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United Nations (UN) climate change negotiations — an overview



Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union as it applies to EU participation in UN climate change negotiations


  • Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) defines the objectives and principles of European Union (EU) environment policy and underpins the EU’s participation in UN climate negotiations. In particular:
    • the fourth indent of Article 191(1) of the TFEU specifically mentions that one of the key aims of EU environment policy is to promote measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, in particular combating climate change; and
    • the fourth paragraph of Article 191 refers to cooperation in this field with other countries and international organisations, such as the UN.
  • The UN climate negotiations aim to secure international agreement on effective measures to tackle global warming. The first, in 1992, was a commitment to keep the increase in global warming to below 2oC compared to pre-industrial times.
  • The adoption of a new global climate agreement in 2015 to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon global economy marks the culmination of years of efforts by the international community to bring about a universal, multilateral agreement on climate change.


  • 1992: UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established a basis for international cooperation to combat climate change by limiting average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change.
  • 1997: The Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first legally binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, was approved. The developed countries participating pledged to reduce their total emissions by at least 5% in a first commitment period (between 2008 and 2012) compared to 1990 levels. The (then) 15 EU countries committed themselves to an 8% cut.
  • 2009: Copenhagen secured a political agreement, calling for specific action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. It represented the first time all major economies had offered explicit international climate pledges. It was endorsed by over 140 countries.
  • 2010: Cancún acknowledged for the first time in a formal UN decision that global warming must be kept below 2oC compared to pre-industrial temperatures. It recognised that overall efforts had to be increased to meet that target.
  • 2011: Durban confirmed the need for a new legal agreement to tackle climate change beyond 2020 — one in which every country could play its part to the best of its ability. This would be agreed in 2015.
  • 2012: Doha endorsed the agreement of 38 developed countries, including the EU, to participate in a second Kyoto commitment period (2013-2020). This covers 14% of global emissions.
  • 2013: Warsaw produced a schedule for countries to table their contributions to reduce or limit greenhouse gas emissions under the new global climate agreement to be finalised in 2015.
  • 2014: Lima endorsed the Warsaw commitments, requiring all countries to describe their intended contributions for the 2015 agreement clearly, transparently and understandably. In addition, it agreed on draft elements for the agreement and on accelerating pre-2020 action.
  • 2015: Paris adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal to be implemented from 2020. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2oC. The EU’s contribution to the new agreement is a binding emissions reduction target of at least 40% by 2030.


For more information, see:


Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union —Part Three — Union policies and internal actions — Title XX — Environment — Article 191 (ex Article 174 TEC) (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 132–133)

last update 17.11.2016