Short historical background to the negotiations
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was signed at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and it entered into force in 1994. The ultimate objective of the Convention is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations "at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system." It states that "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."
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005 due to a complex ratification process. There are currently 192 Parties to the Protocol and 195 Parties to the Convention. The Protocol is based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility: it puts the obligation to reduce current emissions on developed countries on the basis that they are historically responsible for the current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The Protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. The second commitment period - known as the Doha Amendment to the protocol - began on 1 January 2013 and will end in 2020.
Key milestones to Paris
In 2011, with the will to act together and hold global warming to below 2ºC, the parties created the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action with the aim of bringing together all developed and developing countries to work on a "protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force", applicable to all parties to the UNFCCC. This new instrument has been adopted at the 2015 COP21 in Paris and is referred to as the Paris Agreements, entering into force on 4 November 2016.
The 2013 Warsaw Conference was a crucial step towards reaching a universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015. Each country will have to communicate its "contributions" - the efforts it intends to undertake to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (INDCs) - before the Paris Conference, so they can be assessed before it starts.
The 2014 Lima Conference laid down the shape of the INDCs and the schedule for 2015.
The Paris Agreement
The Paris COP21 (Conference of the Parties of UNFCCC) which took place between 30 November and 12 December 2015 has resulted in reaching a historic agreement on holding the global temperature raise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue global efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
The unprecedented mobilisation of civil society stakeholders including trade unions, businesses, NGOs, communities, cities and regions was an important factor contributing to the success of the conference and was clearly reflected in the final outcome of COP21.
Nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are at the heart of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of these long-term goals. NDCs embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The Paris Agreement requires each Party to prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that it intends to achieve. NDC are submitted every five years to the UNFCCC secretariat, with the next round of NDCs (new or updated) being submitted by 2020.
In 2018 the COP will convene a facilitative dialogue among Parties to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties in relation to progress towards the long-term and to inform the preparation of the next round of NDCs.