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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

 

A truck carrying 140kgs of weapons

Image | 7 October, 2004 at 1:00

A truck carrying 140kgs of weapons-grade plutonium passes by the city of Nantes during the final stage of the U.S. transport of the dangerous cargo to Cadarache where mox rods are produced. The transport began in France after the arrival of...

One of two lightly armed UK

Image | 6 October, 2004 at 1:00

One of two lightly armed UK-flagged commercial nuclear cargo ship, the Pacific Pintail, arrives in the French military port of Cherbourg.

Activists onboard the Greenpeace ship

Image | 5 October, 2004 at 1:00

Activists onboard the Greenpeace ship, MV Esperanza, wait off the coast of France for the imminent arrival of two BNFL (British Nuclear Fuels) ships that are carrying 140kg of radioactive weapons-grade plutonium. The Pacific Pintail and the...

Greenpeace activists clash with French police

Image | 5 October, 2004 at 1:00

Greenpeace activists clash with French police during a protest against the imminent arrival of two BNFL (British Nuclear Fuels) ships, which are carrying 140kg of radioactive weapons-grade plutonium.

Eugene Riguidel

Image | 4 October, 2004 at 1:00

Eugene Riguidel, one of France's most famous sailors and a member of the Atlantic Nuclear Free Flotilla, is released after a 24 hour detention in the Arsenal of Cherbourg.

Greenpeace and members of the Flotilla protest

Image | 3 October, 2004 at 1:00

Greenpeace and members of the Flotilla protest outside the Arsenal of Cherbourg where Eugene Riguidel, one of France's most famous sailors and a member of the Atlantic Nuclear Free Flotilla with John Castle of Guernsey, a long time activist and...

On board MV Esperanza

Image | 1 October, 2004 at 1:00

On board MV Esperanza. The ship's radar screen indicating activity in the English Channel. The Greenpeace crew are looking out for two BNFL (British Nuclear Fuels) ships, which are carrying 140kg of radioactive weapons-grade plutonium.

stop-plutonium.org

Image | 1 October, 2004 at 1:00

stop-plutonium.org

Greenpeace activists spend the night waiting

Image | 1 October, 2004 at 1:00

Greenpeace activists spend the night waiting for the imminent arrival of two BNFL (British Nuclear Fuels) ships, which are carrying 140kg of radioactive weapons-grade plutonium. The Pacific Pintail and the Pacific Teal left the U.S. port of...

Greenpeace activists protest outside Cherbourg

Image | 30 September, 2004 at 1:00

Greenpeace activists protest outside Cherbourg harbour, in advance of the imminent arrival of two BNFL (British Nuclear Fuels) ships, which are carrying 140kg of radioactive weapons-grade plutonium. Greenpeace believes the shipment conducted by...

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