In 1992, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were, by then, inevitable.
By 1995, countries realized that emission reductions provisions in the Convention were inadequate. They launched negotiations to strengthen the global response to climate change, and, two years later, adopted the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol legally binds developed countries to emission reduction targets. The Protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ends in 2012. At COP17 in Durban, governments of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol decided that a second commitment period, from 2013 onwards, would seamlessly follow the end of the first commitment period. The length of the second commitment period is to be determined: it will be either five or eight years long.
There are now 195 Parties to the Convention. The UNFCCC secretariat supports all institutions involved in the international climate change negotiations, particularly the Conference of the Parties (COP), the subsidiary bodies (which advise the COP), and the COP Bureau (which deals mainly with procedural and organizational issues arising from the COP and also has technical functions). For a brief depiction of how these various bodies are related to one another, please see Bodies.
After four years of negotiations, the question of what happens beyond 2020 was also answered at Durban. For more information on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, click here.
Climate change is a complex problem, which, although environmental in nature, has consequences for all spheres of existence on our planet. It either impacts on-- or is impacted by-- global issues, including poverty, economic development, population growth, sustainable development and resource management. It is not surprising, then, that solutions come from all disciplines and fields of research and development.
At the very heart of the response to climate change, however, lies the need to reduce emissions. In 2010, governments agreed that emissions need to be reduced so that global temperature increases are limited to below 2 degrees Celsius.