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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

 

A chance for greater protection of the Arctic

Blog entry by Dr. David Santillo | 2 March, 2015 1 comment

Government members from all over Europe are meeting this week for the OSPAR (named after the Oslo and Paris Conventions) Convention's Biodiversity Committee (BDC) in Cork, Ireland. They have an opportunity to move towards providing...

Greenpeace on NY Times Sunday front page - #Fakexpert Willie Soon

Blog entry by Connor Gibson | 23 February, 2015 1 comment

Extra Extra! Read all about climate denial scientist Willie Soon's dirty money from petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch, coal utility Southern Company, oil giant ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies to deny the science of...

Fossil Fuel's last stand

Blog entry by Arin de Hoog | 12 February, 2015 6 comments

The struggle to remain relevant can be a tough one. For the fossil fuel industry, remaining relevant can mean stacks of money and political clout, or, staring into the darkness of very empty pockets. In the face of growing ...

Our addiction to fossil fuel is taking us on the road to nowhere

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 10 February, 2015

On Saturday I joined a panel at the Munich Security Conference in Germany and talked about global security and energy security. You might be surprised to see Greenpeace at a security conference. The room was full of members of the...

A year to save the world? How crucial is 2015?

Blog entry by Daniel Mittler | 6 February, 2015 1 comment

2015 has barely begun, but it has already been called "the most crucial year in decades for the climate battle" and a "watershed" year for sustainable development worldwide. Naomi Klein is convinced that 2015 is a once-in-a-generat...

6 reasons the Great Barrier Reef needs you to divest right now

Blog entry by Leanne Minshull | 3 February, 2015 3 comments

1. The plot is cliché It's like something from a James Bond script where an evil villain decides to dig up a massive amount of coal and detonate one of the world's largest carbon bombs in order to make money for a company with a...

The Arctic needs your creativity

Blog entry by James Turner | 2 February, 2015 3 comments

Since we launched the Save The Arctic campaign we've seen an amazing amount of creativity and visual design, both from our talented supporters and the people who work here at Greenpeace. But sometimes it's hard to find the right tools...

Month In Pictures - January

Slideshow | 31 January, 2015

Repsol and the Spanish government, no honour among thieves

Blog entry by Julio Barea | 27 January, 2015 2 comments

Nearly two months since the Spanish navy recklessly rammed and injured peaceful protestors who were standing up to Repsol, the Spanish oil giant announced their decision to scrap their oil exploration off the Canary Islands' coast.

A textbook example of an Arctic conference out of sync

Blog entry by Jon Burgwald | 24 January, 2015 1 comment

Few would doubt that climate change exists and that it is man-made. Why then is Big Oil allowed to steal the show at one of the Arctic's most important events? This week scientists, NGOs and ministers from as far away from...

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