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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

 

Is there a future for Greenland without Arctic oil?

Blog entry by Jon Burgwald | 14 March, 2014 1 comment

For the past four years I've been visiting the beautiful country of Greenland, trying to prevent dangerous oil drilling that would cause havoc to the unique and fragile wildlife and nature here. But ever since I started working in...

The European Parliament backs our vision for an Arctic sanctuary

Blog entry by Neil Hamilton | 12 March, 2014 11 comments

Tonight I’ll sleep well, knowing that there is finally something happening within the international community about protecting the Arctic. It’s not going to change things overnight, but it’s very positive, and something that our...

5 Greenpeace Facebook moments to remember

Blog entry by JulietteH | 4 February, 2014

The social networking giant, Facebook, turned ten today, but what does that have to do with Greenpeace? Well, whether you’ve signed in or not, Facebook has become a prime mover in digital activism. It's played a role in, and...

How can we support sustainable development in Greenland?

Blog entry by Jon Burgwald | 4 February, 2014 1 comment

In the small town of Aasiaat in Western Greenland, the sleigh dogs are becoming restless and fewer in numbers. Located on one of the many islands at the edge of the picturesque Disco Bay, the dogs have played an important role in...

'The Planet Does Not Need Saving' - Video Interview with Huffington Post Live

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 30 January, 2014

Kumi Naidoo, International Executive Director of Greenpeace, addressed the struggle of climate change during an interview with HuffPost Live at Davos.

Shell's Arctic albatross

Blog entry by James Turner | 30 January, 2014

'God save thee, ancient Mariner! From the fiends, that plague thee thus! Why look'st thou so?' 'With my cross-bow I shot the Albatross.' Samuel Taylor Coleridge The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1798 A little over ten...

Don't bet on coal and oil growth

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 24 January, 2014

A mind-boggling sum of about $800 for each person on the planet is invested into fossil fuel companies through the global capital markets alone. That’s roughly 10% of the total capital invested in listed companies. The amount of...

Banner At The Essar Mumbai

Image | 22 January, 2014 at 17:57

Greenpeace India activists unfurl a giant 36x72 foot banner reading: ‘We kill forests', from Essar’s building in Mumbai. Indian Energy giant Essar have announced their intention to mine another area of pristine forest in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh,...

Davos: the shifting nature of power and the shifting power of nature

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 22 January, 2014

One of the most challenging weeks of my working life starts today: the week of the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Over 2,500 presidents, prime minsters, CEOs, celebrities and academics with a smattering...

Viewpoint: European Commission wearing emperor's new clothes in Davos

Blog entry by Kaisa Kosonen | 22 January, 2014

Climate change returned to the agenda of the World Economic Forum in Davos this year. And I expect the all-too-familiar placatory phrases will be back as well: it is very urgent and very serious; it is getting worse, and "we" or ...

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