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International conference on climate change

The UK has domestic commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions pursuant to the Climate Change Act 2008 and is also part of an international effort to combat climate change.

On the international level, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted during the 1992 Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro. It entered into force in 1994 and has been ratified by 196 States (including the UK) which constitute the “Parties” to the Convention. The objective of the Treaty, set out in article 2 of the Convention, is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

Every year a Conference of the Parties takes place (known as COPs).


The 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (COP24) was held on 2-14 December in Katowice, Poland. The key objective for COP24 was to agree and adopt a package of decisions to ensure the full implementation of the Paris Agreement (agreed at COP21). This is known formally as the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP), or more informally as the Paris “rulebook”. The UNFCCC explains why this was a “crucial” step:

Specifically, the full implementation of the Paris Agreement means that practical actions will be unlocked with respect to all elements of the climate regime that countries are building:

adaptation to climate change impacts,

ambitious emission reductions,

with strong means of implementation to support developing countries, in the form of technology cooperation, capacity building, and, especially financial support.

The Paris rulebook text was substantially agreed on 15 December 2018, although some technical aspects, such as the rules relating to voluntary carbon markets, were postponed until COP25. Another key part of COP24 was the Talanoa Dialogue which concluded at this conference and the first People’s Seat Address which was delivered by Sir David Attenborough. 

Information on the conference, including the timetable of events and the decisions adopted at COP24, is available on the UNFCCC pages on COP24.  The Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth (Claire Perry) made a Written Statement on the outcome of COP24 on 20 December 2018, noting that although there is still work to be done (particularly on carbon markets) the “overall picture is of a rulebook that enables the Paris Agreement to be taken forward”. 

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