including forests and encourages Parties to implement and support the existing framework of guidance and decisions that has been elaborated on REDD-plus under the Convention over the years.

Emissions from international aviation and maritime transport contribute increasingly to global emissions. To address these emissions, there has been ongoing work in the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization, as well as cooperation between these two organizations and the UNFCCC.

All over the world, many measures are being taken to mitigate climate change by countries trying to live up to their commitments under the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. According to the Convention, Parties shall take into consideration the specific needs and concerns of developing country Parties arising from the impacts of response measures, a call that is echoed similarly by the Paris Agreement. The Kyoto Protocol commits Parties to strive to minimize adverse economic, social and environmental impacts on other Parties, especially developing country Parties. In order to facilitate assessment and analysis such impacts, and with the view to recommending specific actions, the COP has established a forum on the impact of the implementation of response measures under the Convention, which is also to serve the Paris Agreement.

What are market mechanisms?

Market mechanisms apply economic principles to enhance the cost-effectiveness of mitigation actions. Economic instruments also help to channel flows of finance, technology and capacity-building support, particularly from developed to developing country Parties. These include the three mechanisms established under the Kyoto Protocol – the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), joint implementation (JI) and international emissions trading (IET) – as well as approaches that Parties are elaborating independently or jointly. Currently the CDM, JI and IET make use of an international system for logging transactions of units, known as the international transaction log.

Under the Convention, Parties have also been developing new mechanisms, including a new market-based mechanism, a framework for various approaches, as well as non-market-based approaches.

The Paris Agreement recognizes the possibility of voluntary cooperative implementation among Parties to allow for higher ambition and sets out principles – including environmental integrity, transparency and robust accounting – for any cooperation that involves internationally transferal of mitigation outcomes. It establishes a mechanism to contribute to the mitigation of GHG emissions and support sustainable development, and defines a framework for non-market approaches to sustainable development.

climate resiliance

What is adaptation?

Adapting to the adverse effects of climate change is, along with mitigation, a major area of action under the UN Climate Change regime. The world is already experiencing changes in mean temperature, shifts in the seasons and an increasing frequency of extreme weather events. As the climate changes, societies will have to learn to adapt. The faster the climate changes, the harder it could be.

Adaptation, in the simplest terms, refers to the actions that countries will need to take to respond to the impacts of climate change that are already happening, while at the same time preparing for future impacts. It refers to changes in processes, practices and structures that can reduce our vulnerability to climate change impacts, such as sea level rise or food insecurity. It also includes making the most of any beneficial opportunities associated with climate change, such as increased crop yields or longer growing seasons in some regions.

Adaptation solutions take many shapes and forms, depending on the unique context of a community, business, organization, country or region. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all-solution’—adaptation can range from building flood defences, setting up early warning systems for cyclones and switching to drought-resistant crops, to redesigning communication systems, business operations and government policies. Many nations and communities are already taking steps to build resilient societies and economies, but far greater action and ambition will be needed to cost effectively manage the risks, both now and in the future.

Successful adaptation activities also call for the effective engagement of stakeholders—including national, regional, multilateral and international organizations, the public and private sectors, and civil society—and the management of knowledge for adaptation at each step.

Parties to the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement recognize that adaptation is a global challenge faced by all with local, subnational, national, regional and international dimensions. It is a key component of the long-term global response to climate change to protect people, livelihoods and ecosystems. Parties acknowledge that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, considering vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions.

  • Adaptation

How do Parties address adaptation?

The adaptation cycle under the UN climate change regime includes the following general components:

Assess impacts, vulnerability and risks.

  • An initial assessment is needed of the extent to which climate change is affecting or will affect natural systems (e.g. by altering water availability, thus negatively affecting agriculture and food security) and human societies (e.g. by increasing temperature, thus encouraging the spread of climate-sensitive diseases).

Plan for adaptation.

  • Identification of adaptation activities and their appraisal, including through assessing costs and benefits, is undertaken in order to choose appropriately between the options available. Comprehensive planning should ensure avoiding the duplication of activities, preventing maladaptation and enhancing sustainable development.

Implement adaptation measures.

  • Implementation takes place at various levels, including national, regional and local, and through different means, including projects, programmes, policies or strategies. It may be a stand-alone process or be fully integrated or mainstreamed with sectoral policies and sustainable development plans.

Monitor and evaluate adaptation.

  • These steps can be undertaken throughout the adaptation process, and the knowledge and information gained can be fed back into the process to ensure learning and that future adaptation efforts are successful. While monitoring seeks to keep a record of progress made in implementation, evaluation seeks to determine the effectiveness of the adaptation effort.

Within the UN climate change regime, Parties carry out adaptation related activities in a number of workstreams, through work programmes and in specialized groups and committees. These include:

  • In 2001, at COP 7 in Marrakesh, Parties acknowledged the specific needs of least developed countries (LDCs), in that they are least capable of dealing with the adverse effects of climate change, and adopted a dedicated package of decisions to support them. The LDC work programme includes, among other things, national adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs). Through their NAPAs, the LDCs identify priority activities that respond to their urgent and immediate adaptation needs. The Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) was established to support the programme’s implementation. The LDCs are also supported by a Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) that provides technical support and advice.
  • Adaptation Committee:
    • The COP established the Adaptation Committee (AC) at COP 16 (2010) to promote the implementation of enhanced action on adaptation in a coherent manner under the Convention. The functions of the AC include: providing technical support and guidance to the Parties; sharing relevant information, knowledge, experience and good practices; promoting synergy and strengthening engagement; providing information and recommendations for consideration by the COP; and considering information communicated by Parties on their monitoring and review of adaptation actions.
  • National Adaptation Plans:
    • The COP established the national adaptation plan (NAP) process at COP 16 (2010) to enable Parties to formulate and implement NAPs as a means of identifying medium- and long-term adaptation needs and developing and implementing strategies and programmes to address those needs. It is a continuous, progressive and iterative process which follows a country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory and fully transparent approach. In order to enhance availability of adaptation support, the COP in 2015 requested the Green Climate Fund to expedite support for the formulation and implementation of national adaptation plans.
  • Least Developed Countries Expert Group:
    • The Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) was established by the COP in 2001. The LEG is requested by the COP to provide technical support and advice to the least developed countries (LDCs) on the national adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs) and the LDC work programme, and to provide technical guidance and support to the national adaptation plan (NAP) process.
  • Nairobi work programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change:
    • The Nairobi work programme (NWP) was established at COP 11 (2005), under the SBSTA, to facilitate and catalyze the development and dissemination of information and knowledge that would inform and support adaptation policies and practices. Through its diverse range of modalities, the NWP provides unique opportunities for linking relevant institutions, processes, resources and expertise outside the Convention to respond to adaptation knowledge needs arising from the implementation of the various workstreams under the Convention and identified by Parties.
  • Technical Examination Process on Adaptation:
    • The technical examination process on adaptation (TEP-A) was established at COP 21 (2015) as part of the enhanced action prior to 2020. The TEP-A will take place during 2016-2020, featuring technical expert meetings, technical papers and other events, and its objective is to identify concrete opportunities for strengthening resilience, reducing vulnerabilities, and increasing the understanding and implementation of adaptation actions.

