Some important terms

  • Accede/Accession: ‘Accession’ is an act by which a State signifies its agreement to be legally bound by the terms of a particular treaty. It has the same legal effect as ratification, but is not preceded by an act of signature. The formal procedure for accession varies according to the national legislative requirements of the State.
  • Adoption: ‘Adoption’ is the formal act by which the form and content of a proposed treaty text are established.
  • Charter: The term ‘charter’ is used for particularly formal and solemn instruments, such as the treaty founding an international organization like the United Nations (‘The Charter of the United Nations’).
  • Convention: A ‘convention’ is a formal agreement between States. The generic term ‘convention’ is thus synonymous with the generic term ‘treaty’. Conventions are normally open for participation by the international community as a whole, or by a large number of States. Usually the instruments negotiated under the auspices of an international organization are entitled conventions
  • Declaration: The term ‘declaration’ is used for various international instruments. International human rights declarations are not legally binding; the term is often deliberately chosen to indicate that the parties do not intend to create binding obligations but merely want to declare certain aspirations.
  • Deposit: After a treaty has been concluded, the written instruments which provide formal evidence of a State’s consent to be bound are placed in the custody of a depository. The texts of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols designated the Secretary-General of the United Nations as their depository. The depository must accept all notifications and documents related to the treaty, examine whether all formal requirements are met, deposit them, register the treaty and notify all relevant acts to the parties concerned.
  • Entry into Force: A treaty does not enter into force when it is adopted. Typically, the provisions of the treaty determine the date on which the treaty enters into force, often at a specified time following its ratification or accession by a fixed number of states. For example, the Convention on the Rights of the Child entered into force on 2 September 1990—the 30th day following the deposit of the 20th State’s instrument of ratification or accession. A treaty enters into force for those states which gave the required consent.
  • Optional Protocol: The term ‘protocol’ is used for an additional legal instrument that complements and add to a treaty. A protocol may be on any topic relevant to the original treaty and is used either to further address something in the original treaty, address a new or emerging concern or add a procedure for the operation and enforcement of the treaty—such as adding an individual complaints procedure. A protocol is ‘optional’ because it is not automatically binding on States that have already ratified the original treaty; States must independently ratify or accede to a protocol.
  • Ratify/Ratification: ‘Ratification’ is an act by which a State signifies an agreement to be legally bound by the terms of a particular treaty. To ratify a treaty, the State first signs it and then fulfils its own national legislative requirements.
  • Signature: ‘Signature’ of a treaty is an act by which a State provides a preliminary endorsement of the instrument. Signing does not create a binding legal obligation but does demonstrate the State’s intent to examine the treaty domestically and consider ratifying it. While signing does not commit a State to ratification, it does oblige the State to refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose.
  • State party: A ‘State party’ to a treaty is a country that has ratified or acceded to that particular treaty, and is therefore legally bound by the provisions in the instrument.
  • Treaty: A ‘treaty’ is a formally concluded and ratified agreement between States. The term is used generically to refer to instruments binding at international law, concluded between international entities (States or organizations). Under the Vienna Conventions on the Law of Treaties, a treaty must be

(1) A binding instrument, which means that the contracting parties intended to create legal rights and duties;

(2) Concluded by states or international organizations with treaty-making power;

(3) Governed by international law and

(4) In writing.

Climate Organisation


  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 193 Member States and Territories.
  • It originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), the roots of which were planted at the 1873 Vienna International Meteorological Congress.
  • Established by the ratification of the WMO Convention on 23 March 1950, WMO became the specialised agency of the United Nations for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences a year later.
  • The Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General. Its supreme body is the World Meteorological Congress.

Type:              United Nations specialised agency
Headquarters:   Geneva
Parent organization: United Nations Economic and Social Council
–       Greenhouse Gas Bulletin
–       Status of the World Climate


WMO provides world leadership and expertise in international cooperation in the delivery and use of high-quality, authoritative weather, climate, hydrological and related environmental services by its Members, for the improvement of the well-being of societies of all nations.


