This article takes stock of the evolution of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through the prism of three recent shifts: the move away from targeting industrial country emissions in a legally binding manner under the Kyoto Protocol to mandating voluntary contributions from all countries under the Paris Agreement; the shift from the top-down Kyoto architecture to the hybrid Paris outcome; and the broadening out from a mitigation focus under Kyoto to a triple goal comprising mitigation, adaptation, and finance under Paris. This review discusses the implications of these processes for the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of the UNFCCC’s institutional and operational settings for meeting the convention’s objectives. It ends by sketching three potential scenarios facing the UNFCCC as it seeks to coordinate the Paris Agreement and its relationship to the wider landscape of global climate action.

Keywords: UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement, climate governance, coordinator role

Full article