Some extracts from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed by over countries in Rio de Janeiro in June

Firstly, some of the paragraphs in its preamble, where the parties to the Convention:

CONCERNED that human activities have been substantially increasing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, that these increases enhance the natural greenhouse effect, and that this will result on average in an additional warming of the Earth's surface and atmosphere and may adversely affect natural ecosystems and humankind.

NOTING that the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries, that per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low and that the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs.

RECOGNISING that various actions to address climate change can be justified economically in their own right and can also help in solving other environmental problems.

RECOGNISING that low-lying and other small island countries, countries with low-lying coastal, arid and semi-arid areas or areas liable to floods, drought and desertification, and developing countries with fragile mountainous ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

AFFIRMING that responses to climate change should be coordinated with social and economic development in an integrated manner with a view to avoiding adverse impacts on the latter, taking into full account the legitimate priority needs of developing countries for the achievement of sustained economic growth and the eradication of poverty.

Continued

DETERMINED to protect the climate system for present and future generations, have AGREED as follows:

The Objective of the Convention is contained in Article 2 and reads as follows:

The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

Article 3 deals with principles and includes agreement that the Parties:

take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures, taking into account that policies and measures to deal with climate change should be cost-effective so as to ensure global benefits at the lowest possible cost.

Article 4 is concerned with Commitments. In this article, each of the signatories to the Convention agreed:

to adopt national policies and take corresponding measures on the mitigation of climate change, by limiting its anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and protecting and enhancing its greenhouse sinks and reservoirs. These policies and measures will demonstrate that developed countries are taking the lead in modifying longer-term trends in anthropogenic emissions consistent with the objective of the Convention, recognising that the return by the end of the present decade to earlier levels of anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol would contribute to such modification...

Each signatory also agreed:

in order to promote progress to this end . to communicate . detailed information on its policies and measures referred to above, as well as on its resulting projected anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases not covered by the Montreal Protocol . with the aim of returning individually or jointly to their 1990 levels these ... emissions ...

Convention, expressed in Article 2, is that the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere should be stabilised 'at a level which would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system', the stabilisation to be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner. In setting this objective, the Convention has recognised that it is only by stabilising the concentration of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere that the rapid climate change which is expected to occur with global warming can be halted.

Up to the end of 2008, 14 sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Convention have taken place. Those since November 1997 have largely been concerned with the Kyoto Protocol, the first formal binding legislation promulgated under the Convention. The following paragraphs will fi rst outline the actions taken so far, then describe the Kyoto Protocol and address the further actions necessary to satisfy the Convention's objective to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations. Options for the energy and transport sectors to achieve the reductions in emissions required will be described in Chapter 11.

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