What are the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies? (Updated)

by Amy Wilson (updated November 2023 by Talia Levene)

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established subsidiary bodies; committees that assist the Conference of the Parties (COP). The COP is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention and serves as the meeting to the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) and as the meeting to the Parties of the Paris Agreement (CMA). Note the COP, CMA and CMP are known as the governing bodies. 

Permanent Subsidiary Bodies

There are two permanent subsidiary bodies; the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) [1]. The SBSTA was established under Article 9 of the UNFCCC, while SBI was established under Article 10 of the UNFCCC, and both bodies report their work to COP [2]. 

The SBSTA and SBI typically meet at the same time and twice a year [3]. Usually once when the UNFCCC COP is taking place, and a second time in Bonn, Germany which is hosted by the UNFCCC secretariat [3]. See our COP webpage for the most up to date information from the subsidiary bodies’ meetings. The Bureau (an elected committee to represent the UNFCCC Parties) schedules the dates for the meeting of the subsidiary bodies [4].

  1. Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice

The SBSTA assists the governing bodies with timely information on scientific and technology matters relating to the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement [2, 3].

The body remains open to all Parties to the Convention and is formed from government representatives that are competent in the relevant field of expertise [3]. The scientific areas of work include climate impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, development and transfer of environmentally-friendly technology and greenhouse gas emission inventories [3]. The SBSTA also works with international organisations (such as the IPCC) on scientific, technological and methodological questions [1]. 

  1. Subsidiary Body for Implementation

The SBI assists the governing bodies (COP, CMA, CMP) in the assessment and review process of Parties implementation of the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement [1]. Key areas the SBI considers include transparency, mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) work programme, and the implementation of the frameworks for capacity-building. The SBI also considers the biennial work scheme for how the secretariat can best assist the Parties and promote greater climate change action [1]. 

In 2014 the SBI launched two processes, the international assessment and review process (IAR) and the international consultations and analysis process (ICA) [5]. The IAR aims to enhance comparability between developed countries on their economy-wide emission limitation and reduction targets, while the ICA aims to increase transparency between Parties in an non-intrusive manner [5]. To enhance monitoring of the capacity building, the Paris Committee on Capacity-building (PCCB) and the Durban Forum report to the SBI at the sessions of the SBI held in conjunction with sessions of the COP, this information is then disseminated during COP [5].

The SBSTA and SBI work together on issues that require both their areas of expertise such as the vulnerability of developing countries to climate change, the Technology Mechanism, the Adaptation Committee and the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage [3,5]. The SBI and SBSTA are also involved in the Technical Examination Process (TEP). This process identifies reliable “opportunities for strengthening resilience, reducing vulnerability, and increasing the understanding and implementation of adaptation actions”, as well as investigating “high-potential mitigation policies, practices and technologies with significant sustainable development co-benefits that could increase mitigation ambition of pre-2020 climate action” [5].

Temporary Subsidiary Bodies

From time to time other subsidiary bodies may be established by either COP, CMP or CMA to address specific issues [1]. These bodies have limited membership periods. Examples of previous subsidiary bodies include:

  • Ad Hoc Group of Article 13 of the UNFCCC (1995 to 1998) [6]
  • Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (2005 to 2012)
  • Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (2007 to 2012) [7]
  • Ad Hoc Working Group on Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (2011 to 2015)
  • Ad Hoc Working Group on Paris Agreement (2015 onwards) [7]


[1] UNFCCC, What are governing, process management, subsidiary, constituted and concluded Bodies?. URL: https://cop23.unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/bodies/the-big-picture/what-are-governing-process-management-subsidiary-constituted-and-concluded-bodies [last accessed 15/05/21]
[2] UNFCCC (1992). URL: https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/conveng.pdf [last accessed 15/05/21]
[3] UNFCCC, Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technology Advice, URL: https://cop23.unfccc.int/process/bodies/subsidiary-bodies/sbsta  [last accessed 17/11/23]
[4] UNFCCC, COP Bureau Reschedules UNFCCC Subsidiary Body Meetings to 2021, URL: https://unfccc.int/news/cop-bureau-reschedules-unfccc-subsidiary-body-meetings-to-2021 [last accessed 15/05/21]
[5] UNFCCC, Subsidiary Body for Implementation, URL: https://cop23.unfccc.int/process/bodies/subsidiary-bodies/sbi [last accessed 15/05/21]
[6] UNFCCC, URL: https://unfccc.int/documents/1214 [last accessed 15/05/21]
[7] UNFCCC, TT:CLEAR, Negotiations, Ad-hoc working groups, URL: https://unfccc.int/awg-lca-bodies-page  [last accessed 17/11/23]

Image courtesy of UNFCCC Flickr page

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