International cooperation on adaptation also includes, of course, financial, technology, and capacity-building support for adaptation. The relevant arrangements of the UN climate change regime in this regard are explained in the sections on climate finance, technology transfer, and capacity-building.

New elements and dimensions of adaptation under the Paris Agreement (Article 7)

Goal: The Paris Agreement aims to strengthen the global climate change response by increasing the ability of all to adapt to adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience. It defines a global goal on adaptation in Article 7.– The goal is:

  • to enhance adaptive capacity and resilience;
  • to reduce vulnerability, with a view to contributing to sustainable development;
  • and ensuring an adequate adaptation response in the context of the goal of holding average global warming well below 2 degrees C and pursuing efforts to hold it below 1.5 degrees C.

Planning, implementation, and communication: The Agreement requires all Parties, as appropriate, to engage in adaptation planning and implementation through e.g. national adaptation plans, vulnerability assessments, monitoring and evaluation, and economic diversification. All Parties should, as appropriate, communicate their priorities, plans, actions, and support needs through adaptation communications, which shall be recorded in a public registry.

Transparency: The Agreement will improve the understanding of climate change and the transparency of actions by establishing a new transparency framework. In this context, Parties should provide information related to climate change impacts and adaptation.

Global stocktake: The transparency framework and adaptation communications will also create an information basis for a process known as the global stocktake, inter alia:

  • Recognize adaptation efforts of developing country Parties;
  • Enhance the implementation of adaptation action taking into account the adaptation communication referred to in Article 7, paragraph 10;
  • Review the adequacy and effectiveness of adaptation and support provided for adaptation; and
  • Review the overall progress made in achieving the global goal on adaptation referred to in Article 7, paragraph 1.

How are stakeholders engaged on adaptation and on loss and damage under the UN climate regime, and how is knowledge management addressed?

Effective engagement of stakeholders, including management of knowledge for adaptation, is vital in supporting all adaptation activities at each step in the process. Relevant multilateral, international, regional, national, sub-national and local organizations, public and private sectors, civil society and other relevant stakeholders are invited to undertake and support enhanced action on adaptation at all levels.

All adaptation components offer opportunities for Parties and stakeholders to engage – in particular, the Adaptation Knowledge Portal under the Nairobi Work Programme (NWP). The Portal aims at facilitating the sharing of good practices and lessons learned by offering an exchange platform to all adaptation practitioners and researchers, including partner organizations of the NWP. The LDC Expert Group (LEG), Adaptation Committee (AC) and NWP have developed many resources, including the LDC portal, online databases, and a range of printed publications in order to promote and facilitate action.

The TEP-A provides a unique platform for actively engaging non-Party stakeholders, including regional and subnational authorities, civil society and the private sector, in the formal discourse on adaptation. It also contributes to strengthening the linkages between adaptation and the broader development agenda. For example, it offers an opportunity to explore practical ways to integrate climate change adaptation with the sustainable development goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

What is loss and damage?

COP 19 (2013) established the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts, as the main vehicle under the Convention to promote the implementation of approaches to address loss and damage in a comprehensive, integrated and coherent manner. Key functions of the Warsaw International Mechanism are:

  • Enhancing knowledge and understanding of comprehensive risk management approaches;
  • Strengthening dialogue, coordination, coherence and synergies;
  • Enhancing action and support, including finance, technology and capacity-building to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, so as to enable countries to undertake a range of relevant actions, inter alia:
    • Assessing the risk of loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including slow onset impacts;
    • Identifying options and designing and implementing country-driven risk management strategies and approaches, including risk reduction, and risk transfer and risk-sharing mechanisms;
    • The systematic observation of, and data collection on, the impacts of climate change, in particular slow onset impacts, and accounting for losses, as appropriate;
    • Implementing comprehensive climate risk management approaches, including scaling up and replicating good practices and pilot initiatives;
    • Promoting an enabling environment that would encourage investment and the involvement of relevant stakeholders in climate risk management;
    • Involving vulnerable communities and populations, and civil society, the private sector and other relevant stakeholders, in the assessment of and response to loss and damage;

Enhancing access to, sharing and the use of data, at the regional, national and subnational levels, such as hydrometeorological data and metadata, on a voluntary basis, to facilitate the assessment and management of climate-related risk.

The Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage guides the implementation of the functions of the Mechanism through the workplan of the Committee. The Executive Committee currently has three thematic expert groups which serve in an advisory role to the work of the Committee. Through these expert groups, the Executive Committee engages large number of implementing agencies and organizations and networks outside of the Convention with relevant expertise. The focus of the current three thematic expert groups are: non-economic losses, displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change, and comprehensive risk management and transformational approaches.

The Executive Committee is also tasked by the COP to establish a clearing house for risk transfer that serves as a repository for information on insurance and risk transfer, in order to facilitate the efforts of Parties to develop and implement comprehensive risk management strategies. The clearing house is envisioned to catalyze further action and support by non-state actors, especially from the insurance industry including the private sector, by enhancing knowledge and understanding on risk transfer approaches in the context of climate risk management.

