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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

 

MEP's Support for Substitution in REACH

Publication | 14 May, 2004 at 0:00

If you like to find out if your representative in the European parliament votes for the protection of your health and environment or the interests of industry, check out this document.Please note: This table is gradually being updated as we...

Sixty years on: Time for a comprehensive fissile material treaty

Publication | 4 May, 2004 at 0:00

It's only common sense: Non-proliferation is not achievable without targetting weapons-usable material that exists in abundance on this planet.

A.Q. Khan, Urenco and the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology: The symbiotic...

Publication | 4 May, 2004 at 0:00

Hard evidience for the direct link between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons

Greenpeace activists board a barge shipping

Image | 29 April, 2004 at 1:00

Greenpeace activists board a barge shipping two steam generators across the river Scheldt while unfolding a banner with the demand 'Clean Energy Now' and showing a traffic sign with 'Nuclear Exit'.

Letter to foreign ministers of the NPT

Publication | 21 April, 2004 at 0:00

As you will be aware nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) member States will meet at the third and final Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting in New York before the 2005 NPT Review Conference (RevCon).This PrepCom will be an important test...

Students help with building a toxic free

Image | 19 April, 2004 at 1:00

Students help with building a toxic free, sustainable home for low-income families. The house is free of toxic materials like PVC, the wood is from sustainable forests and the construction is solar powered.

Dirty Disney revealed by hazardous chemicals in products

Feature story | 15 April, 2004 at 0:00

Disney is famous for its lovable cartoon characters seen on our screens and in wide range of products found in homes worldwide. What isn't so famous is the fact that some of those products for babies and children contain toxic chemicals hazardous...

Disney clothing conatins toxic chemicals; H&M avoiding these products.

Image | 14 April, 2004 at 1:00

Disney children's wear often contains toxic chemicals. However retailers like H&M, where this outfit was purchased, have pledged to avoid toxic chemical in all its products.

Disney children's wear often contains toxic

Image | 14 April, 2004 at 1:00

Disney children's wear often contains toxic chemicals.

China's push for a renewable energy future

Feature story | 7 April, 2004 at 0:00

Take a minute to consider the following. What if the world's most populous nation had the necessity-driven willpower to develop the massive uptake of renewable energy like wind and solar power to offset the catastrophic effects of climate change...

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