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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

 

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...

WATCH: Thousands of people in nearly 50 countries stand in solidarity with Arctic 30

Blog entry by Cassady Sharp | October 9, 2013

It’s a rare and beautiful thing when people all across the world unite in defense of peaceful protest and action on climate change. That’s what happened this past weekend when thousands of people took part in solidarity events for the...

We rebut Gazprom's absurd claims about the Arctic 30

Blog entry by Ben Ayliffe | October 8, 2013 1 comment

In a recent news item on the BBC , Artur Akopov, chief of operations on the Prirazlomnaya, made a number of absurd claims about the safety of the peaceful Greenpeace action on the side of Gazprom's giant oil platform. In a ...

'Arctic 30' Global Day Of Solidarity

Slideshow | October 7, 2013

Sini, the quiet hero

Blog entry by Harri Lammi | October 7, 2013 78 comments

My friend Sini Saarela is in jail in Murmansk, along with many other Greenpeace International activists. They are some of the first people in the world to face long jail sentences because they followed their conviction and acted...

An assault on the very principle of peaceful protest

Blog entry by Jess Wilson | October 3, 2013 18 comments

It is bitterly ironic that as the world celebrated Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday as International Non-Violence Day, 30 non-violent, peaceful protestors sat locked up in jail cells in Russia. Yesterday, 13 activists and one freelance...

Gazprom Banner At Basel Football Stadium, Switzerland

Image | October 2, 2013 at 0:01

Greenpeace activists unfurl a 28m wide banner reading ‘Gazprom, Don’t Foul The Arctic’ at Basel's St. Jakob Park stadium, shortly after kick-off in the Champions League game between FC Basel and Gazprom sponsored, FC Schalke 04. The...

Faiza: "The uncertainty is driving me crazy"

Blog entry by Faiza Oulahsen | October 1, 2013 81 comments

"I have no idea how this will end, how long it will take. The uncertainty is driving me crazy," writes Greenpeace Netherlands campaigner Faiza Oulahsen in a letter from her cell in Murmansk, Russia. She writes about her experiences...

Free the Arctic 30, and lock up fossil fuels

Blog entry by Truls Gulowsen, Head of Greenpeace Norway | September 29, 2013 6 comments

On Friday, peaceful activists from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise  woke up in a freezing jail cell in Russia for trying to protect the Arctic and fight global warming. At the same time the UN panel on Climate Change released its...

What do the experts say?

Feature story | September 29, 2013 at 10:00

A great number of legal experts have commented on the boarding and seizure of the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise and on the piracy and hooliganism charges against the Arctic 30.

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