Type:               Panel
Headquarters:   Geneva
Parent organization: World Meteorological Organization, United Nations Environment Program
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.
  • Membership of the IPCC is open to all members of the WMO and the UNEP. The IPCC currently has 195 members.
  • The IPCC produces reports that support the UNFCCC, which is the main international treaty on climate change.
  • Thousands of people from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC. The IPCC does not conduct its own research.


It is dedicated to providing the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change, its natural, political and economic impacts and risks, and possible response options.


Type: Programme
Headquarters: Nairobi
Parent organization: United Nations
 Global Environmental Outlook
 Emissions Gap Report
 Adaptation Gap Report
 Inclusive Wealth Report
 Frontiers Report
  • It is an agency of UN.
  • UN Environment Assembly was formed after 1972 Stockholm Conference.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.
  • The United Nations Environment Assembly is UNEP’s governing body. Created in 2012 to replace the Governing Council, it currently has 193 members and meets every two years.
  • UNEP is also one of several Implementing Agencies for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol.


To provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.


Type: Fund
Location‎: ‎Washington
The GEF also serves as financial mechanism for the following conventions:
CBD Convention on Biological Diversity
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
Minamata Convention on Mercury
  • It is an independently operating financial organization established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems.
  • The GEF is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues.
  • It was setup as a fund under World Bank in 1991 in consultation with UNDP and UNEP to provide funding to protect the global environment.
  • In 1992, at the Rio Earth Summit, the GEF was restructured and moved out of the World Bank system to become a permanent, separate institution.
  • Since 1994, however, the World Bank has served as the Trustee of the GEF Trust Fund and provided administrative services.
  • It supports actions to combat major environmental issues such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, polluted international waters, land degradation and desertification, and persistent organic pollutants, as well as stimulate green growth.
  • UNDP is also an Implementing Agency for the GEF.

The GEF, although not linked formally to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (MP), supports implementation of the Protocol in countries with economies in transition.


Type: Multilateral environmental agreement
Secretariat: ‎ Bonn, Germany
Effective: 21 March 1994
Languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish
The 197 countries that have ratified the Convention are called Parties to the Convention.
  •  The UNFCCC was created in 1992 as part of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro and entered into force two years later.
  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the United Nation’s international, multilateral agreement on climate change.
  • The UNFCCC is a “Rio Convention”, one of three adopted at the “Rio Earth Summit” in 1992.  Its sister Rio Conventions are the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification. The three are intrinsically linked.
  • Legal Effect: Treaty is considered legally non-binding.
  • The treaty itself sets no binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries.
  • Instead, the treaty provides a framework for negotiating specific international treaties (called “protocols”) that may set binding limits on greenhouse gases.
  • Kyoto Protocol was negotiated under this framework.
  • It now also incorporates the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.


To stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.


  • The COP is the supreme decision making body of the UNFCCC
  • Heads of state and other delegates from UN member countries attend the conference.


  • Annex I countries: Industrialized countries and economies in transition
  • Annex II countries: Developed countries which pay for costs of developing countries. Annex II countries are a sub-group of the Annex I countries.
  • Non-Annex I countries: Developing countries are not required to reduce emission levels unless developed countries supply enough funding and technology.
  • Setting no immediate restrictions under UNFCCC serves these purposes:
  • It avoids restrictions on their development, because emissions are strongly linked to industrial capacity;
  • They can sell emissions credits to nations whose operators have difficulty meeting their emissions targets;
  • They get money and technologies for low-carbon investments from Annex II countries;
  • Developing countries may volunteer to become Annex I countries when they are sufficiently developed;
  • India is Non Annex party to UNFCCC.
Parties: 192
Canada withdrew in 2011.
USA was not a part of Kyoto Protocol.
India ratified Kyoto Protocol in 2002.


