The UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty that was agreed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. It aims to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous climate change.
The UNFCCC sets out the principles of international climate action, as well as forming the basis for subsequent multilateral climate negotiations. These include the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’, a recognition that industrialized Northern countries have had a disproportionate role in causing climate change and are best placed to take a lead in addressing it. Annex I of the UNFCCC defines a list of these industrialized countries, which include all members of the European Union, the United States, Australia, Japan, Switzerland and New Zealand, Turkey, Russia and some other former-Soviet states.
The UNFCCC does not set out binding international emissions targets, but these were subsequently established by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was negotiated under the Convention. Most Annex I countries (except in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Turkey) took on reduction targets. The Kyoto Protocol also set out the basis for establishing the CDM and Joint Implementation offset schemes.