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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

 

#Cofrentes17 acquitted of nuclear protest charges

Blog entry by Andrew Kerr | 17 December, 2014 2 comments

In a victory for the freedom to engage in peaceful protest, 16 activists from Greenpeace Spain, along with a freelance photojournalist – together known as the #Cofrentes17 – were yesterday acquitted by a court in Valencia of causing...

From typhoon hit Philippines, a call for climate justice

Blog entry by Aaron Gray-Block | 11 December, 2014

Smashed houses, fallen trees and streets littered with debris greeted us when Greenpeace arrived in Dolores, Eastern Samar, on Tuesday after Typhoon Hagupit made a direct hit on the seaside town. Much of the region's crops had been...

Nature does not negotiate: climate catastrophe is with us now!

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 7 December, 2014 21 comments

As Typhoon Hagupit hits the Philippines, one of the biggest peacetime evacuations in history has been launched to prevent a repeat of the massive loss of life which devastated communities when Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the same area...

#Cofrentes17: why Spain's Constitution Day is important to us all

Blog entry by Andrew Kerr | 6 December, 2014 1 comment

Right now, 16 Greenpeace activists and an independent photojournalist are standing trial in Valencia for a peaceful protest they staged against the risks posed by the 30-year old Cofrentes nuclear power plant, near Valencia. They...

Vote! #RenameHagupit

Blog entry by Stephanie Brancaforte | 5 December, 2014 5 comments

Typhoon Hagupit is barreling toward the Philippines, a year almost to the day since supertyphoon Haiyan killed thousands and devastated an entire city. While we can't directly attribute any one superstorm to climate change, we do know...

The power of the energy transition is spreading fast

Blog entry by Matjaž Dovečar | 5 December, 2014

Greenpeace brought mayors from all over Europe to Bavaria to show them the best practices of German energy transition. First impressions: the 'Energiewende' is contagious! We travelled with eight  mayors from Hungary, Turkey,...

#Cofrentes17: Renewable bravery!

Blog entry by Mauro Fernández | 3 December, 2014

There are moments to talk and moments to act. Almost four years ago, sixteen Greenpeace activists agreed that the huge risk posed by the Cofrentes nuclear station near Valencia, Spain, required concrete and public action. On 15...

Devastation from coal mining in South Kalimantan, Indonesia

Blog entry by Arif Fiyanto | 3 December, 2014 15 comments

In the five years or so that I have been a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia I have often visited scenes of environmental destruction caused by corporate and human greed. So many beautiful areas of our...

A rainbow from Machu Picchu to Düsseldorf

Blog entry by Sven Teske | 1 December, 2014 1 comment

Peru! What comes to mind when you think of Peru? Right! The mysterious Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, which attract and inspire so many people from around the world, and still have scientists puzzling over their origin. Last night,...

Lima: A positive end to a breakthrough year for the climate movement?

Blog entry by Daniel Mittler | 28 November, 2014 6 comments

There is no question: 2014 has been a key year for the politics of climate change already, even before the latest round of climate talks get under way in Lima, Peru, next week. This is the year that you, and people like you, turned ...

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