International climate change negotiations

The key documents of international policy on climate change are the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which entered into force in 1994, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Within Finland, the Ministry of the Environment coordinates the UNFCCC negotiations on climate change and negotiations on climate issues in the EU, and it is also the national responsible organisation with respect to the UNFCCC in general. Finland participates in international climate negotiations as a Member State of the European Union. At present the focus of international climate negotiations is on the details of the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

The aim of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is to stabilise the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations caused by human activity at a level that poses no danger to the climate. This level should be reached soon enough so that the ecosystems can adapt to climate change in a natural manner, while at the same time ensuring food production and sustainable economic development.

The UNFCCC sets out the objectives, principles and the general framework for the national efforts to mitigate climate change. The Convention establishes the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, which means that the developed countries have a particular obligation to lead the actions to mitigate climate change. It contains obligations that are binding on all Parties, and special obligations for the developed countries and economies in transition. All countries should have plans to promote climate change mitigation and adaptation. All Parties are committed to reporting on greenhouse gas emissions and sinks, and to taking action to preserve and improve the carbon reservoirs and sinks.

The Convention does not include quantitative objectives. Instead, industrialised countries are committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions as specified in the Kyoto Protocol that supplements the UNFCCC. The Kyoto Protocol sets legally binding obligations for industrialised countries concerning greenhouse gas emissions.

The Paris Agreement was concluded in December 2015 and it entered into force in 2016. It concerns the time after 2020, and it is considered a highly significant achievement in international climate policy as many of its obligations are the same for all Parties. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, it does not contain any quantitative emission reduction obligations, but the Parties make the commitment to prepare, communicate on, maintain and achieve successive nationally determined emission reduction targets.

Obligations set in the Un Framework Convention on Climate Change

The obligations of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change include:

  • The countries must draft and implement national climate change mitigation and adaptation programmes.
  • The countries must inventory the amount of their greenhouse gas emissions and report on these to the UNFCCC Secretariat.
  • The countries must protect carbon reservoirs and sinks in the soil, forests and seas.
  • The countries must support observations concerning the climate and the related research.
  • Industrial countries have a special obligation to take the lead in mitigating climate change.
  • The wealthiest industrial countries must support the developing countries through funding, expert assistance and technology transfer with respect to both mitigation and adaptation programmes and reporting.

Supervision of compliance with the agreements

The Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) submit annual reports on their greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sinks to the UNFCCC. The UNFCCC also obliges the Parties to report every 3 to 4 years on the implementation of climate measures they have taken to implement the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

In addition, the EU Member States submit a country report to the European Commission every two years concerning the policy measures they have taken and their impact on the trends in greenhouse gas emissions.

UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the highest decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The first Conference of the Parties (COP1) was held in Berlin in 1995. Since then, the Conferences of the Parties have convened every year.

Further information on the COPs and climate change negotiations is available in the reports of the Finnish delegation (in Finnish on the Finnish-language website). Earlier reports are available at the Ministry upon request.

Science supports international climate change negotiations

Climate science provides information for the international negotiations on climate issues in various ways. The independent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has a particularly important role in this.

The main task of the IPCC is to draw up scientific reports concerning climate change. These are prepared in groups of scientists that collect and analyse scientific information on climate change and its impacts. The IPCC also produces special and methodological reports to enhance knowledge relating to specific sectors and topics and provides guidance on calculating greenhouse gas emissions.

The IPCC published a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C in 2018. The Paris Climate Change Conference requested the IPCC to study the impacts of a rise in global average temperature by 1.5°C. According to the report, the global average temperature has already risen by about one degree from the pre-industrial levels. If the present trend in global warming continues, the limit of 1.5°C will be exceeded halfway through this century, posing significant risks to both humans and the natural environment.

According to the report, emissions should be reduced fast to limit the rise in global average temperature to 1.5°C. The emission reduction commitments made so far under the Paris Climate Change Agreement are not enough to keep the rise below this level. The report presents emission reduction paths and means through which the rise could be limited to 1.5°C, as well as assesses the connections between the climate objectives and UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The Ministry of the Environment has appointed a national working group to prepare Finland’s contributions to the IPCC activities. The working group serves as the national network for the IPCC, compiles Finland’s positions and views and presents these to be included in IPCC reports, communicates on the work and achievements of the IPCC, and promotes the participation of Finnish experts in the work.

More information

Outi Honkatukia, Senior Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of the Environment, Environmental Protection Department, Climate Environment Council  0295250272