COP 7   29/10 - 9/11 2001 MARRAKESH, MOROCCO



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A brief history of the climate change process

Negotiations on what became the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change were launched in December 1990 by the UN General Assembly. An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) was convened to conduct these negotiations, which were concluded in just 15 months. The Convention was adopted on 9 May 1992, and opened for signature a month later at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It entered into force on 21 March 1994, after receiving the requisite 50 ratifications. The Convention now has 186 Parties and is approaching universal membership.

Since the adoption of the Convention, Parties have continued to negotiate in order to agree on decisions and conclusions that will advance its implementation. They have done so first in the INC, and then, since the Convention’s entry into force, in the Conference of the Parties (COP) and its subsidiary bodies, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).

In addition to this ‘routine’ work on advancing the implementation of the Convention, Parties launched a new round of negotiations at COP 1 (Berlin, March/April 1995) to strengthen the commitments of Annex I Parties. These negotiations resulted in the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol at COP 3 (Kyoto, December 1997). The Kyoto Protocol, however, left many of its operational details unresolved and referred these to the COP and subsidiary bodies for further negotiation. The Kyoto Protocol was signed by 84 Parties, and has received some 39 ratifications. Many Annex I Parties, however, stated that they needed to have a clearer picture of the operational details of the Protocol before they could ratify it.

At COP 4 (Buenos Aires, November 1998), Parties adopted the so-called "Buenos Aires Plan of Action", setting out a programme of work both to advance the implementation of the Convention and to flesh out the operational details of the Kyoto Protocol. This programme of work was conducted in the subsidiary bodies and at COP 5 (Bonn, October/November 1999), with a deadline of COP 6 (The Hague, November 2000). However, Parties were unable to reach agreement on a package of decisions on all issues under the Buenos Aires Plan of Action at that session. Nevertheless, they decided to meet again in a resumed session of COP 6 to try once more to resolve their differences.

At COP 6 part II (Bonn, July 2001), Parties finally succeeded in adopting the Bonn Agreements on the Implementation of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, registering political agreement on key issues under the Buenos Aires Plan of Action. Parties also completed their work on a set of detailed decisions based on the Bonn Agreements, which were forwarded to COP 7 for formal adoption. Work remains outstanding on a small number of decisions, however, and these were referred to COP 7 for further negotiation.

COP 7 will meet in Marrakesh in November 2001, together with the fifteenth sessions of the SBSTA and SBI, which face heavy agendas of routine work. At COP 7, Parties are expected to formally adopt the detailed decisions completed at COP 6 part II, and also to finalize those decisions where work remains outstanding. These include decisions on Kyoto Protocol issues that will be recommended for adoption to the COP serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP) at its first session after the Protocol enters into force. Agreement on these issues should pave the way for Annex I Parties to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and thus bring it into force. Many have expressed a wish for the Protocol to enter into force in 2002, coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the Convention’s adoption and the "Rio+10" World Summit for Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, September 2002).


Key links

Guide to the climate change process

Climate change information kit