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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

 

Greenpeace donates a solar power system to

Image | 2 January, 2006 at 0:00

Greenpeace donates a solar power system to a coastal village in Aceh, Indonesia, one of the worst hit areas by the tsunami in December 2004. In cooperation with UPLINK, a local development charity, we offered our expertise on energy efficiency...

Greenpeace activists party with the people

Image | 15 December, 2005 at 0:00

Greenpeace activists party with the people of Bo Nok community, home of assassinated anti-coal activist Charoen Wataksorn and release paper lanterns to commemorate his successful fight against coal power plants in Thailand. The celebration also...

Greenpeace ended a three

Image | 9 December, 2005 at 0:00

Greenpeace ended a three-day occupation of the Map Ta Phut coal power plant when the government agreed to a review of its energy policy.

Greenpeace activists block the road entrance

Image | 9 December, 2005 at 0:00

Greenpeace activists block the road entrance to the BLCP coal plant at Map Ta Phut, Thailand. Greenpeace is demanding the plant's immediate closure, calling on the Thai government to phase out coal power and to commit to renewable energy.

Day 3 of climate protest in Asia

Feature story | 9 December, 2005 at 0:00

From meeting rooms in Montreal to coal-fired power plants in Germany and Thailand to ports hosting shiploads of illegal nuclear waste, Greenpeace has been in action against global warming around the world in the last two weeks.

A worker from the BLCP coal plant cuts into

Image | 8 December, 2005 at 0:00

A worker from the BLCP coal plant cuts into the Rainbow Warrior's mooring line. The Rainbow Warrior has spent the past two days alongside the pier as part of a campaign to bear witness to the climate killing impact of BLCP and the Thai...

Greenpeace climbers from around the world

Image | 8 December, 2005 at 0:00

Greenpeace climbers from around the world have set up a second camp on one of the BLCP coal plant's 60-metre electrical transmission pylons as their protest against the continued construction of the climate killing coal plant and 18 future plants...

Activists highlight global warming CO2 emissions

Image | 6 December, 2005 at 0:00

Activists highlight global warming CO2 emissions from the most polluting power plant in Europe. The owner of the plant, electricity company RWE, is planning a second coal plant on the same site with emissions larger than many small countries.

Delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference

Image | 30 November, 2005 at 0:00

Delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal, Canada today get a first hand view of carbon dioxide emissions coming from Thailand's Mae Moh coal power plant, the largest and most notorious of its kind in SoutheastAsia. Greenpeace...

The British Prime Minister gets a message

Image | 29 November, 2005 at 0:00

The British Prime Minister gets a message from Greenpeace: no nukes.

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