Loss and damage under the Paris Agreement (Article 8)

The Paris Agreement, in its Article 8, recognizes the importance of averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow onset events, and the role of sustainable development in reducing the risk of loss and damage. It also empowers Parties for further enhancement and strengthening of the Warsaw International Mechanism.

Areas of cooperation and facilitation to enhance understanding, action and support include:

  • Early warning systems;
  • Emergency preparedness;
  • Slow onset events;
  • Events that may involve irreversible and permanent loss and damage;
  • Comprehensive risk assessment and management;
  • Risk insurance facilities, climate risk pooling and other insurance solutions;
  • Non-economic losses; and
  • Resilience of communities, livelihoods and ecosystems.

The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage was reaffirmed as the main vehicle under the Paris Agreement to avert, minimize and address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts, including extreme weather events and slow onset events.

The Executive Committee of the Mechanism was tasked to establish a clearing house for risk transfer that serves as a repository for information on insurance and risk transfer. A task force was mandated to work with other adaptation bodies to develop recommendations for integrated approaches to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change (Decision 1/CP.21, paragraphs 48 and 49).

climate finance

What is climate finance?

Climate finance refers to local, national or transnational financing—drawn from public, private and alternative sources of financing—that seeks to support mitigation and adaptation actions that will address climate change. The Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement call for financial assistance from Parties with more financial resources to those that are less endowed and more vulnerable. This recognizes that the contribution of countries to climate change and their capacity to prevent it and cope with its consequences vary enormously. Climate finance is needed for mitigation, because large-scale investments are required to significantly reduce emissions. Climate finance is equally important for adaptation, as significant financial resources are needed to adapt to the adverse effects and reduce the impacts of a changing climate.

In accordance with the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities” set out in the Convention, developed country Parties are to provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties in implementing the objectives of the UNFCCC. The Paris Agreement reaffirms the obligations of developed countries, while for the first time also encouraging voluntary contributions by other Parties. Developed country Parties should also continue to take the lead in mobilizing climate finance from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels, noting the significant role of public funds, through a variety of actions, including supporting country-driven strategies, and taking into account the needs and priorities of developing country Parties. Such mobilization of climate finance should represent a progression beyond previous efforts.

It is important for all governments and stakeholders to understand and assess the financial needs of developing countries, as well as to understand how these financial resources can be mobilized. Provision of resources should also aim to achieve a balance between adaptation and mitigation.

Overall, efforts under the Paris Agreement are guided by its aim of making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. Assessing progress in provision and mobilization of support is also part of the global stocktake under the Agreement. The Paris Agreement also places emphasis on the transparency and enhanced predictability of financial support.

What is the financial mechanism? What are the other funds?

To facilitate the provision of climate finance, the Convention established a financial mechanism to provide financial resources to developing country Parties. The financial mechanism also serves the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.

The Convention states that the operation of the financial mechanism can be entrusted to one or more existing international entities. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has served as an operating entity of the financial mechanism since the Convention’s entry into force in 1994. At COP 16, in 2010, Parties established the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and in 2011 also designated it as an operating entity of the financial mechanism. The financial mechanism is accountable to the COP, which decides on its policies, programme priorities and eligibility criteria for funding.

In addition to providing guidance to the GEF and the GCF, Parties have established two special funds—the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) and the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), both managed by the GEF—and the Adaptation Fund (AF) established under the Kyoto Protocol in 2001.

At the Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015, the Parties agreed that the operating entities of the financial mechanism – GCD and GEF – as well as the SCCF and the LDCF shall serve the Paris Agreement. Regarding the Adaptation Fund serving the Paris Agreement negotiations are underway in the Ad hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA ).

  • Finance

What is the Standing Committee on Finance? What is the long-term finance process?

  • Standing Committee on Finance
  • Long-term climate finance

At COP 16 in 2010, Parties decided to establish the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) to assist the COP in exercising its functions in relation to the financial mechanism of the Convention.

Currently, the SCF has four specific functions: assisting the COP in improving coherence and coordination in the delivery of climate change financing; assisting the COP in rationalization of the financial mechanism of the UNFCCC; supporting the COP in the mobilization of financial resources for climate financing; and supporting the COP in the measurement, reporting and verification of support provided to developing country Parties. The Committee is also tasked to organize an annual forum on climate finance, provide the COP with draft guidance for the operating entities, provide expert input into the conduct of the periodic reviews of the financial mechanism and prepare a biennial assessment and overview of climate finance flows. Furthermore, the SCF is designed to improve the linkages and to promote the coordination with climate finance related actors and initiatives both within and outside of the Convention. At the Paris Conference in 2015, Parties decided that the SCF shall also serve the Paris Agreement.

The long-term finance process is aimed at progressing on the mobilization and scaling up of climate finance of resources originating from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources. The COP decided on the following activities through to 2020: organization, by the secretariat, of annual in-session workshops; developed countries providing, on a biennial basis, information on strategies and approaches for scaling up climate finance; and convening of biennial high-level ministerial dialogue on climate finance.

Through the Cancun Agreements in 2010 developed country Parties committed, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. When adopting the Paris Agreement Parties confirmed this goal, called for a concrete road map to achieve the goal by 2020, and agreed that prior to 2025 the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA) shall set a new collective quantified goal from a floor of USD 100 billion per year.

What is the finance portal?

The UNFCCC website includes a climate finance data portal with helpful explanations, graphics and figures for better understanding the climate finance process and as a gateway to information on activities funded in developing countries to implement climate action. The finance portal comprises three modules, each of which includes information made available by Parties and the operating entities of the financial mechanism.

The first module, the National Communications Module, presents information communicated by contributing countries on the provision of financial resources, in the context of regular reporting to the Convention. The second module, the Fast-start Finance Module, includes information on resources provided by developed countries in the context of their commitment to provide approximately USD 30 billion over the period 2010–2012. The third module, on Funds Managed by the GEF, is a joint effort between the secretariat of the UNFCCC and the GEF and contains information on climate finance flows of the GEF in its role as one of the operating entities of the financial mechanism to the Convention. Additionally, information on projects and programmes of the Adaptation Fund can be found in the finance portal. This fund was established under the Kyoto Protocol to finance concrete adaptation projects and programmes in developing countries that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

technology development
and transfer

What is technology transfer to support climate action?

