Complete text of Climate Change Convention
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Human activities are releasing substantial amounts of gases, including carbon dioxide, that increase the natural greenhouse effect in the Earth’s atmosphere.
There is concern the addition of such gases will cause a further warming of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere, and this warming will have adverse effects on humans and natural ecosystems.
A number of regions are particularly vulnerable. They include: low-lying and other small island states; low-lying coastlines and flood-prone areas; areas liable to drought and desertification and fragile mountain ecosystems.
Countries should protect the world’s climate system for the benefit of present and future generations. Under the United Nations Charter, countries have the right to exploit their own resources, but they have the responsibility to ensure that activities under their control do not cause damage to the environment beyond their borders.
The global nature of climate change requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response. Countries should enact effective environmental legislation to control greenhouse gas emissions and should ensure the functioning of natural processes that can remove some of the gases from the atmosphere.
The ultimate goal of the climate change Convention is to stabilize greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at levels that will not dangerously upset the global climate system. This should be done within a time frame that allows ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, ensures that food production is not threatened and enables economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.
Most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have come and continue to come from developed countries, and they should take the lead in combating climate change and its adverse effects.
Developed nations, as well as a number of countries whose economies are in transition, such as in eastern Europe, shall adopt national policies and take measures to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. They shall also protect and improve forests and oceans, that act as sinks and reservoirs for greenhouse gases.
The aim for these nations is to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels. (The emissions of some other greenhouse gases, which also damage the ozone layer, are being controlled under other international agreements.)
On a per person basis, greenhouse gas emissions from developing countries are still relatively low. For these countries, the first and overriding priorities are economic and social development, and eradication of poverty. The developing nations’ share of global emissions will grow as their economies expand, and they use more energy.
Some actions to address climate change can be justified economically, and can also help in solving other environmental problems. But a number of countries, particularly developing nations whose economies are dependent on fossil fuels, may have serious difficulties in switching to alternative fuels.
There are still many uncertainties about the timing, magnitude and regional impacts of climate change, but where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing controls.
Developed countries shall help developing nations deal with requirements of Convention and the effects of climate change by:
All nations are to:
- Providing money and technological assistance to help these nations measure flows of greenhouse gases.
- Assisting countries that are particularly vulnerable to harmful effects of climate change to meet the costs of adaptation.
- Providing environmentally sound technologies and know-how, as well as supporting the development of technologies within these nations.
Although climate change needs to be dealt with, nations should also promote an international economic system that would lead to sustainable economic growth and development in all countries, particularly developing countries. This will make them better able to deal with the problems of climate change. Measures taken to combat climate change should not be used to arbitrarily restrict international trade.
- Provide information on quantities of greenhouse gases they release, and how much is absorbed by their sinks.
- Publish regular updates on programs to control emissions, and to adapt to climate change.
- Promote the sound management and conservation of such greenhouse gas sinks as plants, forests and oceans.
- Cooperate in planning for the impacts of climate change on coastal zones, water resources and agriculture.
- Cooperate in the protection of areas prone to floods or drought, particularly in Africa.
The convention sets up a specific group to help in the transfer of funds and technology to assist nations in controlling greenhouse gases and dealing with climate change. It will include the Global Environment Facility of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
For the convention to enter into force, it must be ratified by the national legislatures of at least 50 countries.
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