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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

 

We will defeat climate change - through cooperation

Blog entry by Jennifer Morgan and Bunny McDiarmid | 22 April, 2016 1 comment

Today, on Earth Day, more than 165 countries sign a global agreement - Paris Climate Agreement  - to protect our environment. This is a  record turnout  for an international agreement. It is an encouraging sign. After many years of...

5 reasons why the world needs a moratorium on new coal mines

Blog entry by Leanne Minshull | 20 April, 2016

Only four months ago, the world recognised the need to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees C. The Paris climate agreement signalled the end of the era of fossil fuels, particularly coal, the dirtiest source of power. But...

Twelve Nobel Prize winners, a Beatle, and the Pope can't all be wrong

Blog entry by Nick Young | 15 April, 2016 1 comment

On 18 September 2013, two Greenpeace International activists were arrested during a peaceful protest in the Russian Arctic. A week later, the entire 30-member crew of their ship was in a Russian jail awaiting trial on charges of...

1000 art works and counting for Arctic protection

Blog entry by Ethan Gilbert | 14 April, 2016

One day, Albert Einstein – that grey-haired master of imagination and thinker of all things outside the box – had something to say. “Creativity,” he mused, “is contagious. Pass it on.” His theory of relativity must not have been the...

Can a new ocean treaty protect the Arctic?

Blog entry by Sarah North and Magnus Eckeskog | 8 April, 2016 1 comment

Two thirds of our oceans are beyond national borders and belong to all of us. But right now it’s like the wild west out there – the oceans and seabeds are at the mercy of reckless exploitation because existing ocean law focuses far...

Military spending is going up. Don’t let it take us down

Blog entry by Jen Maman | 5 April, 2016 3 comments

Weapons spending worldwide increased in 2015 and now stands at a mind boggling $1676 billion, according to a new data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute today. This 1% increase from 2014 marks an...

How New Zealand stood up to the fossil fools

Blog entry by Nick Young | 23 March, 2016

Greenpeace New Zealand coordinated one of the largest civil disobedience climate protests in their country’s history... and it was a beautiful thing. More than 200 people descended on New Zealand’s largest oil industry conference...

How coal is deepening the water crisis in India

Blog entry by Subrata Biswas | 22 March, 2016 1 comment

New Greenpeace International  research released today , on World Water Day, finds that coal power plants around the world consume enough freshwater to sustain one billion people. One photographer in India documented the impacts on...

The Great Water Grab

Publication | 22 March, 2016 at 1:15

Water is essential for all life on earth and plays a central role in human development: from sanitation and health, to food and energy production, to industrial activities and economic development.

World Water Day 2016

Slideshow | 21 March, 2016

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