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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

 

Are limits to growth real?

Blog entry by Rex Weyler | 17 January, 2015 3 comments

In 2002, global warming denialist and anti-environmental gadfly Bjørn Lomborg consigned the 1972 book, The Limits to Growth, to "the dustbin of history." However, 42 years of data now appear to vindicate the book’s premise, that the...

Priya Pillai speaks to UK MPs despite being barred from travelling to the UK

Blog entry by Pete Speller | 16 January, 2015 5 comments

Undeterred by the government of India trying to halt her speech when she was barred from boarding her flight to London, Greenpeace India campaigner Priya Pillai stuck to her commitment of taking the voices of struggle from Mahan to a...

What's the cost of standing up for fundamental rights in India?

Blog entry by Priya Pillai | 14 January, 2015 4 comments

Sunday marked yet another black day for fundamental rights in India. Though these charter of rights are enshrined in our constituion, my experience on Sunday morning at the Delhi airport show that these are not equally accessible to...

Tropical deforestation is bad news – the science keeps telling us

Blog entry by Dr Janet Cotter | 9 January, 2015 10 comments

Deforestation is very bad news for the environment and for the climate. It is bad news for biodiversity and releases greenhouses gases into the atmosphere – we know that. But the science is increasingly certain that deforestation is...

Nous sommes tous Charlie

Blog entry by Jean-François Julliard | 8 January, 2015

Greenpeace extends its sincerest condolences to the families of the victims of yesterday's heinous attack on the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in Paris. Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were fervent advocates of democracy...

5 reasons 2014 was an amazing year for Arctic protection

Blog entry by Trillia Fidei | 29 December, 2014

It's been a historic year for our campaign to Save the Arctic. Hard to believe as it is, we only launched back in 2012, but our movement has grown to over six million and is getting stronger every day. Here are five major things we...

7 Greenpeace victories you made possible in 2014

Blog entry by Greenpeace USA | 27 December, 2014

It's been a great year for Greenpeace and our supporters. Getting toxic chemicals out of our clothes. Putting sustainable seafood in our grocery stores. Giant internet companies breaking away from climate-denying lobbyists. We could go...

10 reasons why reindeer are the coolest animals in the Arctic

Blog entry by Trillia Fidei | 20 December, 2014 2 comments

1. Their antlers are velvety fingerprints. Reindeer antlers are bony appendages that grow every year. The antlers grow quickly – up to 2 cm per day – in a blood-supply-rich material called "velvet", which is exactly what it...

Seeds Distribution for Typhoon Affected Farmers in The Philippine

Image | 19 December, 2014 at 14:30

Greenpeace volunteers prepare to distribute rice seeds for planting, to farmers whose fields where totally destroyed by Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit). A group of farmers from the islands of Cebu, Bohol and Negros – strong movers of sustainable and...

2014: A Year In Pictures

Slideshow | 19 December, 2014

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