  • The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets. It was adopted in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and came into force in 2005.
  • The Protocol is based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities: it puts the obligation to reduce current emissions on developed countries on the basis that they are historically responsible for the current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  • Kyoto Protocol is the only global treaty with binding limits on GHG emissions. It gave binding targets to Annex I countries.
  • The Protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012.
  • Kyoto protocol aimed to cut emissions of greenhouse gases across the developed world by about 5 per cent by 2012 compared with 1990 levels.
  • Target under this protocol applies to following GHGs: Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6), Hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) and per fluorocarbons (PFCs).
  • A second commitment period was agreed on in 2012, known as the Doha Amendment to the protocol. This has not entered into force as required number of nations has not ratified this amendment. Paris agreement (2015) is not an amendment to Kyoto Protocol but a separate instrument altogether.
  • Kyoto Protocol includes “flexible mechanisms” which allow Annex 1 economies to meet their GHG targets by purchasing GHG emission reductions from elsewhere. These can be bought either from: financial exchanges (International Emissions Trading Scheme) or from projects which reduce emissions in non-Annex 1 economies under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), or in other Annex-1 countries under the Joint Implementation (JI). Only CDM Executive Board accredited Certified Emission Reductions (CER) can be bought and sold in this manner.
The Kyoto Protocol had initially assigned GHGs emission cut targets to the developed countries only till 2012.
Developed countries wanted it to be extended till 2020.
So, Doha Amendments to the Kyoto Protocol was made at Doha climate conference in 2012 and extended the obligation of the developed countries under Kyoto Protocol to make targeted cuts in their greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions till 2020.


Fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to “a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

Mechanisms under Kyoto Protocol

Joint implementation (JI)

  • The mechanism known as “joint implementation”, defined in Article 6 of the Kyoto Protocol, allows a country with an emission reduction or limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Party) to earn emission reduction units (ERUs) from an emission-reduction or emission removal project in another Annex B Party, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting its Kyoto target.
  • Joint implementation offers Parties a flexible and cost-efficient means of fulfilling a part of their Kyoto commitments, while the host Party benefits from foreign investment and technology transfer.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

  • It allows a country with an emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Party) to implement an emission-reduction project in developing countries.
  • Such projects can earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets.
  • It is the first global, environmental investment and credit scheme of its kind, providing a standardized emissions offset instrument, CERs.
  • The mechanism stimulates sustainable development and emission reductions, while giving industrialized countries some flexibility in how they meet their emission reduction or limitation targets.
  • Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) are a type of emissions unit (or carbon credits) issued by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Executive Board for emission reductions achieved by CDM projects under the rules of the Kyoto Protocol.

Emissions trading:

The other units which may be transferred under the scheme, each equal to one tonne of CO2, may be in the form of:
 A removal unit (RMU) on the basis of land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities such as reforestation
 An emission reduction unit (ERU) generated by a joint implementation project
 A certified emission reduction (CER) generated from a clean development mechanism project activity
  • It allows countries that have emission units to spare – emissions permitted them but not “used” – to sell this excess capacity to countries that are over their targets.
  • Thus, a new commodity was created in the form of emission reductions or removals. Since carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas, people speak simply of trading in carbon. Carbon is now tracked and traded like any other commodity. This is known as the “carbon market.”

The Adaptation Fund

  • The Adaptation Fund is an international fund that finances projects and programs aimed at helping developing countries to adapt to the harmful effects of climate change. It is set up under the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).


At COP21, Parties to the UNFCCC reached this landmark agreement to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future.

