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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

 

Friends in high places - the Arctic 30 receive political support all over the world

Blog entry by Daniel Mittler | November 8, 2013 1 comment

It's not often that the President of Brazil, the Vice President of Iran, the Chancellor of Germany, the Argentinian Senate, the EU parliament, Burma's opposition leader, 13 Nobel Peace Prize winners, and hundreds of parliamentarians...

Arctic 30 - 50 days of injustice in their own words

Blog entry by Esther Freeman | November 7, 2013 1 comment

As we reach 50 days of detention of the Arctic 30, here is a collection of their tweets and letters, telling their story in their own words. "BREAKING: Helicopter hovering above Arctic Sunrise, rope dropping down. We think the...

In Russia, the future of the Arctic is up for debate

Blog entry by Martin Lloyd | November 6, 2013

The Russian public are far less sure than Gazprom about the question of drilling in the Arctic. In a poll produced by Russian research agency FOM , 42% said drilling and mining in the Arctic was not appropriate. Just behind the 45%...

Do the math, fossil fuel investments add up to climate chaos

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | November 1, 2013

If it's wrong to wreck the planet, then it's wrong to profit from that wreckage. We are facing a planetary emergency: climate change threatens the world and our collective future. Business and political leaders know this yet they do...

Gazprom vs. Greenpeace Arctic 30

Blog entry by Rex Weyler | October 31, 2013 9 comments

Russia's overreaction to the Greenpeace Arctic protest — and their ludicrous waffling on the actual charges — will not work out well for Russia. Their extraordinary response will more likely help the global climate movement meet its...

Greenpeace International responds to allegations from Russian authorities

Feature story | October 28, 2013 at 16:30

On September 18th, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise was involved in a peaceful protest at Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform, which is expected to become the first to produce oil from ice filled Arctic seas.

Dear Alex

Blog entry by Amrekha Sharma | October 25, 2013 3 comments

Alexandra Harris, activist aboard the Arctic Sunrise and member of the Arctic 30, has been in a cell in Murmansk for more than a month on charges first of piracy, and now of "hooliganism" in response to their non-violent protest...

Strong EU support for Arctic 30 does not go unnoticed

Blog entry by Joris den Blanken | October 25, 2013

Parliaments in democracies the world over are places of vigorous discussion and sometimes fierce debate. Views on either side of the political spectrum are often radically divergent. With members from political parties in all of the...

Arctic 30 say thank you for your support

Blog entry by Birgitte Lesanner | October 25, 2013 2 comments

Many of you, all around the world, have been kind enough to show your support for the Arctic 30 who continue to be detained in Russia with dark prospects. From the little news we get out of the Murmansk detention centre, one thing is...

Don’t believe the hype – hooliganism is hardly better than piracy

Blog entry by Jess Wilson | October 23, 2013 18 comments

Earlier this evening Russian authorities offered the Arctic 30 — currently being held in a freezing jail in Murmansk — what looked like a legal olive branch by dropping piracy charges and replacing them with ones of "hooliganism."* ...

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