Your location: Home >  > Secretariat

The Secretariat


When and why was the secretariat created?

In 1992, countries adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a response to the problem of global warming. Five years later, they adopted the Kyoto Protocol, which strengthens the Convention by setting legally binding emission reduction requirements for 37 industrialized countries.
The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. The staff of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat works towards this goal, guided by the Convention's 195 and the Protocol's 192 Parties. In 1995, Governments decided to accept the offer of the German Government to locate the secretariat in the German city of Bonn. At the head of the secretariat is the Executive Secretary. This position is currently held by Patricia Espinosa Cantellano.

Who works at the secretariat?

Around 500 people are employed at UNFCCC. We are an eclectic mix of people from over 100 countries, with a blend of diverse cultures, gender and professional backgrounds that enrich and enhance our work.

What do we do?

In its early years, the main task of the secretariat was to support intergovernmental climate change negotiations. Now we also support an increasing number of constituted bodies that serve the process. The entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol in 2005 led to a trend of increased technical expertise within the secretariat, for example on reporting guidelines and the land use, land-use change and forestry sector. Currently, a major part of our work involves the analysis and review of climate change information and data reported by Parties.

Between two and four negotiating sessions are held each year. The largest and most important is the Conference of the Parties (COP) held together with the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), held annually and hosted alternately by the regional groups. It is the largest annual United Nations conference, attended by up to 10,000 people from all over the world, and a great deal of work is involved in making it happen. Plans for the COP and CMP, as well as other arrangements for the intergovernmental process are developed in consultation with Parties each year at the May/June sessions.

Some quick statistics from the Warsaw Climate Change Conference held in November 2013 to give you a flavour of what's involved:

2,125,702 PDF documents downloaded from the website
110,856 videos streamed live and on demand from the webcast interface
12,278 badges issued
1,979 meetings held
170 side events organized
110 exhibits displayed
120 press conferences conducted

Aside from the major conferences, a large number of meetings and workshops take place during the year which require our input and support - 180, for example, in 2012. Throughout the year, we strive to keep people informed of what's going on both within the negotiating process and outside in the climate change arena through a variety of communications products, including social media. The UNFCCC twitter account has 224.000 followers and 133.000 people follow us on facebook.

More on the UNFCCC's Senior Management