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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

 

Green jobs

Image | 23 September, 2004 at 13:00

There are already around 3 million people employed by the renewable energy industry today, like this worker in a wind turbine factory. By 2030, if the Energy [R]evolution scenario is followed, this could rise to 8.5 million jobs. This would mean...

Dow's fashion show visited by Bhopal survivors

Feature story | 21 September, 2004 at 0:00

At the opening of the Premier Vision textile exhibition in Paris, activists dressed in black t-shirts - each one revealing the faces of Bhopal victims - confronted Dow Chemical as the company presented its new fibre, XLA. Dow Chemical is...

Nuclear shipment crosses Atlantic

Feature story | 21 September, 2004 at 0:00

LATEST UPDATES: www.stop-plutonium.orgThanks to the Bush Administration's disregard for global concerns about nuclear proliferation, two ships carrying some 140kg of weapons-grade plutonium are en route from Charleston, South Carolina, to...

Despite growing public and political concern

Image | 20 September, 2004 at 1:00

Despite growing public and political concern about nuclear proliferation, a lightly armed UK-flagged commercial nuclear ship left Charleston, South Carolina carrying 300 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium for transport to France.

Dow: Pay your debt to the victims of Bhopal before investing in new textiles

Publication | 20 September, 2004 at 0:00

On the night of December 2nd - 3rd 1984, 40 tonnes of lethal gases leaked from the Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticide factory in Bhopal, India. 8,000 people died immediately, today the toll has reached some 20,000 people.Well over 150,000...

Extreme weather warnings

Feature story | 17 September, 2004 at 0:00

Hurricane devastation in the US, flash floods in Japan and a UK village washed into the sea. As climate change gathers pace, devastation caused by extreme weather is becoming more common. Take a visual tour of storm and flood destruction.

Th!nk Again: Ford Does a U-Turn

Feature story | 17 September, 2004 at 0:00

Following a meeting yesterday with the Norwegian Transport Minister, Ford Europe has confirmed it will not scrap its US fleet of zero emission electric cars, but instead send them to eager customers in Norway.

Greenpeace activists from 6 countries confront

Image | 16 September, 2004 at 1:00

Greenpeace activists from 6 countries confront oil sheiks, ministers and other principal attendees of the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) conference. Activists display a banner reading "Oil Kills", which is written with...

Spain's sinking hazardous ship

Feature story | 9 September, 2004 at 0:00

A four-year-old scandal involving the MV Ulla, a vessel carrying hazardous waste from Spain, finally came to a head on Monday outside the Turkish port of Iskenderun, where the vessel sank taking 2000 tons of hazardous waste with it.

Greenpeace activists occupy the Kelvingrove

Image | 6 September, 2004 at 1:00

Greenpeace activists occupy the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the most visited museum in the UK outside London. The museum is currently undergoing refurbishment, which is funded by the National Lottery. The work was halted by almost 100...

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