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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

 

Threats to the Oceans

Publication | 17 November, 2005 at 9:28

"There's enough on this planet for everyone's needs but not for everyone's greed"Mahatma GandhiShort summary of the key threats to our oceans - industrial and destructive fishing, wholesale stealing of fish stocks, fish farming, pollution and...

Defending our Oceans

Publication | 17 November, 2005 at 9:27

Every second breath you take comes from the oceans. The oceans give life to our planet and us. In return we are suffocating them;dredging up too many fish, stealing food from needy mouths, carelessly killing countless creatures including whales,...

Marine Reserves – a solution to ocean destruction

Publication | 17 November, 2005 at 9:27

Three quarters of the world’s fish stocks are under threat from over fishing accordingto the United Nations. Our oceans are vast, but not limitless. They give life to theplanet and contain 80 percent of all life on it. They provide the primary...

Montreal Climate Summit 2005: Greenpeace Document kit

Publication | 15 November, 2005 at 0:00

Greenpeace position papers and backgrounders for the 2005 Montreal Climate Summit.

Greenpeace volunteers blockade three entrances

Image | 14 November, 2005 at 0:00

Greenpeace volunteers blockade three entrances to the office of the British Prime Minister in Downing Street, London, with several tonnes of coal in protest against Tony Blair's failure to tackle global warming.

German activist Jens Loewe

Image | 10 November, 2005 at 0:00

German activist Jens Loewe, 36, being looked after by Filipino Pam Palma and New Zealander Debra Gay Pristor after being beaten by personnel of Masinloc coal power plant in the Philippines. The beating occurred during a peaceful protest against...

Acitivists detained by security personnel

Image | 10 November, 2005 at 0:00

Acitivists detained by security personnel during a protest at the Masinloc coal power plant in the Philippines. A German Greenpeace activist participating in the protest was badly beaten by local plant personnel and three other activists had...

Posters question social responsibility of EU member heads

Image | 9 November, 2005 at 0:00

Posters questioning how far EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen will go to put the chemical industry before public interests turn heads around EU buildings in Brussels.

Greenpeace activists dressed as coal plant

Image | 8 November, 2005 at 0:00

Greenpeace activists dressed as coal plant smokestacks block and picket the exit gate of the Asian Development Bank headquarters in Manila to protest the bank's 'financing climate change in Asia'. Greenpeace says ADB's Energy Portfolio Financing...

Swimming in Chemicals - Widespread presence of brominated flame retardants and PCBs...

Publication | 3 November, 2005 at 8:44

European eels from 20 locations in 10 countries across Europe were found to contain varying levels of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and/or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Some of the chemicals analysed are in current use while others have...

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