12. Appendix B:
A Brief History of the Climate
(Excerpt from A GUIDE TO THE CLIMATE CHANGE CONVENTION AND ITS KYOTO
PROTOCOL, UNFCCC Climate Change Secretariat. 2002)
evidence of human interference with the climate system, coupled with
growing public concern over global environmental issues, began to
push climate change onto the political agenda in the mid-1980s.
Recognizing the needs of policymakers for authoritative and up-to-date
scientific information, the
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988.
That same year, following a proposal by the Government of Malta, the
United Nations General Assembly took up the issue of climate change for
the first time and adopted resolution 43/53 on the “Protection of global
climate for present and future generations of mankind”.
In 1990, the IPCC issued its First Assessment Report, confirming that
climate change was indeed a threat and calling for a global treaty to
address the problem.
This call was echoed by the Ministerial Declaration of the Second World
Climate Conference, held in Geneva in October/November of that year. The
Assembly responded to these calls in December of 1990, formally launching
negotiations on a framework convention on climate change by its resolution
These negotiations were conducted by an Intergovernmental Negotiating
Committee (INC), chaired by Jean Ripert (France).
The INC met for the first time in February 1991 and, after just 15
months of negotiations, governments adopted the United Nations Framework
Climate Change at the INC’ resumed fifth session on 9 May 1992. The
Convention was opened for signature on 4 June 1992 at the UN Conference on
Environment and Development (UNCED), the so-called “Earth Summit”, in Rio
de Janeiro, Brazil, and came into force on 21 March 1994. A decade after
its adoption, 186 governments (including the European Community) are now
Parties to the Convention and it is approaching universal membership.
Since the Convention’s entry into force, Parties have met annually in
the Conference of the Parties (COP) to monitor its implementation and
continue talks on how best to tackle climate change. The many decisions
taken by the COP at its annual sessions now make up a detailed rulebook
for the effective implementation of the Convention.
When they adopted the Convention, however, governments knew that its
commitments would not be sufficient to seriously tackle climate change. At
the first COP (Berlin, March/April 1995), in a decision known as the
Berlin Mandate, Parties therefore launched a new round of talks to decide
on stronger and more detailed commitments for industrialized countries.
After two and a half years of intense negotiations, the Kyoto Protocol was
adopted at COP 3 in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997.
The complexity of the negotiations, however, meant that considerable
“unfinished business” remained even after the Kyoto Protocol itself was
adopted. The Protocol sketched out the basic features of its “mechanisms”
and compliance system, for example, but did not flesh out the
all-important rules of how they would operate.
Although 84 countries signed the Protocol indicating that they intended
to ratify the preliminary version many were reluctant to actually do so
and bring the
Protocol into force before having a clearer picture of the treaty’s
A new round of negotiations was therefore launched at COP 4 (Buenos
Aires, November 1998) to draft the Kyoto Protocol’s rulebook. This round,
based on an ambitious work programme known as the Buenos Aires Plan of
Action, linked together negotiations on the Protocol’s rulebook with talks
on implementation issues under the Convention (such as finance and
The deadline for negotiations under the Buenos Aires Plan of Action was
set as COP (The Hague, November 2000). However, the volume of work facing
that session, and the difficult political issues at stake, led to a
breakdown in negotiations.
Talks reconvened at a resumed session of COP 6 in Bonn, Germany, in
July 2001. Here, governments struck a political deal – the so-called Bonn
Agreements – signing off on the most politically controversial issues
under the Buenos Aires Plan of Action.
A few months later at COP 7 (Marrakech, October/ November 2001),
negotiators built on the Bonn Agreements to finally adopt a comprehensive
package of decisions – known as the Marrakech Accords – containing a
detailed rulebook for the Kyoto Protocol, as well as important advances in
the implementation of the Convention and its rulebook. The adoption of the
Marrakech Accords thus marked the close of a major negotiating cycle.
Climate change is a long-term
problem, however, and the climate change process is far from over.
Governments will continue to meet to discuss how best to implement the
Convention and the Protocol, and to decide on next steps to combat climate