The development and transfer of climate technologies is critical for achieving the ultimate objective of the Convention. The Convention notes that all Parties shall promote and cooperate in the development and transfer of technologies that reduce emissions of GHGs. It also urges developed country Parties to take all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance the transfer of, or access to, climate technologies to other Parties, particularly to developing countries. Furthermore, the Convention states that the extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments will depend on the effective implementation by developed country Parties of their commitments under the Convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology.

Over the years, technology development and transfer with regard to adaptation has received increasing attention. The Paris Agreement speaks of the vision of fully realizing technology development and transfer for both improving resilience to climate change and reducing GHG emissions. It establishes a technology framework to provide overarching guidance to the Technology Mechanism.

What are the key institutions and mechanisms?

Technology Mechanism

In 2010 the COP established the Technology Mechanism with the objective of accelerating and enhancing climate technology development and transfer. It consists of two complementary bodies that work together, – the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN). The mechanism will also serve the Paris Agreement.

Technology Executive Committee

The TEC is the Technology Mechanism’s policy arm and analyses policy issues and provides recommendations to support countries in enhancing climate technology efforts. The TEC is an executive committee consisting of 20 technology experts representing both developing and developed countries. The TEC meets multiple times a year and holds climate technology events that support efforts to address key technology policy issues.

The Climate Technology Centre and Network

The CTCN is the mechanism’s implementation armand it supports countries to enhance the implementation of climate technology projects and programmes. It has three core services: providing technical assistance to developing countries; creating access to knowledge on climate technologies; and fostering collaboration among climate technology stakeholders. The CTCN is hosted by the United Nations Environmental Programme, in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and is supported by 11 partner institutions with expertise in climate technologies. The Centre facilitates a network of national, regional, sectoral and international technology centres, networks, organizations and private sector entities. More than 150 Parties have submitted their national designated entities (NDEs) for climate technology and transfer, which are also part of the network. Developing country Parties may submit requests for technical assistance to the CTCN through their NDEs.

Technology Framework

Article 10, paragraph 4, of the Paris Agreement establishesd the Technology Framework. The framework will provide overarching guidance to the work of the Technology Mechanism in promoting and facilitating enhanced action on technology development and transfer in order to support the implementation of theis Agreement, in pursuit of the long-term vision on technology development and transfer referred to in Article 10, paragraph 1. Under the SBSTA countries are currently working to elaborate the details of the framework.

Technology needs assessments

Understanding our climate technology needs is the starting point for effective action on climate change. By understanding these needs we can determine how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. To determine their climate technology priorities, countries undertake technology needs assessments (TNAs). A TNA supports national sustainable development, builds national capacity and facilitates the implementation of prioritized climate technologies. Since 2001, more than 85 developing countries have undertaken TNAs to identify their technology needs for mitigation and adaptation. Since 2010, as part of their TNAs, developing countries have also developed technology action plans (TAPs), which are concrete action plans for the implementation of their prioritized technology needs. The GEF provides support for developing countries to undertake TNAs through its Poznan Strategic Program on Technology Transfer.

Global stocktake under the Paris Agreement

The global stocktake under the Paris Agreement, by which Parties will periodically assess overall progress also with regard to support will take into account efforts related to support on technology development and transfer for developing country Parties.

What other steps have Parties taken to address technology?

Technology transfer framework

Prior to the establishment of the Technology Mechanism, in 2001, Parties created the technology transfer framework for meaningful and effective technology actions. This framework is not the same as the Technology Framework created under the Paris Agreement. The framework aims to develop actions to implement Article 4.5 of the Convention by increasing and improving the transfer of environmentally sound technologies and know-how and comprises five key themes. At COP 13, four sub-themes were added under one of the key themes of the framework.

Poznan Strategic Program on Technology Transfer

Through the Poznan strategic program on technology transfer, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) provides funding to climate technology development and transfer activities. The program has supported countries to undertake technology needs assessments, develop technology pilot projects and implement hundreds of climate projects with objectives related to climate technologies. Countries created the PSP in 2007, when the COP requested the GEF to elaborate a strategic programme for scaling up the level of investment for technology transfer. This was undertaken with the aim of helping developing countries to address their needs for environmentally sound technologies.The GEF is now undertaking the long-term implementation of the strategic programme, which includes elements related to: support for climate technology centres and a climate technology network; pilot technology projects; public–private partnerships; TNAs; and GEF as a catalytic supporting institution for technology transfer.


Established in 2001, TT:CLEAR is the UNFCCC web-platform for all information related to climate technology. In particular, TT:CLEAR houses information on the Technology Mechanism, the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and technology needs assessments. On TT:CLEAR you can:

  • Stay up-to-date on all UNFCCC technology discussions, including the negotiations;
  • Browse TEC recommendations on policies for climate technology development and transfer;
  • Search for climate technology projects in developing countries;
  • Find information on technology events;
  • Learn what people on Twitter think about #climatetech;
  • Find your national focal point for technology development and transfer;
  • Access comprehensive information on technology needs assessments, including country reports;
  • Find information on sources of support for technology transfer and development.

education and

What is capacity-building?

Addressing climate change in a sustainable way requires considerable efforts, and not all countries have the capacity—the knowledge, the tools, the public support, the scientific expertise and the political know-how—to do so. Capacity-building is about enhancing the ability of individuals, organizations and institutions in developing countries and in countries with economies in transition to identify, plan and implement ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Capacity-building under the UN climate change regime takes place on three levels:

  • Individual:

    • developing educational, training and awareness-raising activities;

  • Institutional:

    • fostering the development of organizations and institutions, including their missions, mandates, cultures, structures, competencies, and human and financial resources, as well as the cooperation between organizations, institutions and sectors;

  • Systemic:

    • creating enabling environments through economic and regulatory policies and accountability frameworks in which institutions and individuals operate.

How do governments build capacity?

