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Climate Change

What is 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. United In Science 2023 key messages

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

Secretary-General's special address on climate action "A Moment of Truth" on World Environment Day (5 June)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres delivered a special address on Climate Action, warning of urgent climate risks and calling for immediate action from global leaders to secure a livable future within the next 18 months. In particular, he laid out urgent action that must be taken: slash emissions; protect people and nature from climate extremes; boost climate finance; clamp down on the fossil fuel business. Read his remarks here, and watch the recording of the speech, delivered in New York at the American Museum of Natural History, here

International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) delivers unanimous advisory opinion that countries have an obligation to reduce carbon emissions

The 21 May 2024 ITLOS ruling in Case No. 31, the request submitted to the Tribunal by the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law, said that greenhouse gas emissions qualify as marine pollution and that countries have an obligation to reduce emissions and to protect the marine environment from climate change impacts and ocean acidification. UN rights experts have applauded the ruling. Read more in the UN News Story, see the press release from UN experts on the ruling, the ITLOS press release (EN -- FR), and the full ITLOS Advisory Opinion of 21 May 2024 (EN -- FR).

UNHCR launches fund to shield refugees and other displaced people from climate shocks

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR on 24 April launched the UNHCR Climate Resilience Fund, seeking to boost the protection of refugees and displaced communities who are most threatened by climate change. UNHCR also recently launched the Focus Area Strategic Plan for Climate Action 2024-2030, a document that sets out a global roadmap for prioritized action. The plan has set four interdependent objectives for protection, solutions, resilience, and adaptation to be achieved in support of national governments, together with partners.

State of the Global Climate 2023

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released the State of the Global Climate 2023 report 19 March 2024, confirming that 2023 was the hottest year on record, with records once again broken for greenhouse gas levels, surface temperatures, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise, ice cover and glacier retreat. Heatwaves, floods, droughts, wildfires and rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones caused misery and mayhem, upending everyday life for millions and inflicting many billions of dollars in economic losses. Learn more in the UN News story.

Warmest January on record

January 2024 marked the eighth month in a row that temperatures were the hottest on record. Read the WMO news story to learn more. The final WMO State of the Global Climate 2023 report will be published for World Meteorological Day on 23 March 2024. For the UNFCCC, the urgency for climate action has never been clearer.

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.

SDG Lab

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.

Global Climate Talks: COP29

COP 29 (the 29th conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - UNFCCC) are scheduled to take place 11-22 November 2024 in Baku, Abseron, Azerbaijan.

News from the United Nations

Training resources - Online courses

Select UN resources for youth on climate change

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.

Related International Observances

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.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please contact us at library-gva@un.org. Thank you for your feedback!

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