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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

 

Make-or-break moment for Arctic protection

Blog entry by Magnus Eckeskog | 29 February, 2016 3 comments

This week, an unremarkable event can play a remarkable role to protect life in the Arctic. A part of the permanent ice cover on which life in the Arctic depends can soon be protected from destructive activities. If this protection...

Love the Oscars? You’ll love these environmental films too

Blog entry by Shuk-Wah Chung | 29 February, 2016 4 comments

Rising seas, severe droughts, catastrophic storms, people foraging for food. Sounds like a backdrop for a post-apocalyptic film but this is climate change, and it’s the real-life blockbuster happening right now. Whether it’s Al...

Interview with a polar bear expert

Blog entry by Larissa Beumer | 27 February, 2016

This year, celebrate International Polar Bear Day by learning more about these amazing animals from a scientist who has studied them for decades.   Thor S. Larsen is a pioneer in polar bear research. He began his academic...

Adorable Japanese couple devastated by Fukushima turn lives around with solar

Blog entry by Ai Kashiwagi | 26 February, 2016

For the past 30 years, Shin and Tatsuko Okawara spent their lives working as organic farmers. With their own organic farm, rural work was in their blood - tilling, planting and harvesting crops from the same soil their family worked on...

Hope floats at heavenly lake

Blog entry by Elena Sakirko and Konstantin Fomin | 23 February, 2016

This month the fate of a Russian jewel will be decided in a small town in Western Siberia. The town is Beloyarsky and the jewel is the Numto nature preserve. The oil company Surgutneftegas already extracts oil from the park but now...

Ancient trees are burning in Tasmania...and some will never grow back

Blog entry by Jessica Panegyres | 23 February, 2016 1 comment

For the past month fires have ravaged through parts of Tasmania’s World Heritage listed forests, destroying 1,000 year old trees. Is this the new normal? Over 100,000 hectares have been damaged by bushfires, including parts of...

Colombia bans coal mining in the páramos!

Blog entry by Silvia Gomez | 12 February, 2016 4 comments

The páramos of Colombia – a region of the Andes too high for trees to grow and too low to be covered in snow – holds an ecosystem unlike any other on earth. One that millions of people rely on. Home to thousands of unique species,...

Evaluating the Paris Deal

Blog entry by Rex Weyler | 5 February, 2016 5 comments

Hope and failure coexist in the Paris climate agreement. One may want to curse or cheer the deal, but it is history now, and we have to get on with it. The agreement provides an opportunity to assess our ecological progress and prepare...

Global Solar Thermal Electricity

Publication | 4 February, 2016 at 17:30

This is the 4th joint report of the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association (ESTELA) Greenpeace International and SolarPACES since 2003.

Solar is changing lives in Brazil. Here’s how.

Blog entry by Rebecca Field | 3 February, 2016

Around the world, solar power is transforming communities and changing lives. From India to Canada, this clean and abundant energy source is creating jobs, providing clean water and powering schools. In Brazil, the solar...

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