Frameworks for capacity-building

In 2001, Parties adopted two frameworks for capacity-building under the Convention that address the needs, conditions and priorities of two key groups: developing countries and countries with economies in transition. The frameworks provide a set of guiding principles and approaches to capacity-building, such as being a ‘country-driven’ process, involving ‘learning by doing’, and building on existing activities. They also contain a list of priority areas for action on capacity-building, including the specific needs of the least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing States. They reaffirm that capacity-building is essential to enable these countries to implement the objective of the Convention.

The frameworks set out a way forwards for capacity-building activities, such as developing and strengthening skills and knowledge, as well as providing opportunities for stakeholders and organizations to share their experiences, and increasing their awareness to enable them to participate more fully in the climate change process.

The frameworks also provide guidance on the support of financial and technical resources to be addressed by the GEF, bilateral and multilateral agencies, and other IGOs. The frameworks call for developing countries and countries with economies in transition to provide information on their specific needs and priorities through national communications (NCs) and submissions, while promoting cooperation and stakeholder participation.

In 2005, Parties to the Kyoto Protocol decided that the capacity-building frameworks were also applicable to the implementation of the Protocol. They endorsed frameworks to guide capacity-building activities under the Kyoto Protocol in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

The Paris Agreement confirms the above-mentioned guiding principles and approaches to capacity-building. It asks all Parties to cooperate to enhance the capacity of developing countries to implement the Agreement and calls on developed country Parties to enhance support for capacity-building actions in developing country Parties.

How do governments enhance action on capacity-building?

Over the recent years, various arrangements have been established to enhance capacity-building under the UN climate change regime:

The Durban Forum for in-depth discussion on capacity-building

The Durban Forum is an annual, in-session event organized under the auspices of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) that brings together stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to share experiences, good practices and lessons learned in building the capacity of developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Stakeholders involved include technical and policy experts, practitioners and representatives from national governments and IGOs, civil society and private sector entities. Governments, invited by the SBI, annually submit proposals for topics to be included in the agenda of the meeting. The Durban Forum is also a means to improve the monitoring and review of the effectiveness of capacity-building within the UN climate change process.

The Paris Committee on Capacity-building

In 2015, Parties to the Convention established the Paris Committee on Capacity-building with the aim of addressing gaps and needs in implementing capacity-building in developing countries and further enhancing capacity-building efforts, including with regard to coherence and coordination. With its terms of reference adopted in 2016, the Paris Committee is now becoming operational.

The Paris Agreement envisages enhanced capacity-building through appropriate institutional arrangements, including those established under the Convention that serve this Agreement, and CMA 1 is to consider and adopt a decision on the initial institutional arrangements for capacity-building.

Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency

In 2015, Parties also established a Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency in order to build institutional and technical capacity and to support developing country Parties in meeting the enhanced transparency requirements of the Paris Agreement. The GEF supports the operation of the Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency.

How do governments support communicating, teaching and learning about climate change?

The Convention emphasizes the need to educate people about climate change. Improving awareness and understanding of climate change, and creating solutions to facilitate access to information on a changing climate are key to winning public support for climate-related policies.

The Convention, through its Article 6, calls on governments to educate, empower and engage all stakeholders and major groups on policies relating to climate change – a call that is echoed by the Kyoto Protocol (Art. 10(e)) as well as by the Paris Agreement (through its Article 12). The UN climate regime fosters action to develop and implement educational and training programmes on climate change. Many governments and IGOs are already working in partnership with civil society to fulfil the above commitments. However, the scale of challenges posed by climate change requires an engagement on outreach activities of a greater magnitude.

Doha work programme and the Dialogue on Article 6 of the Convention

In 2013, the COP adopted the Doha work programme on Article 6 of the Convention and requested the SBI to organize an annual in-session Dialogue on Article 6 of the Convention to enhance work in this area. The objective of the dialogue is to provide a regular forum to Parties and other stakeholders to share their experiences and exchange ideas, good practices and lessons learned regarding the implementation of Article 6 of the Convention.

In 2016, Parties decided to further improve the effectiveness of the Doha work programme and to popularly refer activities under Article 6 as ‘Action for climate empowerment’.

Paris Agreement Article 12

The Paris Agreement recognizes the importance of climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, and asks Parties to cooperate in taking appropriate measures. CMA 1 will explore ways of enhancing implementation in this regard.

Understanding INDCs, NDCs
and long-term strategies

Background: What are intended nationally determined contributions?

In the negotiations leading up to the Paris Agreement governments, at COP 19 in 2013, agreed that they would initiate or intensify domestic preparations for their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) towards achieving the objective of the Convention. At the time, the intention was to avoid a situation in which the Paris Agreement would have been agreed with no specific actions and timeframes for all its Parties. As such, INDCs were intended to cover this gap by inviting countries to outline the climate efforts they would undertake in the context of the Paris Agreement. The word “intended” was meant to indicate that these contrubitions were “intentions” with a view to formalizing them once the Paris Agreement had been adopted

By the time of the adoption of the Paris Agreement, almost all Parties to the Convention had submitted their INDCs, all of which have been compiled on the INDC portal. In response to a request by the COP the secretariat prepared a synthesis report on the aggregate effect of these INDCs. This report was published on 1 November 2015 and updated in May 2016.

What are nationally determined contributions (NDCs)?

Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, are at the heart of the Paris Agreement. In short, they represent the contribution of each Party towards meeting the objective of this Agreement. For example, NDCs should, in aggregate, set the world on a trajectory towards peaking of global emissions as soon as possible and rapid reductions thereafter towards a balance of emisisons and removals. This is why, through their NDCs, each Party should specify, among other things, its plans to reduce its emissions.

The Paris Agreement requires each Party to prepare, communicate and maintain successive NDCs that it intends to achieve, and to pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions. Parties are expected to do so every five years and to aim at increasing their ambition with each subsequent NDC. Further, the Paris Agreement expects developed country Parties to lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets and encourages developing country Parties to move towards such targets over time, in the light of different national circumstances.

The decision adopting the Paris Agreement (Decision 1/CP.21) specifies that the first NDC of each Party will be its INDC at the time of ratification of the Paris Agreement, unless the Party decides otherwise. A Party, for example, may decide to revise its INDC and communicate a revision as its first NDC.

