Want to know some background about the big Climate Change Conference? Start here

Climate Change

Editor’s note:
The United Nations Climate Change Conference is being held in Paris, France. If you want to know more about this meeting and how its outcomes may affect your life, start here to get some of the basic facts and figures. We’ll add more as each day of the conference concludes to keep you up-to-date.

First, some basics:


  • UNFCCC: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
  • COP: Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC
  • CMP: Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol

It’s actually two conferences at once

This year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP21 or CMP11, is being held in Paris, France, from 30 November to 11 December 2015.

This is the 21th yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) since the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and it’s the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP 11) since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The CMP meets annually during the same period as the COP. Parties to the Convention that are not Parties to the Protocol are able to participate in the CMP as observers, but without the right to take decisions.



GHG is the abbreviation for greenhouse gas.

In accordance with articles of the Climate Change Convention, countries that are Parties to the Convention submit national GHG inventories to the Climate Change secretariat.

The GHG data reported by Parties contain estimates for direct greenhouse gases, such as:

CO2 – Carbon dioxide
CH4 – Methane
N2O – Nitrous oxide
PFCs – Perfluorocarbons
HFCs – Hydrofluorocarbons
SF6 – Sulphur hexafluoride

It also accounts for indirect greenhouse gases produced from SO2, NOx, CO, and NMVOC — which account for chemicals like formaldehyde.

This graphic from the UNFCCC shows the Annex parties’ numbers. (We will get into more about Annex Parties Thursday.) Trends in aggregate greenhouse gas emissions, 1990-2012 (including LULUCF, Source: UNFCCC)


(Editor’s Note: The rate of build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere can be reduced by taking advantage of the fact that atmospheric CO2 can accumulate as carbon in vegetation and soils in terrestrial ecosystems. Activities that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere are referred to as “sink.”

Human activities impact sinks, through land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF) activities.

Annex I/Annex II/Non-Annex I/LDCs

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change divides countries into three main groups according to differing commitments: Annex; Non-Annex; and LDCs.

  • Annex

Annex I Parties include the industrialized countries that were members of the the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, in 1992, plus countries with economies in transition, also known as EIT parties, that include the Russian Federation, the Baltic States, and several Central and Eastern European States. (List of Annex I)

Annex II Parties consist of the OECD members of Annex I, but not the EIT Parties. They are required to provide financial resources to enable developing countries to undertake emissions reduction activities under the Convention and to help them adapt to adverse effects of climate change. In addition, they have to “take all practicable steps” to promote the development and transfer of environmentally friendly technologies to EIT Parties and developing countries. Funding provided by Annex II Parties is channeled mostly through the Convention’s financial mechanism. (List of Annex II)

  • Non-Annex

Non-Annex I Parties are mostly developing countries. Certain groups of developing countries are recognized by the Convention as being especially vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, including countries with low-lying coastal areas and those prone to desertification and drought. Others (such as countries that rely heavily on income from fossil fuel production and commerce) feel more vulnerable to the potential economic impacts of climate change response measures. The Convention emphasizes activities that promise to answer the special needs and concerns of these vulnerable countries, such as investment, insurance and technology transfer. (List of Non-Annex I)

  • LDCs

The 49 Parties classified as least developed countries or LDCs by the United Nations are given special consideration under the Convention on account of their limited capacity to respond to climate change and adapt to its adverse effects. Parties are urged to take full account of the special situation of LDCs when considering funding and technology-transfer activities.  (List of LDCs)