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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

 

7 Green ways to watch the World Cup

Blog entry by Tom Dowdall | 26 June, 2014

So like most of us, you also couldn't make it to Brazil to enjoy the global football fest in person? Well, take comfort in the fact that you are not contributing to the carbon emissions of traveling to Brazil to catch the games!

A Brief History of Europe's Energy Troubles

Feature story | 25 June, 2014 at 11:00

The Ukraine crisis currently shows just how dependent Europe is, especially on Russian oil and gas. The EU spent a total of EUR 421 billion on energy imports in 2012.

Water: A Lake with a Thousand Faces

Blog entry by Rex Weyler | 16 June, 2014

I live on a lakeshore. It's face changes not only day-to-day, but moment to moment, menacing and dark, then ethereal with silver light dancing everywhere, then solemn again, like glass, then lively with trout feeding at the surface.

How big oil tries to win us over using stealth tactics

Blog entry by Ben Ayliffe | 11 June, 2014 6 comments

What does it take to run a successful, modern oil company? You'd be forgiven for thinking it's just drills, pipelines, and lawyers. But there's an even more crucial element - the trust and approval of people like you and me. One...

Protest Against Oil Exploration

Image | 11 June, 2014 at 14:21

Activists from the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior set up oil booms with banners reading 'No Oil' at the Es Vedrà Islets Nature Reserve near Ibiza, Spain. The environmental group denounced oil drilling plans by Scottish oil firm Cairn Energy off...

Norway's inconvenient truth

Blog entry by Martin Norman | 6 June, 2014

Norway is known to be a beautiful country, with a long coastline, ranging mountains and lush forests. We are generally tolerant people, with a strong sense of right and wrong. We believe in peace. And we believe in nature. So when...

We want Renewable energy for all. Stand with us or step aside.

Blog entry by Aida Vila Rovira | 6 June, 2014 1 comment

Today, in the Maritim Hotel in Bonn, where a new meeting of United Nations climate change convention is taking place, the delegates are starting to hustle. Between nine and ten AM they all ran into the building to hear the speeches of...

Our Arctic Sunrise is coming home

Blog entry by Ben Ayliffe | 6 June, 2014 4 comments

Earlier this morning we had a remarkable phone call from Murmansk. It was from the team of lawyers representing Greenpeace International telling us that the Russian Investigative Committee (IC) had decided to release the Arctic...

Five reasons the Arctic is officially AWESOME (ecologically and biologically speaking)

Blog entry by Sophie Allain | 6 June, 2014

I often sit at my desk imagining that I am an alien. Bear with me. I am not totally insane. I just think it would be interesting to land on this little blue and green planet for the first time, and see the world that we so often take...

Volume is the catalyst

Blog entry by Arin de Hoog | 5 June, 2014 1 comment

Let's face it; people tend to get edgy when the US is mentioned. Often people wish, many of them Americans, that whatever the US does, could they just do it quietly . But there's something to be said for volume. For example, the...

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