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UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC

Indigenous peoples engage in the UNFCCC process to advocate for the agreements under the convention to recognize their special concerns and human rights.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, is an international treaty created at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 to tackle the growing problem of global warming and related harmful changes in the climate, such as more frequent droughts, hurricanes and rising sea levels.

Indigenous rights issues cut across almost all areas of negotiation but have been highlighted most significantly within the negotiations on forest conservation, known as REDD+, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, one of the mitigation measures.

Indigenous participation

Indigenous peoples have been engaged in the UNFCCC process since the year 2000. Indigenous peoples’ NGOs can apply for observer status under the convention, and those that are accepted can nominate participants to the sessions of the different bodies under the convention.

The International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change, IIPFCC, is the joint indigenous caucus in the UNFCCC process, a body that is open to those indigenous activists that wish to engage in the negotiations at any given time.

The Kyoto Protocol

The UNFCCC entered into force in 1994, and has near universal membership, with 192 countries as ratifying parties. In 1997, the Convention established its Kyoto Protocol, ratified by 184 parties, by which a number of industrialized countries have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in line with legally binding targets. The Kyoto Protocol entered into force in 2005 and, during its first commitment period from 2008- 2012, 37 industrialized countries and the European Union committed themselves to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5 percent by 2012, in relation to the 1990 level.

The Bali Action Plan and the AWG-LCA

In 2007, the Convention’s governing body, the Conference of the Parties (COP), adopted the Bali Action Plan - a road map for strengthening international action on climate change and enabling full implementation of the Convention through an agreement covering all parties to the Convention.

The elements of the Bali Action Plan, a shared vision, mitigation, adaptation, technology development and transfer, provision of financial resources and investments, are negotiated in the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action, AWG-LCA.


Apart from the Ad-Hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP), and the AWG-LCA, the Convention has two permanent subsidiary bodies, namely the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).

The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP)

In December 2012, during the COP18 in Doha, the Ad-Hoc working group AWG-LCA concluded its work and most discussions were terminated or moved to the SBSTA and SBI. The COP18 adopted the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) that will lead the COP discussions towards an overall binding agreement on emissions reductions in 2015.

Conferences of the Parties

COP 20, in Lima, Peru, December 2014

The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC takes place on December 1 - 12, 2014 in Lima, Peru.

The COP 20 will especially focus on getting closer to agreeing on a new binding agreement on emission reductions. Discussion will also focus on land-use, agriculture and REDD+, which are all important to indigenous peoples’ rights and livelihood.

On 27 and 28 November, indigenous peoples and States will have a dialogue meeting (co-organised by the Peruvian Government and Indigenous Peoples' Major Group) to discuss common priorities. After the meeting, the IIPFCC will publish a position paper.

Peru has an indigenous population of at least 4 million and a high local indigenous attendance to the COP and related events is thus expected. Read more on the official COP20 webpage or the article on "UNFCCC: The road towards COP20 in Lima"

See the International indigenous peoples' proposal to the COP 20 and COP 21

Updates of former conferences of the parties - COP 16 to 19 - see here

More information