September 30, 2012

Part 2: Battle Lines Are Drawn

This is going to be a feisty piece, as hinted to by the topic! Part 1 covered the formation of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In the second part of Peeling Back the COP  series, we will cover the Climate Change Convention.

The Heart of UNFCCC

The Climate Change Convention (CCC) is the heart of UNFCCC, with everything else revolving around it. It is interesting how the CCC came into being. As a refresher, you may have heard of the 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone as well as the stellar 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the OzoneLayer. These two conventions covered some Green House Gases (GHGs) that were depleting the Ozone layer; however, there was emerging scientific evidence that there were more gases that were doing more harm than good to the environment, hence the need to tackle them. But then, there was a need to get continuous scientific information that would inform policy formulation with regards to reducing the GHGs.

Enter the Rock Star: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

IPCC is the scientific body that has brought Climate Science to the Rock n Roll podium of science: they even won the Nobel Prize! Anyways, as a first step towards addressing the issue of the remaining GHGs, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) formed the IPCC in 1988. Their mandate was to give the latest scientific research as well as how to inform policy with regards to mitigation and adaptation of climate change.

The North – South Divide

The findings by IPCC showed that something needed to be done with regards to mitigating and adapting to climate change, and the news was grim! As anticipated, this led to divisions with countries identifying themselves either as “North” or “South”. But hey, it was not all about the geographical location: it was all about developed “North” and developing “South” countries. This divide was manifested in the 2nd World Climate Conference in Geneva.

Issues! Issues! Issues!

Just like human relationships, there were issues that were involved in the “separation” of the countries. The “South” countries blamed the “North” countries for being supremely responsible for most of the GHG emissions since the Industrial Revolution. So, what did this mean? Well, it meant that the “North” countries should take drastic steps towards reducing their emissions. In addition, developing countries called on the developed ones to finance their climate mitigation and adaptation activities. Whoa! This was a big issue as it caused the proverbial “storm in a tea cup!”

Common but Differentiated Responsibilities

There was a consensus that action needed to be taken to combat climate change, and there were general commitments that both developed and developing countries were obligated to in responding to climate change. This principle simply observed that all the countries faced common problems, although they were varying to some degree. The next sensible thing to do was to classify countries: enter Annex I, non-annex I and Annex II parties.

Annex Parties

You may have heard the mention of Annex I parties in some jokes going around in AYICC, especially during COPs (if not, just ask around!). In order to allocate responsibilities to countries in addressing climate change through the reducing of GHGs, a classification system was created. In essence, two main groups were formed: Annex I and non-Annex I countries.  Simply put, Annex I countries are developed countries that have contributed most to GHG emissions since the Industrial Revolution; there are now 41 countries listed. Non-Annex II comprises of mostly developing countries. We will talk more on Annex I and non-Annex I countries sooner than later!


Whoa! That was quite a lengthy piece, but hopefully it is informative as well, and I hope that I did not lose you along the way!  The next piece will be about the good ol Kyoto protocol, so stay tuned!

PS: As usual, if you are interested in contributing to this COP series, please send an email to and I will be glad to have you on board!

Useful links I used in the research: 

Compiled by: Kennedy Liti Mbeva


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