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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

 

Dutch request maritime court to order release of Arctic 30

Blog entry by Aaron Gray-Block | October 21, 2013 7 comments

The Netherlands lodged a lawsuit against Russia today at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, seeking the release of the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise and its passengers. This is an...

Battling extreme weather on Mt Everest to join the call to #FreeTheArctic30

Blog entry by Zhong Yu | October 18, 2013 5 comments

I've been to Mount Everest thirteen times, mostly to climb, but twice to investigate glacial evidence of climate change. This year I thought I came back to ride. My friend Nancy and I rode 1,500 kilometres on bicycles over the course...

6 men in balaclavas break into grounds of Greenpeace office in Russia

Blog entry by James Sadri | October 18, 2013 20 comments

Security camera footage from the Greenpeace office in Murmansk - where campaigners and lawyers are working to free the Arctic 30 - shows six men in balaclavas jumping the fence and breaking into the grounds of the shared building. ...

Award-winning photographer dedicates prize to Denis Sinyakov and Arctic 30

Blog entry by Daniel Beltrá, Freelance Photographer | October 17, 2013 4 comments

It was a very special night for me: I received second place at the prestigious Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year. My prize was for a series of photographs I had taken for Greenpeace International as John Novis had commissioned...

30 things you can do for the Arctic 30

Blog entry by JulietteH | October 16, 2013 26 comments

We continue to be overwhelmed by the amount of support, messages, letters, posters, sent to us for the Arctic 30. Many of you have written to us asking what more you can do to help them, especially when you are far away from cities...

Mothers of the disappeared want the Arctic 30 to come home

Blog entry by Dannielle Taaffe | October 16, 2013 37 comments

Google them and the words 'bravery', 'audacity', and 'justice' are among the first to pop up. Thousands of articles, stacks of books and scores of songs – even one by U2 - have been dedicated to them. The Mothers of the Plaza...

Peter Willcox, be(a)ring witness

Blog entry by Barbara Stowe | October 15, 2013

Captain Peter Willcox is the very definition of a mensch. The first thing he taught me was courage. I met him in Vancouver, Canada, in the spring of 2007, when he was skippering the Esperanza for the Greenpeace USA Bering Witness tour.

Our Captain Fantastic

Blog entry by Bunny McDiarmid | October 14, 2013 5 comments

Pete Willcox, who has just been refused bail and remains alone in a Russian jail cell, was my skipper on board the first Rainbow Warrior in 1984. As a crew we spent five months in a hellhole boat yard in Florida turning  the...

Gazprom Protest At Barcolana Regatta

Image | October 13, 2013 at 22:30

Greenpeace activists aboard inflatables hold banners reading: “Get Out Of The Arctic, Save The Arctic & #FreeTheArctic30”; and follow the ‘Esimit Europa 2’ as it nears the finish of the Barcolana Regatta in Trieste, to protest against the...

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