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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

 

Viento Fuerza 12

Publication | 27 May, 2003 at 0:00

Resumen una propuesta para obtener el 12% de la electricidad mundial con energía eólica en 2020

Busting Exxon: climate criminal #1

Feature story | 27 May, 2003 at 0:00

How come we're the ones being arrested and not Exxon/Mobil executives? All we did was disrupt preparations for their annual general meeting, where they'll conduct business as usual. The real crime? Business as usual for ExxonMobil is frying the...

Hazardous Chemicals in Precipitation

Publication | 26 May, 2003 at 0:00

Greenpeace study showing that rainwater in three European countries is polluted with a range of hazardous chemicals.Scientists analysed 50 samples of rainwater collected by Greenpeace across the Netherlands, with secondary sampling from Belgium...

Bon voyage, mercury waste

Feature story | 23 May, 2003 at 0:00

A container ship currently heading from southern India to the US represents a small victory in the fight against corporate crime across the globe. The ship is carrying 320 tonnes of toxic mercury contaminated waste which comes from a closed plant...

Forests Tour Rainbow Warrior

Image | 16 May, 2003 at 15:26

2003 - Greenpeace activists are being arrested by French police for blocking an entrance of Sete Harbour in France to prevent the importation of timber from the tropical rainforests in Western Africa.

Greenpeace activists protest against the

Image | 16 May, 2003 at 1:00

Greenpeace activists protest against the involvment of the WestLB in the destruction of ancient forest in Ecuador.

French actress Marion Cotillard volunteers

Image | 14 May, 2003 at 1:00

French actress Marion Cotillard volunteers to have her home tested for toxic chemicals.

SETAG employees taking the official marks

Image | 13 May, 2003 at 1:00

SETAG employees taking the official marks (signals) to the forest to begin the official demarcation of the land, which will be identified by clear signage and a visible border that will encompass over 1500 square kilometres of the Brazilian

Amazon community prevails over loggers

Feature story | 13 May, 2003 at 0:00

The Amazon rainforest is more than ancient trees and endangered species. It is home for millions of people and their way of life is often threatened by forest destruction. This was the case for the Deni Indians whose land was under threat by a...

Deni mother and child and a way of life protected

Image | 12 May, 2003 at 1:00

Deni mother and child and a way of life protected for future generations.

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