UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCC COP

By Balaji

Updated on: February 24th, 2023

UNFCCC stands for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. UNFCCC has been ratified by 198 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).  UNFCCC is a major step in controlling the downward spiral of climate change. The UNFCC is not a legally binding framework.

UNFCCC came into force in 1994, headquartered in Bonn, Germany. This article covers all the important aspects of the UNFCCC relevant to the upcoming IAS Exam, such as the UNFCCC full form, its objectives, the Secretariat, etc.

Table of content

  • 1. UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (more)
  • 2. Aim of UNFCCC (more)
  • 3. UNFCCC Secretariat (more)
  • 4. Objectives of UNFCCC (more)
  • 5. Achievements of UNFCCC (more)
  • 6. UNFCC COP (more)
  • 7. Shortcomings of UNFCCC (more)
  • 8. UNFCCC UPSC (more)
  • 9. UNFCCC UPSC Question (more)

UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

UNFCCC Full Form is United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as the Earth Summit, Rio Summit, or Rio Conference, was ratified in 1992. On March 21, 1994, the UNFCCC came into effect.

The parent instrument of the 2015 Paris Agreement is the Convention, which has 198 Parties and almost universal membership.


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 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.

UNFCCC Secretariat

The UNFCCC Secretariat was established in 1992 when countries adopted the UNFCCC. The original secretariat was in Geneva. Since 1996, the UNFCCC secretariat has been located in Bonn, Germany.

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


At the head of the secretariat is the Executive Secretary, a position currently held by Simon Stiell.

Objectives of UNFCCC

The ultimate goal of the UNFCCC is to achieve and stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would preclude harmful anthropogenic influence on the climate system, as stated in Article 2.

The UNFCCC’s objectives are:

  • To stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 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 to the changing climate and ensure that food production is not at risk and all activities go on sustainably.

Achievements of UNFCCC

Right from the arrival of UNFCCC, it has successfully achieved many targets, which are still ongoing. UNFCCC initiatives have contributed much to increasing public awareness with respect to climate change.

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 by signing the Paris agreement in 2015.
  • 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 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 innovative ideas like the Clean Development Mechanism.
  • The establishment of UNFCCC is a great achievement as, with its establishment, 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 in reducing the climate crisis by helping them in the form of financial aid, technological help, and organizing meetings and discussions at the global level.


A total of 27 COP (Conference of Parties) have been held since the inception of UNFCC. The UNFCCC COP27 was held at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

The list of UNFCCC Conference of Parties is given below:

COP Year and Place
UNFCCC COP1 1985, Berlin
UNFCCC COP2 1996, Geneva
UNFCCC COP3 1997, Kyoto
UNFCCC COP4 1998, Buenos Aires
UNFCCC COP5 1999, Bonn
UNFCCC COP6 2001, The Hague
UNFCCC COP7 2001, Marrakesh
UNFCCC COP8 2002, New Delhi
UNFCCC COP9 2003, Milan
UNFCCC COP10 2004, Buenos Aires
UNFCCC COP11 2005, Montreal
UNFCCC COP12 2006, Nairobi
UNFCCC COP13 2007, Bali
UNFCCC COP14 2008, Poznan
UNFCCC COP15 2009, Copenhagen
UNFCCC COP16 2010, Cancun
UNFCCC COP17 2011, Durban
UNFCCC COP18 2012, Doha
UNFCCC COP19 2013, Warsaw
UNFCCC COP20 2014, Lima
UNFCCC COP21 2015, Paris
UNFCCC COP22 2016, Marrakesh
UNFCCC COP23 2017, Bonn
UNFCCC COP24 2018, Katowice
UNFCCC COP25 2019, Madrid
UNFCC COP26 2021, Glasgow
UNFCCC COP27 2022, Egypt

Shortcomings of UNFCCC

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

  • 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, including 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-Inclusive: The Kyoto Protocol notably ignores the small particles produced by car engines and combustion-based power plants, which most scientists think are currently the most harmful environmental air pollutants.
  • 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, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is kept from the commitments and is not obliged to follow them.
  • Non-Binding Agreement: The US’s withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which it justified by claiming that the accord penalized the US and resulted in the loss of millions of American jobs, has increased pressure on other countries to meet the goals of the Paris agreement by erecting additional obstacles.
  • 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.


National governments have promoted and enhanced collaboration on technology creation and transfer since the UNFCCC was established. Through efforts like the UNFCCC, which offers a venue for funding, technological transfers, talks, international collaborations, etc., developing nations are helped in their fight against climate change.

The UNFCCC is an important part of the Environment and Ecology segment of the UPSC Syllabus. It is also relevant to the Current Affairs section. 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 under the lists.

List- 1 List- 2
A) COP 21 1)Lima, 2014
B) COP 23 2)Paris, 2015
C) COP 20 3) Marrakech, 2016
D) COP 22 4) Bonn, 2017


A 3 1 4 2
B 2 1 4 3
C 2 4 1 3
D 1 2 3 4

Answer: Option C

UPSC Notes
Kyoto Protocol Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Scheme
COP 26 Cabinet Committees
Green Climate Fund (GCF) Public Accounts Committee (PAC)
Cryptocurrency World Trade Organisation (WTO)
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