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Climate Change


Climate Change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns.

Since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels, which generates greenhouse gases that trap the sun's heat and raise temperatures. Examples of greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change include carbon dioxide and methane. Energy, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and land use are among the main emitters. Clearing land and forests can also release carbon dioxide. Landfills for garbage are a major source of methane emissions.

Greenhouse gas concentrations are at their highest levels in 2 million years, and emissions continue to rise. As a result, the Earth is now about 1.1° warmer than it was in the late 1800s, and the last decade (2011-2020) was the warmest on record. The consequences of climate change include, among others, intense droughts, water scarcity, severe fires, rising sea levels, flooding, melting polar ice, catastrophic storms and declining biodiversity. The impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action now, adapting to these impacts in future will be more difficult and costly.

The UNFCCC secretariat (UN Climate Change) is the United Nations entity tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change. UNFCCC stands for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Convention has near universal membership (198 Parties) and is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Agreement, whose main aim is to keep the global average temperature rise this century as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

In 1988, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide an objective source of scientific information about climate change.

Learn about different aspects of climate change discussions - like Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), mitigation, adaptation and resilience, loss and damage, the Global Stocktake, climate finance, and more - on the UN Climate Change website under Topics.

Read more about Climate Change and the United Nations

In the spotlight

UN report warns much more needs to be done to address climate change

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change issued a report (September 2023) warning that the world is not on track to meet the long-term goals set out in the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise, and calling for a commitment to decisive action and greater ambition. Read more about this Synthesis report by the co-facilitators on the technical dialogue of the first global stocktake, in the press release of UN Climate Change, and in the UN News article. Learn more about the Global Stocktake.

Africa Climate Week (ACW, 4-8 Sept 2023)

Africa Climate Week took place in Nairobi, 4-8 September, hosted by the government of Kenya and organised in parallel with the Africa Climate Summit. Find out more about the 2023 Regional Climate weeks.

UN Secretary-General: Call to Action, Hottest July on Record (27 July 2023)

As July 2023 was set to be the hottest month ever recorded, UN Secretary-General Guterres said that humanity is in the hot seat, urging that “leaders must lead” with dramatic, immediate climate action to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. According to data released 27 July 2023, July had already seen the hottest three-week period ever recorded, the three hottest days on record, and the highest-ever ocean temperatures for this time of year.

On 17 May 2023 the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued a new update indicating that global temperatures are likely to surge to record levels in the next five years, fuelled by heat-trapping greenhouse gases and a naturally occurring El Niño weather pattern. According to WMO, there is a 66 per cent likelihood that the annual average near-surface global temperature between 2023 and 2027, will be more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels for at least one year. The new report was released ahead of the World Meteorological Congress (22 May to 2 June) which will discuss how to strengthen weather and climate services to support climate change adaptation. Read more at UN News.

On 29 March 2023 the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the obligations of States in respect of climate change -- more specifically, obligations of States under international law to ensure the protection of the climate system from anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, and the Court’s opinion on the legal consequences under obligations for States where they, by their acts and omissions, have caused significant harm to the climate system with respect to States, and in particular, small island developing States, and people of present and future generations. See the related UN News story, and coverage of the General Assembly meeting.

On 20 March 2023 the IPCC released the closing chapter (the Synthesis Report) of the sixth assessment cycle. The Synthesis Report integrates the findings of six reports released by IPCC during the cycle which began in 2015. Read more here.

Global Climate Talks: COP28

COP 28 will take place from 30 November to 12 December 2023 in the United Arab Emirates. Learn more on the dedicated portal from UN Climate Change and also at the COP 28 host country website

Global Climate Talks: COP27

COP 27 (the 27th conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - UNFCCC) concluded on 20 November 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Review the decisions taken at the conference, and visit the dedicated UNFCCC page and the host-country website.

Want to learn more?

The previous round of global climate talks, COP 26, concluded in November 2021 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. Learn more about COP26 and the Glasgow Climate Pact from the UNFCCC, the dedicated UN page, the host country website, and the ECOSOC Briefing on Outcomes of COP 26.

Climate Action in Geneva

Geneva Environment Network

Led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), with support from the Swiss Federal Office of the Environment, the Geneva Environment Network is a partnership of over 75 environment and sustainable development organizations based in the Geneva region That organizes and hosts meetings on the environment and sustainable development, and promotes public awareness of environmental issues. See upcoming events on their Events page.


This initiative led by UN Geneva - with support from the Governments of Switzerland, China and Nigeria, the University of Geneva and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) - focuses on implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), identifying strategic opportunities to maximize the added-value of International Geneva. See the Toolkit for ideas to get involved.

Graduate Institute Geneva SDG Portal

The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies Geneva has made their SDG-related activities and research available through this online portal, searchable by goal: SDG 13 - Climate Action.

University of Geneva Institute for Environmental Sciences

Learn about the research happening in Geneva on climate and connect to projects, research hubs, events on sustainable development and more.

City of Geneva - Climate Change in Geneva

Learn about the city's action plan on climate change and how you can be involved, and also about organisations in Geneva working on climate change and events happening in the city that focus on climate change. See also the page in French.

News from the United Nations

Training resources - Online courses

Select UN resources for youth on climate change

Related International Observances

UN carbon footprint calculator

170 Actions to Combat Climate Change / pour lutter contre le changement climatique

170 Actions

2020 publication produced by the United Nations Perception Change Project, in partnership with the IHEID Environmental Committee, and interactive website presenting 10 suggestions for each of the 17 SDG goals for what you can do on a daily basis to protect the environment and help mitigate climate change effects.

Climate Action Is Now

Open Access Resources

Discover open access materials about climate change available through the UN Library Geneva catalogue Global Search!

And discover more open access electronic resources.

Help us improve this guide

The United Nations Library & Archives Geneva will continue to update this guide to reflect the wealth of climate change resources and the latest developments in the international response. Please check back often to see the new resources added.

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