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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 small flag stopped the Norwegian coastguard from ending our protest. Now a...

Blog entry by Ana Mules | 30 May, 2014 3 comments

Our brave activists have now delayed the giant oil rig Transocean Spitsbergen for over 80 hours, first by occupying the rig and now by occupying the drill site with the ship Esperanza. And as long as they stay there, Statoil can’t...

The "get lost zone" - a novel concept in international law

Blog entry by Daniel Simons | 30 May, 2014 15 comments

Desperate times call for desperate measures. That seems to be the thinking of Norway's Petroleum Ministry, which yesterday issued a highly irregular order in an attempt to bring an end to the Esperanza's peaceful protest in the Barents...

Who pays the bill for climate denialism?

Blog entry by Leanne Minshull | 28 May, 2014 2 comments

Greenpeace International, along with WWF International and the Centre for International Environmental Law, sent letters to major insurance firms and 35 fossil fuel and other carbon major companies today, asking whether they believed...

Is this the most dangerous club in the world?

Blog entry by Ben Ayliffe | 27 May, 2014 5 comments

As the thunder broiled and lightning split the sodden night sky, a team of activists from Greenpeace Netherlands scaled the giant drilling rig GSP Saturn in the port of IJmuiden to stop it leaving for the Russian Arctic. The rig...

I'm in a small boat and my hands are going numb. Why am I doing this?

Blog entry by Sini Saarela | 26 May, 2014 2 comments

The salty sea water is splashing on my face and the boat is jumping up and down the waves. My hands are ice cold. We are in the middle of practice at sea, and it's hard. I'm still feeling weak after being seasick for a few days, yet...

A win-win-win strategy for ending European energy dependence

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 26 May, 2014 3 comments

Europe can liberate itself from the annexation of its energy policy by Russian gas suppliers and deliver a win on energy independence, a win on climate change, and a win on the economy. The answer to the current political turmoil of...

Power drilling: When an oil rig is a political weapon

Blog entry by Jen Maman | 26 May, 2014 1 comment

You may not have heard about the Paracels and the Spratlys. These two island chains, located in the South China Sea, have for years been at the epicentre of a heated controversy between neighbouring countries. Since early May 2014,...

Nine things you didn't know about Bear Island

Blog entry by Sune Scheller | 23 May, 2014 4 comments

There's a fairly good chance that this is the first time you've heard of Bear Island. Don't worry. The first time I heard about the island was less than two years ago. So what’s the deal? Well, Bear Island is a truly unique place...

Europe's choice: fossil fueled insecurity or true independence

Blog entry by Daniel Mittler | 23 May, 2014 1 comment

As citizens of the European Union start to vote in European Parliament elections , political leaders across Europe are talking up their commitment to "energy independence". But in reality the EU continues to fuel its addiction to...

Antarctica's glaciers are collapsing - Are we ready to pay attention?

Blog entry by Dave Walsh | 16 May, 2014 4 comments

The "irreversible collapse" of glaciers in Antarctica is dominating headlines around the world this week. News outlets are breathlessly reporting that the dramatic rise in sea levels that's now on the cards. So what does it mean?

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