Parties should also submit and periodically update adaptation communications, which may be submitted as a component of a nationally determined contribution.

With a view to providing clarity on what each country’s NDC means, the COP specified several types of information, which include, for example, benchmarks of past emissions, periods (time frames) of implementation, assumptions and technical information, and an explanation of how the contributions is ambitious, fair and contributes towards achieving the objective of the Convention as set out in its Article 2.

In accordance with Article 4 paragraph 12 of the Agreement, NDCs communicated by Parties shall be recorded in a public registry, which is maintained by the secretariat and accessible here.

What are long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies?

The Paris Agreement also encourages all Parties to formulate long-term low GHG emission development strategies. In doing so, Parties should be mindful of the Agreement’s objectives in Article 2, taking into account their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.

The COP invited Parties to communicate to the secretariat, by 2020, such mid-century, long-term strategies and countries have started submitting them. The strategies received are made available on the secretariat’s website.

transparency and

Understanding transparency and accountability

Reporting is one of the cornerstones of the UN climate change regime: it provides transparency and is the basis for understanding and gauging the implementation of the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.

To achieve the objective of the Convention, Parties need accurate, consistent and internationally comparable data on trends in GHG emissions and on efforts to change these trends. Communicating information on the most effective ways to reduce emissions and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change also puts the world collectively on the path towards more sustainable forms of development.

Under the Convention, all Parties must communicate certain information to the COP, through the secretariat, within agreed time lines. The two main elements of this information are the details on their activities to implement the Convention—that is, their climate change policies and measures—and their national inventories of GHGs. The required contents of national reports and the timetable for their submission are different for Annex I Parties and Parties not included in Annex I to the Convention (non-Annex I Parties), in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, Annex I Parties are required to include supplementary information relating to their implementation of the protocol.

All Parties to the Paris Agreement will report under its enhanced transparency framework for action and support.

  • Transparency and Accountability

What types of reports does the UNFCCC use?

  • National communications
  • Biennial reports
  • Biennial update reports

All Parties are committed to submitting reports—known as National Communications (NCs)—on the actions that they are taking to implement the Convention. The COP provides the guidelines for Parties to use for reporting. Since 1995, these guidelines have been revised and improved based on Parties’ experiences of using them.

Annex I Parties must report more often and in more detail. The secretariat compiles a summary of the information in these reports, which are often hundreds of pages long. Both the individual NCs and the secretariat summaries are available on the UNFCCC website. NCs from Annex I Parties provide information on: emissions and removals of GHGs; national circumstances; policies and measures; vulnerability assessment; financial resources and transfer of technology; education, training and public awareness; and any other activities undertaken to implement the Convention.

Annex I Parties that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol must also include supplementary information in their NCs and their annual inventories of emissions and removals of GHGs to demonstrate compliance with the Kyoto Protocol commitments.

With respect to non-Annex I parties, the information required is less detailed than for Annex I Parties. NCs from developing countries provide information on GHG inventories, measures to mitigate emissions and efforts to facilitate adequate adaptation to climate change. Developing country Parties are required to submit their first NC within three years of entering the Convention, and every four years thereafter. For some non-Annex I Parties, the preparation of NCs depends on the receipt of funding. The LDCs may prepare one at their discretion.

Biennial reports (BRs) outline the progress of Annex I Parties in achieving emission reductions and the provision of financial, technology and capacity-building support to non-Annex I Parties. The first BRs were submitted in January 2014, and the second and subsequent ones are due two years after the due date of a full NC (i.e. 2016, 2020, etc.).

Biennial update reports (BURs) are submitted by developing country Parties and provide an update of the information presented in NCs, in particular, on national GHG inventories, mitigation actions, constraints and gaps, including support needed and received. The first BURs were submitted in December 2014 and every two years thereafter. LDC Parties and small island developing States may submit BURs at their own discretion.

What are greenhouse gas inventories?

All Parties are committed to compiling inventories of GHG emissions. The IPCC has developed inventory methodologies for the national reporting of GHG emissions that countries use to develop their national inventories. Annex I Parties are required to submit a separate inventory of their GHG emissions every year, covering emissions and removals of direct GHGs from sectors such as: energy; industrial processes and product use; agriculture, forestry and land use; and waste sectors. Non-Annex I Parties compile these as part of their National Communications (NCs) and are not required to submit a separate annual emissions inventory.

How are the reports reviewed?

NCs and GHG inventories from Annex I Parties undergo an in-depth review by teams of independent experts. This process provides a thorough technical assessment of each Party’s commitments and the steps taken towards implementation. Teams are selected from a roster of experts nominated by Parties and coordinated by the secretariat. The in-depth reviews typically draw on findings from visits to the country concerned, as well as desk-based studies. In addition to assessing the implementation of commitments by Annex I Parties, the in-depth reports allow easier comparison of information between the NCs of Parties, although no common indicators are used.

What are the latest reporting developments under the Convention?

At the climate change conferences in Cancun, in 2010, and Durban, in 2011, Parties took steps to improve the system of reporting and verification under the UNFCCC. They decided to enhance reporting for all countries and to conduct international assessment and review (IAR) of information in biennial reports (BRs) from developed countries and international consultation and analysis (ICA) of biennial update reports (BURs) from developing countries.

This marked a major change from the existing reporting and review system, particularly for developing countries, because information from these countries has largely been reported on an infrequent basis and has not been reviewed. Establishing a system that combines improved reporting with some form of international verification process could improve the quality of information available internationally and increase confidence in the integrity of the information reported. This would help to build trust between countries and potentially also increase the level of ambition of mitigation actions.

International assessment and review

The IAR process aims to promote the comparability of efforts among all developed country Parties with regard to their quantified economy-wide emission limitation and reduction targets. Parties adopted detailed guidelines for the preparation of BRs and modalities and procedures for IAR. The process includes two steps: a technical review of BRs, where relevant, in conjunction with a review of annual GHG inventories and NCs of developed country Parties, which will result in an individual review report for each developed country Party; and a multilateral assessment of developed country Parties’ progress in implementation. The multilateral assessment will be conducted under a working group session of the SBI for each developed country Party, with the participation of all Parties. The Party under review may make a brief oral presentation, followed by oral questions from other Parties and responses by the Party under review.

