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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

 

New video sees children at heart of LEGO campaign

Blog entry by Ian Duff | 5 August, 2014

No one loves LEGO as much as a seven year old who's just built their first masterpiece. But everyone who has played with the toy carries the joy of their inner child on through life. That's why LEGO is such a desirable brand for Shell...

The Arctic Sunrise Leaves Murmansk

Slideshow | 1 August, 2014

Return of the Arctic Sunrise

Blog entry by Faiza Oulahsen | 1 August, 2014 2 comments

Those last days on the Arctic Sunrise in September 2013, gave me one of my most precious memories. That might sound odd to you: armed men with balaclavas abseiling down from a helicopter and holding some of the crew at gunpoint; unable...

Updates from the Arctic Sunrise activists

Feature story | 1 August, 2014 at 11:00

From peaceful action to dramatic seizure: a timeline of events since the Arctic Sunrise took action on September 18th, all times CET.

Arrest of forest rights activists symbolic of what's wrong in India

Blog entry by Aaron Gray-Block | 31 July, 2014 1 comment

It was just past midnight when Indian police hauled two Greenpeace India activists out of their sleep and arrested them this week as a crackdown on protests against a planned coal mine in the Mahan forest intensified. The arrests...

LEGO, Dump Shell to stop the #TweetSpill

Blog entry by Trillia Fidei | 31 July, 2014

LEGO is helping Shell clean up its image, bringing the threat of an oil spill in the Arctic closer to reality. So we're creating a virtual oil spill on Twitter to ask LEGO to end its dirty deal deal with Shell -- before it's too late.

'No Drilling' Banner Protest, Italy

Image | 31 July, 2014 at 12:57

Activists aboard the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior unfurls a banner reading: "No Drilling" and 'Save The Climate, There Is No Planet B' as she sails past the Rospo B oil rig off the coast of Vasto. The environmental organisation warns that...

Rainbow Warrior in Venice

Image | 28 July, 2014 at 16:55

The Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, sails past Venice and the Piazza San Marco bearing the message "Save the Climate, There is no Planet B". Venice is one of the low-lying cities identified by scientists to be under severe threat from sea level...

Venice is at the heart of climate change debate

Blog entry by Luca Iacoboni | 28 July, 2014 1 comment

Today we are in Venice with the Rainbow Warrior. Venice – which is already fighting sea level rise – is a city which is extremely threatened by climate change. For the people who live there and the millions who visit every year, we...

China's planned coal-to-gas plants to emit over one billion tons of CO2

Feature story | 25 July, 2014 at 17:00

There could be 50 coal-to-gas projects operational within the next decade, producing 225 billion cubic metres of synthetic natural gas [SNG] per year, if all of the planned ones go ahead, according to comprehensive new research by Greenpeace China.

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