This page has been archived, and may no longer be up to date

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

 

My Arctic Home

Blog entry by Clara Natanine | 25 August, 2016

I live in Kangiqtugaapik (Clyde River) in the Canadian Arctic. Most people have never heard of my town. It's 450km north of the Arctic Circle with a population of roughly 1,000. We are isolated from much of the world, but we feel very...

Thanks Rio! The (climate) winners and losers of the Olympic Games

Blog entry by Shuk-Wah Chung | 22 August, 2016

We’ve watched them soar, sprint and swim. For two weeks the world has been gripped by the Games – we’ve celebrated the Gold wins, been perplexed by ultra-human feats and admired the tests of strength and endurance. And next month we’ll...

Sailing to the Arctic with the people who call it home

Blog entry by Farrah Khan | 18 August, 2016 1 comment

The courageous Inuit community of Clyde River is standing up to protect their Arctic home from devastating seismic blasting. The circumpolar Arctic is home to four million people representing a diversity of cultures. As...

Which country is most likely to repair their electronic gadgets?

Blog entry by Chih An Lee | 15 August, 2016

What happens when your mobile phone dies? Which country is most likely to recycle? And do people repair their phones or just simply throw them away? We did the research to find out... Believe it or not, the humble smartphone ...

Globalisation’s dark side

Blog entry by Rex Weyler | 10 August, 2016

Although concerns about immigration appeared as factors in Britain’s exit from the European Union, the Brexit vote was also a referendum on the failures of globalisation. Traditional economists promoted globalisation based on the...

4 stories of Indigenous Peoples’ struggle for climate justice

Blog entry by Martin Vainstein | 9 August, 2016

Racism, deforestation, powerful mining companies, colonialism, the oil industry – Indigenous People across the world are fighting so many things in the struggle for climate justice. From Canada to Honduras to Brazil to Finland...

Rio Olympics: Why the opening ceremony’s spotlight on climate change matters

Blog entry by Diego Gonzaga | 9 August, 2016 2 comments

As a Brazilian, it saddens me to see so much bad press around my country now that the Olympics Games are happening. Two years ago, during the World Cup, it was a great conversation starter. People would ask if I was excited about it,...

Why Pacific Islanders will lead the fight against climate change

Blog entry by Joeteshna Zenos | 4 August, 2016 1 comment

Most of us know the story of coal miners and their caged canaries. When my seven-year-old daughter heard it, she was sad that the canaries had to give up their lives to warn the miners to get out. She asked me if miners still use...

Five reasons why CEOs of fossil fuel giants must answer to the Filipino people

Blog entry by Jennifer Morgan | 28 July, 2016

For the first time ever, a national human rights body has ordered the world's largest fossil fuel companies to respond to allegations that they have contributed to human rights abuses in the Philippines. Last year, disaster survivors...

#WorldOnFire: Forest-fire smog has no borders

Blog entry by Khalimat Tekeeva | 28 July, 2016 2 comments

The vast, lush, green of Siberia’s forests is black and smouldering. The fires rage on, already scorching an area the size of Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands combined - seven million hectares. I can see the haze 4500km away...

1 - 10 of 4227 results.

Categories