International consultation and analysis

The ICA process aims to increase the transparency of mitigation actions and their effects. It includes a technical analysis conducted by a team of technical experts and a facilitative sharing of views in the form of a workshop, where Parties will exchange information and experiences on the BURs and the summary reports.

Biennial assessment and overview of financial flows

This relatively new reporting process focuses on climate finance. The Standing Committee on Finance (SCF), established in 2010, aims to assist the COP in guiding the financial mechanism and in improving transparency in terms of measurement, reporting and verification of support. A key activity is the preparation of a biennial assessment and overview of climate finance flows. The SCF has established a dedicated working group for these reports, which will also work between the COP and CMP sessions and serve as liaison between the SCF and external stakeholders, with whom the SCF engages in extensive outreach activities. This aspect of the work of the SCF is strongly linked with the work of other bodies, most notably the SBI and the SBSTA. Close cooperation and liaison with all stakeholders involved will be essential for the work of the SCF on the biennial assessments and overview of climate finance flows.

What are the mechanism for reporting and compliance under the Kyoto Protocol?

Supplementary reporting

Annex I Parties that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol are also required to report supplementary information required under Article 7, paragraph 1, of the Kyoto Protocol, with the inventory submission due under the Convention, in accordance with paragraph 3(a) of decision 15/CMP.1.

The reports of Annex I Kyoto Protocol Parties are subject to review by international expert review teams (ERTs), which prepare review reports and, under certain circumstances, may also identify questions of implementation or recommend adjustments.

The Kyoto Protocol compliance mechanism

In addition to the reporting and review arrangements, tThe Kyoto Protocol also established a Compliance Committee, which is designed to strengthen the Kyoto pProtocol’s environmental integrity, ensure the transparency of Parties' accounting and reporting, and support the credibility of the carbon market. Its objective is to facilitate, promote and enforce compliance with the commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. It is among the most comprehensive and rigorous compliance systems for a multilateral environmental agreement. The Compliance Committee has two branches – the enforcement branch and the facilitative branch – each of which is composed of 10 members and has a Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson . The Committee also meets as a Plenary, usually twice a year. The branches meet as often as required. The Compliance Committee reports annually to the CMP. More information is available here.

Transparency and accountability under the Paris Agreement

Enhanced transparency framework for action and support

The Paris Agreement establishes an enhanced transparency framework for action and support for all Parties, but affording flexibility to those developing country Parties that need it in the light of their capacities. The enhanced framework provides for reporting, which includes provision of national GHG inventory reports, information to track progress of Parties’ implementation of NDCs, information on climate change impacts and adaptation, as well as on financial, technology and capacity-building support that a Party has provided or, respectively, that it has received. The information submitted by each Party will also undergo a technical expert review.

The APA is tasked to develop, by 2018, common modalities, procedures and guidelines (MPGs) for the framework, building on experience from the Convention’s transparency arrangements and allowing for the afore-mentioned flexibility. These MPGs will eventually supersede the measurement, reporting and verification system established by the COP decisions of Cancun and Durban, in 2010 and 2011. .

Facilitating implementation and promoting compliance

The Paris Agreement also establishes a mechanism to facilitate implementation of and promote compliance with the provisions of the Agreement. The mechanism will consist of a committee of 12 members (to be elected by the CMA on the basis of equitable geographical representation). The committee shall be expert-based and facilitative, functioning in a transparent, non-adversarial, non-punitive manner. It shall pay particular attention to the respective national capabilities and circumstances of Parties and will report annually to the CMA.

Again, Parties agreed to elaborate modalities and procedures for the effective operation of the Committee. These are being developed under the APA for consideration and adoption by the CMA, latest by 2018.

science in the
UN climate change process

How does the UN climate change regime promote science and policy interaction?

Effective interaction between climate science and policy is important for moving climate negotiations forwards. Scientific research continues to inform the international climate regime, as well as national and regional climate policies. The UN climate change process, under the supreme (COP, CMP, CMA) and subsidiary bodies (SBSTA and SBI), uses scientific information on climate change through a number of work streams.

Periodic review of the long-term global goal

In 2010, the COP agreed on a long-term global goal (LTGG) to reduce GHG emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. The COP also decided to periodically review the adequacy of this LTGG in the light of the ultimate objective of the Convention and to periodically review the overall progress towards achieving the LTGG, including a consideration of the implementation of the commitments under the Convention. This review – carried out for the first time in 2013–2015 – was also to consider strengthening the LTGG, including in relation to temperature rises of 1.5 °C.

The COP established a structured expert dialogue to support the 2013–2015 review and ensure its scientific integrity. The results of the dialogue between experts and Parties is summarized in the report on the structured expert dialogue (FCCC/SB/2015/INF.1).

The outcome of the 2013-2015 review and in particular its conclusion regarding the long-term global goal (captured in Decision 10/CP.21 paragraph 4) were contributing factors to Parties' strengthening that goal as reflected and Article 2.1 of the Paris Agreement.


The Convention calls on Parties to promote and cooperate in research and systematic observation of the climate system, including through exchange of information and supporting international programmes, networks and organizations. Parties are also called upon to cooperate in improving the capacities of developing countries so that they can participate in research and systematic observation activities.

Consideration of matters related to research takes place regularly under the SBSTA agenda item on research and systematic observation. Annual research dialogues are organized to inform Parties about ongoing and planned activities of regional and international research programmes and organizations active in climate change research, and to communicate Parties' views on research needs and priorities to the scientific community, in particular, to relevant research programmes and organizations and the IPCC.

Systematic observation

Worldwide systematic observation of the climate system is a key prerequisite for advancing scientific knowledge on climate change and advising for informed policymaking. The Convention calls on Parties to promote and cooperate in systematic observation of the climate system, including through support to existing international programmes and networks. Implementation is supported through cooperation with the Global Climate Observing System, the World Meteorological Organization and other agencies. Parties provide detailed technical reports on systematic observation via their National Communiations (NCs) and in line with the revised UNFCCC reporting guidelines on global climate change observing systems.