Salient features:

  1. Long Term Goal: To limit global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.
    1. Global Peaking: Reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible
    1. Mitigation: Binding commitments by all parties (Both developed and developing) to prepare, communicate and maintain a nationally determined contribution (NDC) and to pursue domestic measures to achieve them. Parties shall communicate their NDCs every 5 years and provide information necessary for clarity and transparency. Each successive NDC will represent a progression beyond the previous one and reflect highest possible ambition.
    1. Adaptation
    1. Loss and damage: Recognition of averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow onset events. Further enhancement and strengthening of Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, which will serve as the main vehicle for loss and damage under the agreement.
    1. Global Stocktake: A ‘Global Stocktake’ to take place in 2023 and every 5 years thereafter, will assess collective progress toward meeting the purpose of the Agreement. Its outcome will inform Parties in updating and enhancing their actions and international cooperation.
    1. Finance, Technology and capacity-building support
    1. Voluntary cooperation/Market and non-market based approaches.
The “21” in Agenda 21 refers to the 21st century.


  • Agenda 21 is a comprehensive environmental plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.
  • It is a product of the Earth Summit (UN Conference on Environment and Development) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992.
  • It is not legally binding but forms the basis for a new international partnership for sustainable development and environmental protection worldwide.
  • It also emphasises the need to adopt the concept of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) for sustainable utilisation of coastal and marine resources and prevention of degradation of marine environment.


  • The Global Environment Outlook (GEO) is often referred to as UN Environment’s flagship environmental assessment. 
  • The first publication was in 1997 and was originally requested by Member States.
  • It is a flagship report because it fulfils the core functions of the organization, which date back to the UN General Assembly resolution that established the UN Environment Programme in 1972.


  • Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” including its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets was adopted on 25 September 2015 by Heads of State and Government at a special UN summit.
  • The Agenda is a commitment to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 world-wide, ensuring that no one is left behind.


  • It was launched in 2017 by UNEP
  • Aims to strategically engage with faith based organisations and partner with them to collectively achieve the SDGs.
  • Three main goals
  • Inspire and empower faith organisations for protecting environment.
  • To green faith based organisations investments and assets to support the implementation of SDGs.
  • To provide them with networks to enable their leaders to effectively communicate with decision makers and the public.
  • It aims to create a high level global “Coalition for Creation” is established to facilitate policy dialogue on environmental issues that would encourage innovative approaches to finding long-lasting solutions to environmental challenges.
  • The Belmont Forum, created in 2009, is a high level group of the world’s major and emerging funders of global environmental change research and international science councils.
Prelims Booster
 India is a member of Belmont Forum
 Ministry of Earth Science (MoES) represents India in the Belmont Forum since 2012.

It provides an opportunity to identify study and deliver international environmental research priorities, for the society, in an accelerated way

  • through trans­national research collaboration between natural and social scientists and alignment of international resources.


  • REDD is a mechanism that has been under negotiation by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).


Mitigating climate change through reducing net emissions of greenhouse gases through enhanced forest management in developing countries.

Prelims Booster
REDD was first discussed in 2005 by the UNFCCC at its 11th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP).
REDD+ was defined in Bali Action Plan, 2007, CoP13.
Indian REDD+ strategy report has been prepared by Indian Council of Forestry Research & Education (ICFRE), Dehradun.


  • Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, plus (a) the sustainable management of forests, and (b) the conservation of forest carbon stocks and (c) enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+), is an essential part of the global efforts to mitigate climate change.
  • REDD+ is essentially a vehicle to financially reward developing countries for their verified efforts to reduce emissions and enhance removals of greenhouse gases through a variety of forest management option.


Prelims Booster
Headquarter: Kathmandu, Nepal
Members: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.
  •  ICIMOD is a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing centre serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalaya.
  • It aims to assist mountain people to understand these changes, adapt to them, and make the most of new opportunities, while addressing upstream-downstream issues.


