CIESIN Thematic Guides

The Framework Convention on Climate Change

The Framework Convention on Climate Change was one of two binding treaties opened for signature at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992. The treaty, also known as the Climate Convention, addresses potential human-induced global warming by pledging countries to seek "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." Though stated only in general terms, the Climate Convention parties agreed to attempt to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4).

That the treaty is a framework convention means specific commitments to target emission levels are not included. These or other measures may be issues in subsequent negotiations to the Climate Convention. Reinstein (1993), chief of the U.S. negotiating team, reviewed the negotiating process in "Climate Negotiations."

Although signed at UNCED, the Climate Convention was negotiated through a separate process under the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The text was adopted at New York on May 9, 1992, opened for signature at Rio de Janeiro from June 4 to 14,1992, and thereafter at United Nations Headquarters from June 20, 1992, to June 19, 1993. By that date the Convention had received 166 signatures.

On December 21, 1993, Portugal became the 50th state to ratify the Climate Convention, fulfilling the minimum requirement for the treaty to enter into force on March 21, 1994. A United Nations' press release contains a list of signatory and ratification status by country and date. The full text of the Climate Convention is also available.

The Academic Council for the United Nations System (ACUNS) (Halpern 1992) United Nations Conference on Environment and Development: Process and Documentation includes a summary of negotiations leading up to the Climate Convention and a listing of major documents from the preparatory process. The Climate Impacts Centre of Macquarie University, New South Wales, Australia, offers a brief analysis of the Climate Convention negotiating process and its major provisions in its annual report (1993).

The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee has met three times since the signing of the treaty in June 1992 (most recently in October 1993) to discuss implementation issues. The first conference of the parties to the Climate Convention, slated for March 1995, will review the emissions commitments in the treaty as well as national climate action plans submitted by that date.

Information on current activities related to the Climate Convention is provided in the Climate Change Bulletin published jointly by the treaty secretariat, the IPCC secretariat, and the U.N. Information Unit on Climate Change.