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In 1992, at the United Nations Conference in Rio de Janeiro, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was signed. It came into force in 1994, and there are currently 196 parties to the Convention.  It “sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change”.  In 1997, an additional protocol to the UNFCCC was adopted in Kyoto, Japan. It set binding targets for 37 industrialised countries and the European Union for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  The targets amounted to an average 5 percent reduction in emissions compared to 1990 levels over the five year period from 2008 to 2012. The protocol was not ratified by the USA. At the 2012 UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, a timetable was set to adopt a universal climate agreement by 2015, to come into effect in 2020, and a new commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol was agreed.

In the United Kingdom, the Climate Change Act 2008, committed the UK to reducing climate-change-inducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, and required the Government to set up interim five-yearly carbon budgets for GHG emissions.  The first four carbon budgets, leading to 2027, have been set in law.  The UK is currently in the second carbon budget period (2013–17). According to the Committee on Climate Change, meeting the fourth carbon budget (2023–27) would require that emissions be reduced by 50 percent on 1990 levels in 2025.  By 2014, UK GHG emissions had fallen by 36 percent since 1990.

In December 2015, a conference of the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is scheduled to take place in Paris, at which it is hoped to “achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 20C”.

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