This page has been archived, and may no longer be up to date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

 

Why we climb to save the Arctic

Blog entry by Ethan Gilbert | 9 September, 2014

As a young child, I loved climbing trees. Above the ground I could see the world below where everything was quiet and my perspective was clear. It was a place to go, where, for a short moment, the world made sense. And making sense...

The world has spoken: Governments should create an Arctic sanctuary!

Blog entry by Farrah Khan | 4 September, 2014 4 comments

A global survey commissioned by Greenpeace has revealed that 74 per cent – nearly three quarters – of respondents agree or strongly agree that governments should create a protected area in the Arctic Ocean around the North Pole,...

Can 2.5 billion gadgets a year be green?

Blog entry by Tom Dowdall | 3 September, 2014 1 comment

It's predicted we will buy 2.5 billion mobiles, computers and tablets in 2014 and there will soon be more Internet connected devices than people on the planet. As the number of gadgets we own explodes, how they are made, used and...

7 reasons to claim water for life, not for coal

Blog entry by Helena Meresman | 1 September, 2014 1 comment

Safe, affordable and accessible water is one of our planet's scarcest natural resources. Many people don't have access to fresh water for sanitation, agriculture, or even to drink. Yet, global water consumption by the power sector...

Month In Pictures - August

Slideshow | 31 August, 2014

Too eager to drill for Arctic oil

Blog entry by Erlend Tellnes | 28 August, 2014 1 comment

Greenpeace's ship, the Esperanza, is still on station in the Arctic to expose renewed Norwegian efforts to drill for oil in this pristine environment. Last week we successfully headed off attempts by an oil company to complete...

You are footing the bill for coal companies; some are losing a lot of money

Blog entry by Marina Lou | 28 August, 2014

You know that person who is always asking friends or family to help him pay his bills? You know the type, the guy who never seems to have his wallet, and always seems to forget to forget to pay you back? Coal companies like Bumi...

The writing's on the wall, now act on it!

Blog entry by Kaisa Kosonen | 28 August, 2014 1 comment

News stories are circulating about a draft IPCC climate science report – a summary report for policymakers – which condenses three full reports of climate research. The summary report will officially be released in early November,...

If it wasn't for us, the oil companies would be totally out of control

Blog entry by Laura Kenyon | 26 August, 2014

Come and spend two weeks traveling the oil fields of the Komi Republic and you can see two hundred different places contaminated in one way or another by the oil industry: rivers, swamps, forests, and green fields. Many of the...

Don't forget about the people

Blog entry by Madalina Preda | 26 August, 2014 2 comments

This past weekend thousands of people joined hands to form an eight-kilometer Human Chain across the border of Germany and Poland to protest against lignite coal mining in the area. 30 different nationalities traveled from cities...

41 - 50 of 4004 results.

Categories