Climate Change and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
The release of rapidly increasing levels of greenhouse gases such as a CO2, as a result of human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, is heating up the atmosphere. The 1990s were the warmest decade on record since regular observations began in the middle of the 19th century.
Climate change and biodiversity
The consequences for ecosystems and wildlife are already being felt. In the late 1990s warm water temperatures led to a widespread bleaching of coral reefs, leaving up to 20% of the world's reefs damaged. Icebergs and glaciers are melting, dramatically changing the composition of other ecosystems. The distributions of some butterflies species in Europe and North America are shifting northwards. Breeding birds in Western Europe start egg-laying earlier while the treeline in Europe and New Zealand is shifting to higher altitudes. In Antarctica, Adélie Penguins Pygoscelis adeliae, which feed by diving through cracks in sea-ice, are decreasing while sea-ice intolerant species such as Chinstrap Penguins Pygoscelis antarctica and Gentoo Penguins Pygoscelis papua are on the increase. These changes are the forerunners of future dramatic alterations in the location and species composition of ecosystems, with as yet unquantified consequences for threatened species and for those species which are not yet classified as threatened. For example, the shift of ecosystems towards the poles and towards higher altitudes will lead to the reduction or disappearance of many ecosystems, with the extinction of their characteristic species.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted in May 1992 and was opened for signature at the UN Conference on Environment and Development, the Rio Earth Summit. It entered into force in May 1994 and currently has 186 Parties. The Convention's objective is to achieve stabilisation of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at levels that prevent dangerous human-induced interference with the climate system. Parties to the Convention have committed to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases. It is the Kyoto Protocol of the UNFCCC that sets legally binding emission targets for Annex I countries. Annex I contains most of the industrialised countries and countries with economies in transition. The Kyoto Protocol has 102 country Parties and is expected to enter into force in 2003.
BirdLife and the UNFCCC
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB, BirdLife in the UK) has been closely following the UNFCCC for many years. In recent years, the RSPB and other BirdLife Partners have had BirdLife delegations at the Conferences of the Parties (COP) and meetings of other bodies of the Convention. RSPB/BirdLife, together with other organisations, have highlighted the impact of climate change on biodiversity at a number of conferences including the UNFCCC COP.
A number of BirdLife Partners has been working nationally for the ratification of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol by their governments and lobbying for a rigorous implementation of the Convention. Environmentally friendly ways of producing energy as well as better systems of public transport are high on their agenda. Some BirdLife Partners are involved in research on the impacts of climate change on birds and other wildlife and the consequences for Important Bird Areas (IBA) and the protected area systems.
Email John Lanchbery email@example.com.