UNFCCC: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UPSC Notes]

By K Balaji|Updated : November 24th, 2022

UNFCCC stands for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This body was established as an International Treaty in 1992 to deal with and combat human interference in the climate system by releasing harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It came into force in 1994. The headquarters are situated in Bonn, Germany.

It has been ratified by 197 countries and is called to have a near-universal membership. The countries that have ratified the convention are called the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP). The latest, COP26, was hosted in Glasgow by the UK in partnership with Italy. UNFCCC is a major step in the direction to control the downward spiral of climate change. The UNFCC is not a legally binding framework.

The UNFCC is relevant for the UPSC Exam and should be covered in all its aspects, including details of UNFCC, Conference of Parties, objectives of UNFCC, and achievements of UNFCC to name a few. Through this article, we will be able to cover all the important aspects of UNFCC relevant to the upcoming IAS Exam.

Table of Content

What is UNFCCC?

UNFCCC is an acronym that expands to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This body focuses on securing and saving the climate from the harmful emissions released by human beings into the atmosphere. According to UNFCCC, climate change is a change in the climatic conditions that occurs due to the interference of human activities and creating a disturbance in the balance of atmospheric composition, which in turn out to bring the variation in the climate over a comparable time period.

The Convention has near-universal membership (197 Parties) and is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The main aim of the Paris Agreement is to keep the global average temperature rise this century as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The UNFCCC is also the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

UNFCCC Secretariat

The UNFCCC Secretariat was established in 1992 when countries adopted the UNFCCC. The original secretariat was in Geneva. Since 1996, the secretariat has been located in Bonn, Germany. At the head of the secretariat is the Executive Secretary, a position currently held by Patricia Espinosa.

The secretariat provides technical expertise and assists in the analysis and review of climate change information reported by Parties and in the implementation of the Kyoto mechanisms. It also maintains the registry for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) established under the Paris Agreement, a key aspect of the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Objectives of UNFCCC

The UNFCCC’s objectives are:

  • To stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by thereby preventing harmful human interference in the climate system.
  • To keep the global average temperature rise this century as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”
  • This objective should be achieved within the given time frame to help the ecosystem adapt itself naturally to the changing climate and ensure that food production is not at risk and all the activities go on in a sustainable manner.

Achievements of UNFCCC

Right from the arrival of UNFCCC, it has successfully achieved many targets and many are still going on. Let's take a look at the achievements of UNFCCC-

  • Originally only rich nations were required to cut emissions under the Kyoto Protocol which became a point of contention. However, this discrepancy was resolved with the signing of the Paris agreement in 2015.
  • Climate changes are now widely recognized which was not the case during the 1990s. Unfccc initiatives have contributed much to increasing public awareness with respect to climate change.
  • UNFCCC has proved to play an important role in enhancing the learning, understanding, and scientific knowledge about climate change over the past two decades.
  • Another achievement of UNFCCC is that it has successfully achieved the target of creating the plans to save the climatic change crisis and implementing them under the National Adaptation Programs of Action.
  • UNFCCC takes various measures for developing countries to curb the problem of climate change by initiating some innovative ideas like Clean Development Mechanism.
  • The establishment of UNFCCC in itself is a great achievement as, with its establishment, the countries have started paying attention to climate change as a problem, and have started to think about it to save the earth.
  • UNFCCC has been helpful to developing and underdeveloped nations to reduce the climate crisis by providing them with help in the form of financial aid, technological help, and organizing meetings and discussions at the global level.


A total of 26 COP (Conference of Parties) have been held since the inception of UNFCC. The list of UNFCCC Conference of Parties is given below:


Year and Place


1985, Berlin


1996, Geneva


1997, Kyoto


1998, Buenos Aires


1999, Bonn


2001, The Hague


2001, Marrakesh


2002, New Delhi


2003, Milan


2004, Buenos Aires


2005, Montreal


2006, Nairobi


2007, Bali


2008, Poznan


2009, Copenhagen


2010, Cancun


2011, Durban


2012, Doha


2013, Warsaw


2014, Lima


2015, Paris


2016, Marrakesh


2017, Bonn


2018, Katowice


2019, Madrid


2021, Glasgow

Shortcomings of UNFCCC

Though UNFCC is one of the most important organizations on climate change, it does have some shortcomings. The shortcomings include

  • Non-Inclusive: Scientists completely agree that today's most dangerous pollutants in the environment are microscopic in nature and they are particularly awaited from the angels and power plants but the Kyoto Protocol out rightly ignores these pollutants which is not a good sign.
  • Slow Progress: The UNFCCC has not been able to convince the United States of America to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. This signifies that the USA being the largest emitter of greenhouse gases is kept away from the commitments and is not obliged to follow them.
  • Unsustainable Targets: In the past century, the world has gone warmer by nearly 1 degree centigrade and the Paris contributions are still inefficient to maintain 2 degrees Celsius.
  • Unsatisfactory Response: Many countries want a 1.5 degree Celsius target which includes the leaders of low-lying Nations facing sea level Rises that are unsustainable in the warming world.
  • Financial Constraints: Several Pacific Island Nations have pointed out that the agreement requires rich countries to pledge $B100 per year of funding beyond 2020 which is ideally not enough.
  • Non-Binding Agreement: As a result of the United States' withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the agreement punishes the United States and will definitely cost America in terms of laws of millions of jobs, and the rest of the world has been placed under more pressure to achieve the Paris climate agreement goals.
  • No Enforcement Mechanism: The Paris agreement has no enforcement mechanism because each country must determine plans and report its own actions to mitigate Global Warming.


The UNFCCC is an important part of the Environment and Ecology part of the UPSC Syllabus. It is also relevant to the Current Affairs section part in the UPSC Exam. The UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains cover a good part of the questions asked from the UNFCC topic. You can download the UPSC Study Material and UPSC Previous Year's Question Papers for practice for the IAS Exam.


Question: Match List- 1 with List- 2 and select the correct answer from the code given under the lists.

List- 1List- 2
A) COP 211)Lima, 2014
B) COP 232)Paris, 2015
C) COP 203) Marrakech, 2016
D) COP 224) Bonn, 2017



Answer: Option C


UNFCC should be covered in detail as questions are asked both static and as dynamic. The UNFCC topic is elaborate and needs in-depth knowledge. Downloading the PDF will also help in revision at the last moment.

Download UNFCCC UPSC Notes PDF

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  • The main purpose of UNFCCC is to achieve a stabilized environment by reduction of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere which would prevent its dangerous interference with the climate system.

  • The headquarters of human fcc is called the secretariat which is situated in Bonn, Germany.

  • There are a total of 197 participants in UNFCCC by 2020.

  • Carbon dioxide Methane nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases are some of the greenhouse gases considered harmful by UNFCCC to the environment.

  • To download the UNFCC UPSC Notes PDF, click here.

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