Our background

The UNFCCC: An international agreement to address climate change

Since the Earth Summit in 1994 the United Nations has been working with governments and civil society to tackle one of the greatest challenges the planet has faced; climate change. At the summit the Member States of the UN agreed to a new convention on climate change; a non-legally binding international treaty. The convention provided a new framework through which nations could work together to agree on limiting emissions of greenhouse gasses, those which cause climate change, principally carbon dioxide. This UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, is an evolving commitment that develops through the ongoing discussions and agreements of governments around the world.

The Conference of the Parties: An annual conference of governments to develop the limitations on greenhouse gas emissions

Every year members of each government meet at the Conference of the Parties, often shortened to COP, to discuss and develop the targets for limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Issues of poverty reduction and the different responsibilities of industrialized and newly industrializing nations are central to many of the debates and new agreements which build on the framework convention. Civil society and non-governmental organizations are welcomed to these conferences as observers to offer opinions and expertise, and to further represent the people of the world.

The Constituencies: Shared platforms for civil society and non-governmental organizations which observe the annual conferences

There are now around 1,400 such organizations observing the annual conferences and many have grouped themselves into constituencies. These constituencies provide focal points for easier interaction with the UNFCCC Secretariat, based in Bonn, and individual governments. There are currently nine constituencies and they are broadly grouped by the type of organizations they represent: businesses and industry organizations; environmental organizations; local and municipal governments; trade unions; research and independent organizations; and organizations that work for the rights of indigenous people; young people; agricultural workers; and women and gender rights.

The Women and Gender Constituency: The platform for observer organizations working to ensure women’s rights and gender justice within the climate change convention framework

The Women and Gender Constituency provides a number of ways for civil society and non-governmental organizations which work for women’s rights and gender justice, environmental protection, or both, to influence the annual conferences and help develop the UNFCCC. It provides a platform to exchange information between members and with the UNFCCC Secretariat. The constituency also ensures that meetings, workshops and conferences include the participation and representation of women’s civil society and non-governmental organizations which otherwise would not be able to attend.