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United Nations

The United Nations plays a key role in coordinating the international response to climate change. But it is no simple job getting cooperation and agreement from the 191 member states of the UN - all intent on pursuing their own self interests and policies - even when the evidence is clearly shows that failing to act would be disastrous for all.

The two UN institutions that deal most directly with climate change arethe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UNFramework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The firstprovides scientific and technical advice to policy makers, and thesecond develops policy mechanisms to deal with climate change.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The IPCCwas established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). At the time it wasrecognised that climate change was a serious issue, and that worldleaders would need unbiased scientific advice - independent of nationalinterests and corporate influence.  

The role of the IPCCis to advise policy makers about the current state of knowledge andprovide reliable information pertaining to climate change. It does notconduct any scientific research itself, but instead reviews thethousands of papers on climate change published in the peer reviewedliterature every year and summarises the 'state of knowledge' onclimate change in Assessment Reports which are published every fiveyears or so. About 1,000 experts from all over the world were involvedin drafting the most recent, the Third Assessment Report (2001), andabout 2,500 were involved in its review. The Fourth Assessment Report,well under way now, is due to be published in 2007. The IPCC alsopublishes a variety of other reports on request of governments,intergovernmental organisations or international treaties.  

TheIPCC is broken down into three working groups.  The first workinggroup "assesses the scientific aspects of the climate system andclimate change".  That is, it reports on what we know aboutclimate change - if it is happening, why it is happening and how fastit is happening. The second working group " assesses the vulnerabilityof socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative andpositive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting toit". That is, it looks at what degree climate change will impact peopleand the environment, and what changes might reduce its impacts. The third working group "assesses options for limiting greenhouse gasemissions and otherwise mitigating climate change." That is, itexamines ways we can stop human caused climate change, or at least slowit down.

Greenpeace relies heavily on IPCC reports as the basis for its international climate campaign.

See the Scientific Consensus page for a brief overview of the IPCC's latest conclusions.

Read in more detail about the IPCC's most recent assessment.

Visit the IPCC's own website for the full text of the Third Assessment Report.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)


The UNFCCCwas agreed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, andhas since been ratified by 189 countries.  Its ultimate objective:

"[The] stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in theatmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenicinterference with the climate system. Such a level should be achievedwithin a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturallyto climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened andto enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner." 

The Convention then goes on to say:

"The Partiesshould protect the climate system for the benefit of present and futuregenerations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance withtheir common but differentiated responsibilities and respectivecapabilities. Accordingly, the developed country Parties should takethe lead in combating climate change and the adverse affects thereof."

( Full text of the Convention)

TheUNFCCC is, as its name implies, a 'framework' convention, and needssubsidiary legal instruments (e.g. protocols) to effect its goals. Ithas a non-binding target, which calls for industrialised countries tobring their emissions back to 1990 levels by 2000.  However, itwas obviously by 1995 that these voluntary targets wereinadequate.   Realizing the need for another approach, in1995 the Parties to the Convention established a process to negotiate aprotocol with binding targets and timetables "as a matter of urgency".The result was the Kyoto Protocol, which was agreed in December of 1997and finally entered into force on February 16, 2005.

The annualmeetings of the Convention are called Conferences of the Parties(COPs).  These meetings continue, and are attended by governmentofficials, industry lobbyists, Greenpeace and many other groups. Most of the Parties are genuinely seeking a way forward, looking evenbeyond Kyoto, but there are always those with huge vested interests inthe continuation of the fossil fuel industry - such as representativesof the Bush administration and the OPEC countries - whose main goal isto cripple the convention and generally prevent  any true progresson the issue.

You can read first hand accounts from these meetings, along with Greenpeace position papers and other relevant documents on our International Negotiations page.

The latest updates

 

Chernobyl: lessons not learned

Blog entry by Rashid Alimov | 25 April, 2017 2 comments

A greyish brick building with a bust of Lenin in front of it. A school in Stariye Bobovichi in the Bryansk region of Russia. There could be something nostalgic about this picture, were it not for the feeling of danger it gives. When...

Why are women more impacted by climate change?

Blog entry by Ghalia Fayad | 13 April, 2017 1 comment

Women are more likely to feel the impacts of climate change. This is a fact . As a woman and environmental activist living in the Arab World, I often find myself focused on peace building, development, corruption and human security...

The resistance against fossil fuels is winning. Here’s the proof.

Blog entry by Agustin Maggio | 5 April, 2017 2 comments

When we launched the call for the second Break Free from fossil fuels campaign, we were, of course, hoping to grow the coalition and increase the number of peaceful protests against the dirty energy industries. What we did not expect...

The movement against fossil fuels is growing. Get used to it!

Blog entry by Bunny McDiarmid | 28 March, 2017 2 comments

Yesterday I woke up at 4.30am, entered the second-largest refinery in Europe, and climbed a 90-meter-high chimney to paint over a logo. Not an ordinary day at the office, even as an executive director of Greenpeace. But knowing about...

Melting sea ice breaks new records — an Arctic sanctuary is more urgent than ever

Blog entry by Sophie Allain | 23 March, 2017 9 comments

With sea ice at record low levels this winter, the Arctic needs us now perhaps more than ever. Last week, a vote in the European Parliament showed that Arctic protection has become an established conversation in the corridors of...

How community land rights can save our forests and climate

Blog entry by Fionuala Cregan | 21 March, 2017 1 comment

Almost exactly two years ago, the local communities of Mahan forest, in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, had plenty of reason to celebrate. On the eve of the International Day of Forests 2015, they received news that their...

When reindeer have nowhere to run

Blog entry by Konstantin Fomin | 17 March, 2017

For hundreds of years the Khanty people of Western Siberia have lived in harmony with nature. But as the oil industry seizes more and more of their land, their animals perish in oil spills and reindeer herders are losing their last...

The world is ready to Break Free. Will you join us?

Blog entry by Agustin Maggio | 13 March, 2017

This weekend marked the global kick-off of the Break Free movement calling for a world free from fossil fuels. Break Free is a wave of individuals, communities, local and international organisations taking a firm stance against...

How women are expanding horizons with solar power

Blog entry by Ghalia Fayad | 7 March, 2017

Today, on International Women’s Day, the women of Deir Kanoun Ras el Ain cooperative in South Lebanon embarked on a quiet revolution. Together with young activists from Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, they completed a solar energy...

Reindeers in Moscow: Saving the sacred lake

Blog entry by Konstantin Fomin | 7 March, 2017

It’s very unusual to stumble upon reindeer on the streets of Moscow. But it can happen when authorities give oil company permission to drill on the sacred lands of Siberian Indigenous peoples. Reindeer herders who are opposing...

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