The parties to the Vienna convention meet once every three years, back to back with the parties to the Montreal Protocol, in order to take decisions designed to administer the convention.
  • It is a non-binding international agreement developed to address the problem of stratospheric ozone depletion.
  • It was adopted in 1985 and entered into force in 1988.
  • In 2009, the Vienna Convention became the first Convention of any kind to achieve universal ratification.
  • The Vienna convention did not require countries to take concrete actions to control ozone-depleting substances.
  • Instead, in accordance with the provisions of the convention, the countries of the world agreed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that deplete the ozone layer under the convention to advance that goal.


It is a protocol to Vienna Convention for the Protection of Ozone Layer.
The Protocol is to date the only UN treaty ever that has been ratified every country on Earth – all 197 UN Member States.
  • Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is the landmark multilateral environmental agreement that regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 man-made chemicals referred to as ozone depleting substances (ODS).
  • It is an international treaty and aims to protect the ozone layer by phasing out:
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
  • Hydrobromofluorocarbons (HBFCs)
  • Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)
  • Methyl bromide (CH3Br)
  • Bromochloromethane (CH2BrCl)
  • Methyl chloroform (CH3CCl3)
  • Halons
Hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are gases used worldwide in refrigeration, air-conditioning and foam applications, but they are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol since deplete the ozone layer.
HCFCs are both ODS and powerful greenhouse gases: the most commonly used HCFC is nearly 2,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential (GWP).

Multilateral Fund

  • The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol was established in 1991 under the treaty.
  • The Fund’s objective is to provide financial and technical assistance to developing country parties to the Montreal Protocol whose annual per capita consumption and production of ODS is less than 0.3 kg to comply with the control measures of the Protocol.
  • The Multilateral Fund’s activities are implemented by four international agencies (given below) as well as bilateral agencies of non-Article 5 countries.
  • UN Environment (UNEP)
  • UN Development Programme (UNDP)
  • UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO)
  • World Bank


All signatory countries have been divided into three groups with different timelines to go about reductions of HFCs.
First group includes countries like US and those in European Union (EU). They will freeze production and consumption of HFCs by 2018. They will reduce them to about 15% of 2012 levels by 2036.
Second group includes countries like China, Brazil and all of Africa which will freeze HFC use by 2024 and cut it to 20% of 2021 levels by 2045.
Third group countries like India, Pakistan, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc will be freezing HFC use by 2028 and reducing it to about 15% of 2025 levels by 2047.
  • The Kigali Agreement amended the 1987 Montreal Protocol that was designed to close growing ozone hole by banning ozone-depleting substances.
  • This amended Montreal Protocol which was initially conceived only to plug gases that were destroying the ozone layer now includes HFCs responsible for global warming.
  • This move will help to prevent a potential 0.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperature by the end of the century.


  • Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an integrative approach to address these interlinked challenges of food security and climate change, that explicitly aims for three objectives:
  • Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity, to support equitable increases in farm incomes, food security and development;
  • Adapting and building resilience of agricultural and food security systems to climate change at multiple levels; and
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (including crops, livestock and fisheries).
• GACSA is an inclusive, voluntary and action-oriented multi-stakeholder platform on Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA).
• Its vision is to improve food security, nutrition and resilience in the face of climate change. GACSA aims to catalyse and help create transformational partnerships to encourage actions that reflect an integrated approach to the three pillars of CSA.


  • Special climate change fund
  • Strategic climate fund
  • Forest investment program
  • Pilot program for climate resilience
  • Scaling-Up Renewable energy program for low income countries
  • Bio carbon fund
  • Clean technology fund
  • Forest carbon Partnership facility
  • Partnership for Market Readiness
  • Special climate change fund
  • Strategic Priority on Adaptation
  • GEF Trust Fund- climate change focal area
  • Least developed countries fund
  • Green Climate Fund
  • Adaptation fund
  • Global climate change alliance
  • Global Energy efficiency and renewable energy fund
  • MDG achievement fund
  • UN-REDD Programme
  • Adaptation for smallholder agriculture Program
  • Amazon fund
  • Congo Basin Forest Fund
  • Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund
  • Green Climate fund
  • Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF)

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