United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
The United Nations Convention on Climate Change was adopted in 1992 as one of the three conventions at the “Rio Earth Summit”. The other Rio Conventions are the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification. The UNFCCC entered into force on 21 March 1994. The UNFCCC was ratified by 195 countries.
Article 2 of the Convention states that:
“The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. 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.”
Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP)
The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) was a subsidiary body of the UNFCCC established at COP.17 in Durban. It was set up in order to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties. Parties to the UNFCCC agreed that the work on the new agreement would be completed no later than 2015 in order to be adopted at the COP.21 in Paris, with a view to be implemented by all parties from 2020. The ADP also aimed to discuss how to close the ambition gap between reductions necessary to limit the increase of global temperature to below 2°C and the level of reductions that may be achieved by parties, if they implement their collective 2020 reduction pledges and commitments. The agenda that was finally agreed in the course of the following year confirmed the creation of two workstreams within the ADP: the first workstream (WS1) focussing on agreement on a new legal instrument in 2015 for the period after 2020, and the second workstream (WS2) focussing on raising ambition in the period up to 2020. In the course of 2012 and 2013, the ADP worked under both WS through workshops and roundtables, enabling parties to share the views and exchange opinions on a range of issues. At COP.18 in Doha, parties agreed to deliver the elements of a draft text of the future global Agreement by the end of 2014. The ADP continued discussions on the scope, design and structure of the 2015 Agreement, and on the ways and means of increasing pre-2020 ambition in 2013. At the next COP in Warsaw (COP.19) parties agreed that they would communicate their proposals for the new climate agreement “well in advance” of COP21, „by the first quarter of 2015 by those Parties ready to do so”. These proposals have also been defined as ‘contributions’ (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)) rather than ‚commitments’ or ‚pledges’. A year before the pivotal COP in Paris, COP.20 in Lima adopted a decision known as the Lima call for climate action, containing in an annex a draft text of the future agreement. The Lima decision requested parties to intensify work under ADP, with a view to presenting to all parties before May 2015 a negotiating text which will be subject to agreement in Paris.
Throughout 2015, ADP met 5 times, discussing further iterations of the negotiations text. The text used by parties as a reference for all the drafts was adopted at the first ADP meeting of 2015, convened in Geneva in February 2015. In Geneva the ADP agreed at closing plenary to treat the text developed at that meeting as a starting point and basis for further negotiations aimed at preparing a final draft text for the Paris COP. The Geneva text contained all the proposals of all the parties and was 64 pages long. During negotiations that followed, parties strived to streamline the text and make it workable. The ADP Co-Chairs conducted intensive consultations between negotiating sessions in a transparent and inclusive manner. In parallel, ADP worked under its second work stream towards increasing pre-2020 ambition and closing the ambition gap. The progress on the draft text was slow but the intensive climate diplomacy and additional effort of both COP Presidencies, Peru and France have led to a success in Paris, where ADP concluded its mandate on 5 December by forwarding the draft text of the agreement to the COP for further deliberations. Adoption of the Paris Agreement by the Parties to the UNFCCC has led to institutional changes: Parties set up a new Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement which replaced the ADP. Its first task will be to develop further guidance on features of the nationally determined contributions for consideration and adoption by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement at its first session at the next COP in Marrakesh.