10 United Nations

The United Nations (UN) is probably well known to most people, but for completeness, it is good to introduce the United Nations as the organization established after the Second World War to promote peace, dignity and equality on a healthy planet in the world (UN, n.d.)

Today, the United Nations is focused on sustainable development and has established 17 sustainable development goals (SDG). The goals are all interlinked and include the following: (UN, n.d.):

Goal 1  No poverty
Goal 2 Zero Hunger
Goal 3 Good Health and Well Being
Goal 4 Quality Education
Goal 5 Gender equality
Goal 6 Clean water and sanitation
Goal 7 Affordable and Clean Energy
Goal 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth
Goal 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Goal 10 Reduced inequalities
Goal 11  Sustainable Cities
Goal 12 Responsible Consumption and Production
Goal 13  Climate Action
Goal 14 Life below water
Goal 15 Life on Land
Goal 16  Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Goal 17  Partnerships

Check it out at https://sdgs.un.org/goals

If we consider in detail  Goal 13, Climate Change the UN has established 4 sub-goals;

  • Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related disasters
  • Integrate climate change measures into policies and planning
  • Build knowledge and capacity to meet climate change
  • Implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)

The United Nations Environmental Programme  (UNEP) describes themselves as the leading global environmental authority and lead environmental programmes worldwide. UNEP is responsible for stewarding all of the environmental related United Nations Sustainable Development goals. (UNEP, n.d.)

UNEP are influential, but not a regulator. Their website states that they are advocates and leaders.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (United Nations)

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a branch of the United Nations.  It’s stated aim is to end hunger in the world (FAO, 2022).

The FAO also tracks many environmental issues that range from deforestation to soil salinity.  They track eight of the sustainable development goals (FAO, 2021).

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is part of the United Nations.  It is one of five commissions established to consider economic development across the globe (UNECE, n.d.).

It was established in 1947, to establish economic integration.  Although it says Europe in the title, the membership and scope include Canada, the United States and Russia.

The UNECE has also undertaken to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and has focused on air pollution as part of its mandate (UNECE, n.d.).

Kunming- Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework

This is a relatively recent development in late December. 2022 of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.   The framework was signed at COP 15, a conference that was held in Montreal, Canada.  190 countries have agreed at the conference to:

  • protect 30% of the planet including oceans, and land
  • reduce by $500 billion worldwide subsidies to the industries causing harm
  • cut food waste in half
  • progressively flow funds from developed countries to less developed
  • Restore or start restoration on 30% of degraded coastal, terrestrial or marine ecosystems

Colloquially it is bound to be know as 30 by 30.  If adhered to, this framework will be as important as the framework convention on climate change.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came into existence in 1994. The goal of the Convention is to limit average global temperature increase.

The treaty is supported by a United Nations secretariat (UNFCCC, n.d.).  The UNFCCC also is the storehouse of the signatories Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).  The reference allows you to look at Canada’s official NDC in a later chapter.

Conference of the Parties (COP)

The Conference of the Parties (COP) are the countries who are the signatories to the Paris Accord on Climate Action and the UNFCCC.  The parties meet each year, but during covid they skipped a year.

The Conference of the Parties meets regularly to review progress and to bring forward the commitments of the parties. The most recent COP was COP 26 held in Glasgow in October/November 2021 (UN, 2021).  The next conference, COP 27, will be held in Egypt.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  is a bureau of the United Nations established in 1988 and is intended to provide a scientific background to the setting of climate policy ( IPCC, 2022).

The IPCC does not do original scientific research.  They review, collate, and draw conclusions from original science reports.  The IPCC experts are drawn from worldwide experts.

The IPCC does not set policy, nor is it a regulator.  However, its scientific reviews underlies much of climate policy and the work of national greenhouse gas inventories including Canada’s.

Assessment Reports

The IPCC issues assessment reports on the state of climate change at regular periods.  To date (2022) they have issued six reports.  As part of each report the IPCC compiles the best information about greenhouse gases and climate change.  This advice is used by the Parties to determine their domestic policy on climate change.  The reports have an interesting naming convention.  To date they have issued (IPCC, 2022):

  • FAR – First Assessment Report
  • SAR – Second Assessment Report
  • TAR – Third Assessment Report
  • AR4 – Assessment Report Four
  • AR5 – Assessment Report Five
  • AR6 – Assessment Report Six

Assessment Report Six (AR6)

Assessment Report Six (AR6) is the latest report by the IPCC presented for COP26.   The IPCC presented the report in several sections, the first to be released delved into the science of Climate Change (IPPC, 2022).

The first report was the Science report.  It states that climate change is unequivocal.  The other three reports of AR6 were released in 2022.  (IPPC, 2022)  The reports are as follows:

The IPCC will also produce a synthesis report written in less technical terminology for policy makers.  It is due to be released in September 2022 or early 2023 (IPPC, 2022).

Section Conclusion

Regulations in Canada for climate change and many other environmental areas are influenced by the requirements of the United Nations.  While the work the United Nations does is not law in Canada, their work influences heavily our actions.  Confusing and verbose they are, but without question they are important.

Learning Questions

  1. How would a United Nations initiative be regulated in Canada?
  2. Why would AR6  be important to Canadians?


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2022) Home page. Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2022) Synthesis report of the sixth assessment report. Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/ar6-syr/

United Nations (UN). (n.d.). About us home page. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/about-us/history-of-the-un

United Nations (UN). (n.d.). The seventeen goals: sustainable development. Retrieved from https://sdgs.un.org/goals

United Nations Climate Change (UN). Conference of the Parties. Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/process/bodies/supreme-bodies/conference-of-the-parties-cop

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). (n.d.) