The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came into force in 1994. The UNFCCC enables countries to collectively consider how to mitigate climate change and cope with its impacts.

It has near-universal membership with 197 Parties (countries) to the Convention, including New Zealand.

However, the international community recognised that more urgent action, with more powerful and legally binding measures than those required under the UNFCCC, was needed. Negotiations on a second agreement under the UNFCCC, known as the Kyoto Protocol, began in 1995 and came into force in 2005. 55 countries backed it including those responsible for 55% of global emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol committed developed countries to greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2008-2012).

Only countries that ratified the Protocol are bound to it.

New Zealand’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol

New Zealand ratified the Kyoto Protocol in December 2002. New Zealand’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol include:

  • A responsibility towards an emissions reduction target for the first commitment period (2008-2009) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 levels.
  • Submitting an annual inventory of greenhouse gas emissions to the UNFCCC.

During November 2015, New Zealand accepted the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto

Protocol. This means we support a second commitment period under the Kyoto

Protocol running from 2013 until 2020. However, the amendment will only come into force when 144 parties under the United Nations have accepted it. As of May 2018, 112 parties have accepted the Doha Amendment.

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement is the new global agreement on climate change. It was adopted by Parties under the UNFCCC in December 2015. It commits all countries to take action on climate change and will take effect from 2020.

The purpose of the Paris agreement is to:

  • Keep the global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, while pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.
  • Strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
  • Support development of low-carbon and climate-resilient economies.

The agreement provides a framework for the global response to climate change.

New Zealand ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in October 2016 and then submitted its Nationally Determined Contribution to the UNFCCC. This contribution was to reduce emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.