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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

 

Time for Europe to stand up for peace - and renewables

Blog entry by Jennifer Morgan | 17 February, 2017 3 comments

Every year, the Munich Security Conference brings together the most senior decision-makers to debate critical issues in international security. This year, I will join them. And while I am sure I will disagree with most of the...

We are going to court!

Blog entry by Michelle Jonker-Argueta | 15 February, 2017 1 comment

It's time we hold governments accountable for their climate promises; we must protect the pristine Arctic - it's critical for the preservation of our planet for future generations. That’s why we’re taking Arctic oil to court. ...

Missing the Target

Blog entry by Rex Weyler | 10 February, 2017 6 comments

The urgency to solve our climate crisis feels something like a ship heading off course: The longer you delay, the more you have to turn the wheel.   Consider these numbers: 2, 350, 1990. These were the original climate goals. In...

Why Trump’s Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipeline plans don’t add up

Blog entry by Jesse Coleman | 1 February, 2017

Last week, Donald Trump signed a set of presidential memoranda aimed at boosting the United States’ most infamous and flailing oil pipeline projects: the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL). Trump wants...

Why we need Netflix to join the race towards a green internet

Blog entry by Gary Cook | 27 January, 2017 1 comment

This month Greenpeace released our latest analysis (fifth and counting) of which major internet companies are leading the charge to build a renewably powered internet - and which ones are lagging behind. The good news: we see a...

Leadership today will shape our common future

Blog entry by Jennifer Morgan | 26 January, 2017

Last week, I arrived in Davos for my first World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos meeting unsure of what I was going to find. I was preoccupied with the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. President and the news that for the third year in...

#BridgesNotWalls -- It’s Time for Solidarity, Love and Hope

Blog entry by Leila Deen | 17 January, 2017 3 comments

This Friday, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, after a year when, around the world, the politics of hate, fear and division too often blossomed. On January 20th, Greenpeace will join with ...

How green are the apps you use every day?

Blog entry by Gary Cook | 12 January, 2017 1 comment

Did you know some of the apps we use every day can make a difference in driving a green future by choosing to power their data centres (and our digital lives) with renewable energy?  The Renewable Revolution is here and some of...

Clicking Clean

Publication | 10 January, 2017 at 8:00

The internet will likely be the largest single thing we build as a species. Tasked with creating and then catering to the world’s insatiable appetite for messages, photos, and streaming video, along with critical systems supporting our financial,...

Nominating the CEO of Exxon for US Secretary of State reveals just how desperate the...

Blog entry by Kelly Mitchell | 9 January, 2017

On the surface, this looks like a power grab. In reality, it’s a last ditch attempt at relevancy.   In December, President-elect of the United States Donald Trump officially nominated Exxon Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson for...

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