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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

 

"Climate Crime Scene" at Range Rover factory

Image | 16 May, 2005 at 16:49

Activists declare a "Climate Crime Scene" at Range Rover factory in the UK which makes SUVs.

A Geenpeace volunteer putting Climate Crime

Image | 16 May, 2005 at 1:00

A Geenpeace volunteer putting Climate Crime Scene tape on a Range Rover vehicle still on the production line at Land Rover plant in Sollihull.Thirty-five Greenpeace volunteers have shut down the assembly line making gas-guzzling Range Rovers,...

In this image via cell phone and MMS from

Image | 16 May, 2005 at 0:00

In this image via cell phone and MMS from inside the plant, a Greenpeace activist is chained to an assembly line at Range Rover, stopping the production of gas-guzzling SUVs.

Greenpeace shuts down Range Rover

Feature story | 16 May, 2005 at 0:00

Early this morning 35 volunteers from Greenpeace shut down the assembly line making gas-guzzling Range Rovers. The urban 4x4s made at the site are wrecking the climate.

The specks on ice are explorers Lonnie Dupre

Image | 10 May, 2005 at 1:00

The specks on ice are explorers Lonnie Dupre and Eric Larsen, setting off on the first ever unsupported summer crossing of the Arctic Ocean in order to draw attention to global warming.

Explorers Lonnie Dupre and Eric Larsen

Image | 10 May, 2005 at 1:00

Explorers Lonnie Dupre and Eric Larsen, share a final goodbye joke prior to departing on the first ever unsupported summer crossing of the Arctic Ocean in order to draw attention to global warming.

All Emission , No Solution: Energy Hypocrisy and the Asian Development Bank in...

Publication | 5 May, 2005 at 0:00

This is the poverty of the Asian Development Bank - to be an institution so abundant in resources and rhetoric andyet having so little to show in terms of environmental protection and the protection of the Earth's climate.

Greenpeace activist Mal Wren waves to supporters

Image | 1 May, 2005 at 0:00

Greenpeace activist Mal Wren waves to supporters after being arrested by police following a nine day occupation of the Marsden B power station at Ruakaka, Northland. The protest, which started on the entry into force of the Kyoto protocol on the...

Toxic Tech Victory

Feature story | 29 April, 2005 at 0:00

Sony Ericsson has announced that it will be phasing toxic chemicals out of its entire product range. The company listened to the thousands of participants in our online action demanding that electronics companies phase out toxic chemicals and...

China Light & Power Alternative Annual Report 2004

Publication | 28 April, 2005 at 0:00

China Light & Power Alternative Annual Report 2004 - Distributed by Greenpeace to shareholders who attended the Annual General Meeting in Hong Kong

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