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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

 

Strength in recognition

Blog entry by Arin de Hoog | 15 November, 2013

2013 has been an incredible year for Greenpeace. In February actress Lucy Lawless spoke publicly against shell after occupying an oil rig with Greenpeace activists. A forest conservation pilot project by Indonesia's largest palm oil...

"Dear Vladimir...": Ex-Beatle Sir Paul writes to Putin calling for Arctic 30 release

Blog entry by Elena Polisano | 14 November, 2013 5 comments

Support for the Arctic 30 just went pop. In a really good way. And Sir Paul McCartney just made a sure-fire bid to become my favourite Beatle. Today on his website Sir Paul published a personal letter to Vladimir Putin, in which the...

Gazprom Protest At European Autumn Gas Conference

Image | 13 November, 2013 at 18:00

Five Greenpeace Belgium activists hold hand banners reading: "Gazprom: Don't Destroy The Arctic', during the Brussels European Autumn Gas Conference. Greenpeace demands that Gazprom cease their high-risk oil exploration in the Arctic. The...

Support from the Amazon to the Arctic

Blog entry by Anne Dingwall, Security Advisor | 13 November, 2013 29 comments

A small group of us had been working in Manaus, deep in the Amazon, for two years. We were exposing illegal logging operations and making some enemies in the process. The Amazon was isolated and violent. Assassinations of...

The Arctic 30 Arrive in St Petersburg

Slideshow | 12 November, 2013

The Government of China, like Poland, has a different view of what the people they...

Blog entry by Li Shuo | 12 November, 2013 1 comment

Coming from Beijing to attend the Warsaw climate summit, I expected to have temporary relief for my lungs. As I departed from Beijing’s international airport, the city’s air quality index (AQI) shot up 15 times higher than the World...

Poland to Coaland with no public support

Blog entry by Maciej Muskat | 12 November, 2013 1 comment

Does anyone remember a referendum on whether Poland should block EU efforts to stop climate change? How about whether Poland should hold the climate negotiations hostage by blocking the EU from being constructive and committing to...

From Prirazlomnaya to Warsaw: The Arctic 30, coal and the future of our children

Blog entry by Daniel Mittler | 10 November, 2013 12 comments

For the last 53 days, every time one of my daughters climbed onto my lap I could not help but think about the children of the  Arctic 30 . About how they must be missing their parents and how my colleagues must be missing them. About...

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