Cooperation with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The IPCC assesses the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant for understanding the risk of human-induced climate change. The IPCC is best known for its comprehensive assessment reports, incorporating summaries for policymakers from a synthesis report and from all three working groups, which are widely recognized as the most credible sources of information on climate change. Cooperation with the IPCC has been further defined and strengthened by several COP decisions.

In addition to its assessment reports, the IPCC also produces shorter special reports and technical papers on specific issues, with a number of them being at the request of the COP or the SBSTA. Special reports are produced under the guidance of one or more working groups following the procedures that are used for writing and reviewing the assessment reports. For example, in 2000, the IPCC issued a special report on land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF), which served as an input into negotiations on the rules for the LULUCF sector under the Kyoto Protocol; in 2011, the IPCC produced a special report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation; and in 2012, the IPCC issued a special report on managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation. Technical papers are based on material that is already in the IPCC assessment reports and special reports.

Through its Task Force on Inventories, the IPCC carries out important work on developing methodologies for estimating and reporting GHG emissions. The 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, for example, are used by all Parties to prepare their annual emissions inventories. In addition, the IPCC has developed guidance to help Parties deal with data uncertainties and support the use of good practice in managing emissions inventories. The IPCC frequently organizes workshops and expert meetings to support the assessment process. It may also co-sponsor workshops if they are considered to be a useful contribution to its own activities.

the negotiations

What are United Nations Climate Change Conferences?

United Nations climate change conferences have grown exponentially in size over the past two decades—from small working sessions into the largest annual conferences currently held under the auspices of the United Nations—and are now among the largest international meetings in the world. The intergovernmental negotiations have likewise become increasingly complex and involve an ever-increasing number of officials from governments all over the world, at all levels, as well as huge numbers of representatives from civil society and the global news media.

These conferences are the foremost global forums for multilateral discussion of climate change matters, and have an incredibly busy schedule. The conferences, which rotate annually among the five United Nations regional groups, serve as the formal meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COP), the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) and the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (the CMA).

They also include sessions of the subsidiary bodies (the SBSTA and the SBI) and any ad hoc negotiating groups. The UNFCCC secretariat supports all institutions involved in the negotiations, as well as the Bureau of the COP/CMP/CMA, which is the executive body that advises the President of the conference.

Meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COP/CMP/CMA):

The Conference of the Parties – meeting as COP, CMP and CMA – serves two main purposes:

1. To review the implementation of the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, respectively; and

2. To adopt decisions to further develop and implement these three instruments.

The latter can include establishment of any subsidiary bodies that are deemed necessary. Parties may also negotiate and adopt new legal instruments, like the Paris Agreement adopted by the COP in 2015 or the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol adopted by the CMP in 2012.

The conduct of the meetings follows certain rules (the so-called UNFCCC draft rules of procedure that are being applied by the COP, CMP, CMA and their subsidiary bodies). The brokering of agreed outcomes within the collective decision-making framework of the COP/CMP/CMA, however, is often a highly complex exercise which involves negotiation and compromise.

The conduct of the meetings and brokering of agreements within the collective decision-making framework of the COP therefore involves negotiation and compromise.

The big picture: how do the UNFCCC sessions work?

The COP/CMP/CMA currently convenes annually for two weeks, usually in late November or early to mid-December, along with meetings of the subsidiary bodies, ad hoc negotiating bodies, and additional preparation meetings and technical workshops. The first week of the sessions typically focuses on technical sessions of the subsidiary bodies and any ad hoc working groups.

The second week includes a ‘high-level segment’, with statements from ministers and often with their active engagement in the negotiations on a political outcome for the conference. The high-level segment is included to facilitate agreement on the major political issues (rather than negotiate details) and demonstrate priority for the UN climate change process and ensure momentum.

At the opening of each conference, a President (often a senior official or minister from the State hosting the sessions) is elected by the Parties to preside over the COP, CMP and CMA. Consideration of agenda items begins in the formal plenary meetings of the COP, CMP and CMA, the decision-making bodies for the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, respectively, with the adoption of the agenda and the organization of work of each body.

The COP, CMP and CMA then refer many of their agenda items to the subsidiary bodies (the SBSTA and the SBI, or possibly an existing ad hoc working group such as the APA ) to move the issue forwards, resolve differences and reach agreement. – Some agenda items are not referred, but are considered further by Parties within the COP, CMP or CMA itself. – The aim is to forge agreement on draft decisions or conclusions that reflect the consensus among Parties, with a view to presenting the draft texts to a plenary meeting (of COP, CMP or CMA) for adoption at the ends of session.

While under consideration by the subsidiary bodies (or sometimes the COP, CMP or CMA), the issue is often referred to smaller more informal groups, such as ‘contact groups’ and ‘informal consultations’, which are more suited to working on detailed text. During the meetings, national delegates try to achieve convergence, and ultimately consensus, on draft decisions that reflect the views of all Parties.

Once a draft decision is agreed in an informal group, it is normally forwarded for approval to the body that launched the informal group (e.g. one of the subsidiary bodies or an ad hoc negotiating group), which then forwards it – after brief consideration or further negotiation, as needed – to the plenary of the COP, CMP or CMA for final adoption. If Parties cannot reach agreement in the smaller negotiating groups, the draft text is forwarded to the COP, CMP or CMA for further debate. For some politically sensitive issues the President may hold further consultations to reach a final agreement.

During the final meetings of the COP, CMP and CMA, the President will present the results of the negotiations—texts containing draft decisions and/or conclusions—in the plenary for approval and adoption by Parties. Successive decisions taken by the COP, CMP and CMA make up a detailed set of rules for practical and effective implementation of the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.

For more detailed information on United Nations Climate Change Conferences, see the Bare essentials: a toolkit for new delegates.

  • The UNFCCC Process at work: A Closer Look at a United Nations Climate Change Conference

Disclaimer and photo credits


Photo credit for images used:

• Background image on landing page: ESA

• Background image on Convention page: Nasa

• Background image on Adaptation page: ESA

• Background image on Finance page: NASA / Michael Studinger

• Background image on Capacity-Building page: NASA / USGS

• Background image on Science page: ESA

• Images in the timeline and negotiations section: enb/iisd.