United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: Objective, Full Form, COP, UNFCCC UPSC

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

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

UNFCCC is an international treaty aimed at addressing climate change. Understanding UNFCCC is important for the UPSC exam as it reflects global efforts, policies, and negotiations related to climate change and its impact on the environment and society. A comprehensive understanding of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change enhances candidates’ knowledge and awareness of climate change-related issues, enabling them to tackle relevant questions effectively in the UPSC exam.

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 primary goal of the UNFCCC is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to prevent dangerous human-induced interference with the climate system.

UNFCCC provides a platform for countries to come together and discuss strategies, share information, and collaborate on actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. It serves as a framework for negotiations and the development of international climate change policies, agreements, and protocols, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the 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 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. At the head of the secretariat is the Executive Secretary, a position currently held by Simon Stiell.

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.

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 objectives of UNFCCC 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. Following are 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 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 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
UNFCCC 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. Candidates can download the UPSC Study Material and UPSC Previous Year’s Question Papers for practice for the IAS Exam.


Questions: Which international treaty aims to combat climate change and stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations? (A) United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), (B) Kyoto Protocol, (C) Montreal Protocol, (D) Paris Agreement

Answer: (A) United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Question: The primary objective of the UNFCCC is to: (A) Promote sustainable development, (B) Facilitate international trade agreements, (C) Address global poverty and hunger, (D) Ensure global peace and security

Answer: (A) Promote sustainable development

Question for UPSC Mains: Explain the key objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and discuss its role in global climate governance.

Question for UPSC Mains: Assess the role of UNFCCC in the international climate change negotiations and agreements, with specific reference to the Paris Agreement. Discuss the challenges faced by UNFCCC in achieving global consensus and implementing climate actions.

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