Wessex GHN Logo

Climate Change - What are we doing about it?


Is there any urgency to do anything at all?

The impact of climate change will only become worse if we do not take action. Two particularly important factors give a sense urgency. These are : 

  • Developing countries are rapidly becoming industrialised and there is significant population growth (the earth’s population was around 8 billion in 2028 and is expected to be around 9.5 billion by middle of the century). These will lead to more carbon dioxide being produced unless something is done to reduce carbon emissions. 
  • The natural inertia in the climate system means that we will see a rise in temperatures over the next 30 years whatever we do about reducing carbon dioxide emissions now. This means that we also need to adapt to the inevitable effects that this will have.


What has been happening?

The United Nations has been the organisation working to motivate governments to bring about changes to address climate change. There have been many conferences moving the agenda on, but, 20 years on from it being recognised that there was a problem, greenhouse gases have risen to unprecedented levels. 



1972 : Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm

This was the first big global environment conference to co-ordinate international policy. It recognised the need for a common outlook and it agreed 26 principles "to inspire and guide the peoples of the world in the preservation and enhancement of the human environment". 

It also agreed the founding of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), an international institution to co-ordinate the environmental activities of the UN.


1992 : Earth Summit : Rio de Janeiro

This Conference on Environment and Development agreed 26 principles that would underpin its work and agreed several measures to halt the environmental degradation and pollution that continued to exist some 20 years after the Stockholm Conference. It also established the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, under the auspices of which international negotiations on climate change would take place.  

1994 : United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (First Steps to a Safer Future) was one of the first UN documents to recognise that there was a problem related to Climate Change. It came into force on 21 March 1994. 

The ultimate objective of the Convention was to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations "at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system." It stated that "such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner." It put an onus on developed nations to lead the way. 


1997 : The Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol was an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which commited its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets.

Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol placed a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities."

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were adopted at COP 7 in Marrakesh, Morocco, in 2001, and are referred to as the "Marrakesh Accords." Its first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012.


2007 : Bali Road Map

The Bali Road Map was adopted in December 2007 in Bali. The Road Map was a set of a forward-looking decisions that represented the essential work that needed to be done to reach a secure climate future.

It included the Bali Action Plan, a comprehensive process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action up to and beyond 2012. 

The Action Plan was divided into five main categories: shared vision, mitigation, adaptation, technology and financing. The shared vision refered to a long-term vision for action on climate change, including a long-term goal for emission reductions. 


2010 : The Cancum Agreements

The Cancum Agreements were reached on 11th December in Cancun, Mexico, at the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference.  

The Agreements included the most comprehensive package ever agreed by governments to help developing nations deal with climate change. It encompassed finance, technology and capacity-building support to help such countries meet urgent needs to adapt to climate change, and to speed up their plans to adopt sustainable paths to low emission economies that could also resist the negative impacts of climate change.


2011 : Durban Outcomes

The UN Climate Change Conference in Durban was a turning point in the climate change negotiations. Governments recognized the need to draw up the blueprint for a fresh universal, legal agreement to deal with climate change beyond 2020, where all will play their part to the best of their ability and all will be able to reap the benefits of success together.

All governments committed in Durban to a comprehensive plan that would come closer over time to delivering the ultimate objective of the Climate Change Convention i.e. to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent our dangerous interference with the climate system and at the same time will preserve the right to sustainable development.

The challenge : The challenge, then and now, was to push climate action forward as rapidly as possible, both inside and outside the climate change negotiations.

The reality : The reality was that a looming gap remained between national and international actions and intentions to reduce emissions and the actual level required to keep average global temperatures rising no more than two degrees above their pre-industrial level, above which science showed that there is a much higher risk of very serious climate impacts.

Moreover, even if the two-degree scenario was met, developing countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, will still need much more support to adapt to the change that is already embedded in the global climate system. 


2012 : Doha Climate Gateway

The Doha Climate Gateway was a consolidation of the gains of the previous three years of international climate change negotiations and opened the gateway to necessary greater ambition and action on all levels.

Among the many decisions taken, governments:

  • Strengthened their resolve and set out a timetable to adopt a universal climate agreement by 2015, which will come into effect in 2020.
  • Streamlined the negotiations, completing the work under the Bali Action Plan to concentrate on the new work towards a 2015 agreement under a single negotiating stream in the Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. 
  • Emphasized the need to increase their ambition to cut green house gases  and to help vulnerable countries to adapt 
  • Launched a new commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, thereby ensuring that this treaty's important legal and accounting models remain in place and underlining the principle that developed countries lead mandated action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Made further progress towards establishing the financial and technology support and new institutions to enable clean energy investments and sustainable growth in developing countries. 


2014 : Mitigation of Climate Change - Third volume of the 5th Assessment Report on Climate Change (Berlin, 12th April, 2014)

The reports published by the working groups (available through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) website) have been 

  • Working Group 1 : The Physical Sciences basis for climate change (September, 2013)
  • Working Group 2 : Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (March, 2014)
  • Working Group 3 : Mitigation of Climate Change (12 April, 2014)

The 4th report will be finalised on 31st October, 2015 and will be a synthesis of the three report.

The report was finalised after a six day meeting attended by delegates from over 100 countries and a number of the Report’s expert authors.

Important features of the report were that 

  • global emissions of greenhouse gases have risen to unprecedented levels despite a growing number of policies to reduce climate change. Emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades. 
  • without additional efforts to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions beyond those in place today, emissions growth is expected to persist driven by growth in global population and economic activities.
  • without additional mitigation, global mean surface temperature would increase in 2100 from 3.7 to 4.8°C compared to pre‐industrial levels

The report pointed, therefore, to the  increasing urgency to introduce measures for both mitigation and adaptation. 


Further information about the detail of what is being done across the world can be found from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


UN Climate Change Summit, 2014

Political leaders expressed more positive intentions at this summit held on 23rd September, 2014, and there was a sense of more recognition of the needs to take action. 

The fact that urban areas are responsible for around 70% of carbon emissions has prompted recognition of the role of cities and mayors in taking action to reduce emissions. To help find ways of funding the infrastructure projects that need to be developed, the UN has established a Climate Finance Leadership Alliance, which has produced an Action Statement

Back to the top


Popular support for action on Climate Change

The People's Climate Mobilisation is a movement to promote the engagement of the population in the issues of climate change. Prior to the Summit on Climate Change on 23rd September, 2014, it organised marches in several cities across the world to draw attention to the issues involved. 

The video, Disruption, describes the science and history of UN efforts to bring about action to avoid climate change. It provides a background to the work behind organising the marches. 

Comments from someone who attended the march in London on 21st September, 2014. 



A note to our visitors
AcceptWe have updated our Privacy Policy in compliance with EU cookie legislation. Take a look at our Privacy Policy to learn how we use cookies to collect anonymous site usage information. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our Privacy policy.
You'll keep being notified until you click the “Accept” button