This page has been archived, and may no longer be up to date

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

 

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...

A day of tribute to all environmental heroes

Blog entry by Hilde Stroot | 10 November, 2013 2 comments

Celebrate all the ordinary people doing extraordinary things to safeguard our future. My friends and colleagues — the Arctic 30 — remain in their cold cells for defending the Arctic, but they are not alone. The environmental...

How do we translate China’s policy shift on air pollution into progressive climate...

Blog entry by Li Shuo | 9 November, 2013

Air pollution presents an opportunity to revisit China’s high emission growth path. In the upcoming Warsaw negotiation, delegates need to prepare ground for further action from China. Over the last year, air pollution has become,...

Friends in high places - the Arctic 30 receive political support all over the world

Blog entry by Daniel Mittler | 8 November, 2013 1 comment

It's not often that the President of Brazil, the Vice President of Iran, the Chancellor of Germany, the Argentinian Senate, the EU parliament, Burma's opposition leader, 13 Nobel Peace Prize winners, and hundreds of parliamentarians...

Arctic 30 - 50 days of injustice in their own words

Blog entry by Esther Freeman | 7 November, 2013 1 comment

As we reach 50 days of detention of the Arctic 30, here is a collection of their tweets and letters, telling their story in their own words. "BREAKING: Helicopter hovering above Arctic Sunrise, rope dropping down. We think the...

In Russia, the future of the Arctic is up for debate

Blog entry by Martin Lloyd | 6 November, 2013

The Russian public are far less sure than Gazprom about the question of drilling in the Arctic. In a poll produced by Russian research agency FOM , 42% said drilling and mining in the Arctic was not appropriate. Just behind the 45%...

Do the math, fossil fuel investments add up to climate chaos

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 1 November, 2013

If it's wrong to wreck the planet, then it's wrong to profit from that wreckage. We are facing a planetary emergency: climate change threatens the world and our collective future. Business and political leaders know this yet they do...

91 - 100 of 3923 results.

Categories