This page has been archived, and may no longer be up to date

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 activists display

Image | 11 December, 2002 at 0:00

Greenpeace activists display, at the site of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, a banner reading Oil Hazard EU Clean up your act, referring to the infamous Prestige oil tanker disaster in Spain.

US just being climate change 'moron'

Feature story | 10 December, 2002 at 0:00

Canada and New Zealand are doing more to combat climate change by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol this week putting the global agreement to cut greenhouse gases one step closer to reality. But the US and Australian governments are proving they are...

Rainbow Warrior leads protest flotilla in Spain

Feature story | 8 December, 2002 at 0:00

More than 150 local fishing boats and yachts joined Greenpeace's flagship the Rainbow Warrior In a protest flotilla off the Galacian port town of Coruña. Another 2000 people lined the harbour. What do we all want? An guarantee that catastrophes...

The Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior sails

Image | 8 December, 2002 at 0:00

The Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior sails in the Galician port town of La Coruna this morning in protest against the weak response to the oil disaster from authorities, and demanding that stricter measures are put in place.

Belgium gets out of nuclear power

Feature story | 6 December, 2002 at 0:00

The Belgian parliament voted in favour of phasing out all seven of its nuclear power reactors today. With this historic vote Belgium joins the majority of EU member states who are either non-nuclear or have their own phase out plans.

Activists bring oil disaster to European ministers

Feature story | 6 December, 2002 at 0:00

Over 35 Greenpeace activists reenacted an oil disaster at the doorstep of the European Union headquarters as European ministers are meeting to discuss maritime safety. Volunteers dressed in bird costumes with black 'oil' stains carried signs and...

Greenpeace activists dress in bird costums

Image | 6 December, 2002 at 0:00

Greenpeace activists dress in bird costums with black oil stains to simulate an oil disaster at the door of the EU Headquarters where European Ministers of Transport Telecommunication and Energy are meeting to discuss maritime safety.

A oil cleanup volunteer holds a Comorant

Image | 5 December, 2002 at 1:00

A oil cleanup volunteer holds a Comorant covered in oil from the sunken Prestige oil tanker on the coast of Galicia, Spain.

Greenpeace activists halt movement

Image | 5 December, 2002 at 1:00

Greenpeace activists halt movement, by climbing up the mooring ropes of the single-hulled oil tanker Byzantio in the port of Rotterdam, The Netherlands yesterday

A local oil clean

Image | 5 December, 2002 at 0:00

A local oil clean-up volunteer holds a badly oiled Cormorant, victim of the oil spill from the recently sunken 'Prestige' oil tanker off the Galicia coast, Spain.

3661 - 3670 of 4217 results.

Categories