Environment and Society in a Changing World

History of the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol


The political process to tackle climate change began one year after the United Nations (UN) succeeded in forging the Montreal Protocol that imposed a gradual phase-out of CFCs responsible for the ozone hole.

  • 1988: The UN asked for a high-level scientific assessment and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) was established; the UN General Assembly takes up climate change
  • 1990: The IPCC First Assessment Report is published, which acknowledges human influence on climatic changes; negotiations were opened on the framework convention
  • 1992: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is adopted in New York; the UNFCCC is opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro
  • 1994: The UNFCCC comes into force (50 ratifications)
  • 1995: Start of Conferences of the Parties (annual COP); the IPCC Second Assessment Report is published
  • 1997: The Kyoto Protocol is created
  • 2001: The IPCC Third Assessment Report is published
  • 2005: The Kyoto Protocol becomes binding as Russia ratified the protocol
  • 2007: The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report is published; the IPCC and Al Gore receive the Nobel Peace Prize
  • 2014: The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report is published
  • 2015: The Paris Agreement is adopted

If you are interested, check out the IPCC website and browse the full reports of the three different working groups. Also, check out how the process works to participate in the 6th Assessment Report.

Figure 9.6: Screen Shot of Different Working Group Reports 


The map below shows the size of individual countries proportional to their carbon emissions in 2000.

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Figure 9.7: Carbon Dioxide Emissions in 2000
Credit: Carbon Dioxide Emissions 2000 by World Mapper is Licensed by CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Research total carbon emissions and per capita carbon emissions for the following 10 countries: United States, Australia, China, India, Qatar, Russia, Canada, Ghana, Bangladesh, and Peru. Then, write a paragraph discussing the implications of these differential contributions and your point of view on what a fair global climate treaty should look like.

Note that the map above was from 2000. Check out a more recent map of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 to see what has changed.