This page has been archived, and may no longer be up to date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

 

#ClimateWalk: the onset of hope

Blog entry by Johanna Carissa Fernandez | 2 October, 2014

Barely two weeks after the monumental People's Climate March, a humble Climate Walk begins. A postscript, if you may, in the letter written by thousands of empowered individuals calling on the world's leaders to make the 2015 climate...

Statoil Protests in New Zealand

Image | 2 October, 2014 at 11:11

Greenpeace New Zealand activists smeared in fake oil greet guests arriving at the part-Statoil sponsored Petroleum Summit dinner. Twenty-six activists line up outside the entrance to the Auckland Museum Event Centre to call on Statoil to abandon...

A leader, a polar bear, and the shock of recognition

Blog entry by Anote Tong, President of Kiribati | 30 September, 2014

We had only been on the rock next to the melting Nordenskiöld glacier for a few minutes when I looked up and saw a white furry head looking down at me from a cliff 60 meters away. Our polar guide, who had scouted the area in...

"It's the Devil's excrement" - Where fossil fuels lurk, corruption creeps

Blog entry by Marina Lou | 29 September, 2014 1 comment

When it comes to resource extraction and the political process  — the issue is a global one. Have a look at some of the recent coal- ruption stories that have been breaking all around the world. Australia In the state of New...

That moment in New York City when the game of the climate movement changed

Blog entry by Martin Kaiser | 27 September, 2014

Who anticipated a turn-out like this? The largest political march in the US for over decade and it all took place in New York, home of the world's largest stock exchange, headquarters of international financial institutions and both...

Forests need laws, not loopholes

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 25 September, 2014 3 comments

Sitting in the towering United Nation's building on New York's east side, it might be hard for world leaders to picture a destroyed forest, but I know just how depressing the site is. In Indonesia, and elsewhere, we've seen vast tracks...

Coal Power Plant Protests in Indonesia

Slideshow | 24 September, 2014

Activists Block Coal Train in the UK

Slideshow | 24 September, 2014

Coal: Darkness in the Lignite era

Blog entry by Rex Weyler | 24 September, 2014 1 comment

Coal, known as "King coal" or "black gold" for its historic economic influence, is also known as the "dirtiest fuel," the most carbon-intensive and toxic hydrocarbon. The industry has promoted "clean coal," but since they have...

Projection At The UN Climate Summit

Image | 23 September, 2014 at 18:00

Greenpeace USA activists project the message "Listen to the People, Not the Polluters" on the United Nations building, after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to demand climate action over the weekend. The projection was then...

51 - 60 of 4038 results.

Categories