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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

 

Government spying undermines climate action

Blog entry by Andrew Kerr | 27 November, 2014

Unless you’ve been living in a hole in the ground or in a galaxy far, far away you won’t have missed media revelations about government security services snooping on our every communication. Personal phone calls and e-mails are...

For oil companies, our rights are just another obstacle

Blog entry by Martin L., Joris T., Leon V. and Faiza O. | 21 November, 2014 3 comments

Once upon a time fossil fuel exploration took place far away, out of sight and out of mind. But as oil and gas giants become ever more desperate for new reserves they’re prepared to drill in places that were previously unthinkable.

The Arctic Sunrise, her journey continues

Blog entry by Arin de Hoog | 19 November, 2014 2 comments

Last Saturday, the ecologically pristine area around the Canary Islands was the watery stage of the next chapter in the story of the Arctic Sunrise. Last year, she carried Greenpeace activists across icy waters North of Russia, where...

Video: Activist hospitalised after boats rammed during peaceful protest against oil...

Blog entry by Andrew | 15 November, 2014 37 comments

Update - 18 November: The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation has orderd the detention of the Arctic Sunrise . Mario Rodriguez, director of Greenpeace Spain, said in response... "It’s telling that the Spanish...

Social PreCOP – More than just a document at stake

Blog entry by Mauro Fernandez | 13 November, 2014

The Social PreCOP held in Venezuela left civil society, governments and the delegation of the hosting country with mixed feelings. Can I accept the outcome as is? The answer is 'no'. After a long fight to establish an official...

Historic US-China deal marks the beginning of the end of China’s coal chapter

Blog entry by Li Shuo | 12 November, 2014 4 comments

Today could be the most important day so far this century in climate and energy politics. China and United States have come to an historic agreement , negotiated privately over a period of months, that represents China's first...

Sadness turns to joy as Turkish coal project halted

Blog entry by Deniz Bayram | 12 November, 2014 3 comments

The community of the western Turkish village of Yirca has experienced a rollercoaster of sadness and elation in recent days, winning an important court battle against a coal project but losing 6,000 valuable olive trees. Just...

A polar bear nursery, a Russian oil company and one of the most beautiful islands on...

Blog entry by Maria Favorsky | 12 November, 2014

Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean is a distant land of polar bears and whales, northern lights and shining ice. It's also a nature reserve and one of only two UNESCO Natural Heritage sites in the Arctic. It should be the most peaceful...

It's time for OSPAR to protect the Arctic

Blog entry by Dr. Neil Hamilton | 12 November, 2014

OSPAR? Never heard of it? I'm not surprised. A cosy little club of countries which once had lofty aims of cleaning up the North Atlantic, but now seems destined to preside over the destruction of one of the world's most iconic regions:...

It is simple: It is People Power

Blog entry by Paula Tejón Carbajal | 7 November, 2014 7 comments

A shift to a cleaner and brighter energy future is not just a matter of technology or economics anymore. It is also a matter of political will. And although our leaders don't seem to get it, people do. The recent boom of renewable...

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