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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

 

Air, water, and climate – the triple whammy that ends China’s coal boom

Blog entry by Li Shuo and Kaisa Kosonen | 11 April, 2014

This week, Beijing’s air pollution is way above safe levels again, the world’s largest coal company has been forced to change its water strategy , and the UN panel looking at options to act against climate change is expected to...

Years of Living Dangerously: on a screen near you now!

Blog entry by Andrew Davies | 11 April, 2014 4 comments

If they don’t already care about climate change, then this might just be the thing that finally inspires and motivates your friends and family to. This isn’t just another Al Gore documentary , but admittedly, there are big names in...

How Germany is revolutionising its energy system. And who's standing in the way.

Blog entry by Karsten Smid | 9 April, 2014 6 comments

As the UN climate panel meets in Berlin this week to finalise its report on options for combating climate change, here's how Germany is rising to the challenge. Rapidly reduce your reliance on coal? AND phase out nuclear power at...

Why the world's biggest coal company has backed down

Blog entry by Deng Ping and Harri Lammi | 8 April, 2014 3 comments

Last year, Greenpeace decided to do something we had never done before during our 13 years of work in China: target and confront a state owned coal company. And not just any company. The biggest and boldest, a Chinese government...

How the tech industry can help save the climate

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 7 April, 2014

Connecting people across continents. Delivering breaking news. Enabling government transparency. Facilitating social revolutions. Stopping global warming? The Internet is capable of doing so much, but perhaps the idea that it can...

Tired of climate doom and gloom? Read this.

Blog entry by Kaisa Kosonen | 7 April, 2014 2 comments

I bet you read the "news" last week. Climate change impacts are now everywhere and it's going to get much worse if we continue polluting our way into the future. It's frustrating. It's infuriating. And it makes you want to switch...

The unquenchable thirst of an expanding coal industry

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 4 April, 2014

Article originally published in the Guardian. An oasis is a body of water, ringed by greenery and beyond that, a lifeless, endless landscape that coughs up dust and sand whenever the wind touches it. It is a globally understood...

Civil Society Groups Call for Climate Action

Image | 31 March, 2014 at 10:55

Representatives from international civil society groups Friends of the Earth GCCA, Greenpeace, Oxfam and WWF, plus Japanese groups Kiko Network and CASA, call for world leaders to take action against climate change. The UN's Intergovernmental...

Climate science scares me too, but we can choose a better future

Blog entry by Kaisa Kosonen | 31 March, 2014 1 comment

I had a birthday on Saturday, but there was no time to celebrate. Instead, I was busy monitoring intensive discussions on climate change in Yokohama, Japan, where climate scientists from around the world were finalising their latest...

Deforestation: A vicious cocktail for the climate

Blog entry by Dr. Janet Cotter and Sebastian Bock | 27 March, 2014 3 comments

Every few years, thousands of the world's most renowned climate scientists work together as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to present us with the latest scientific assessment of how we are doing in terms...

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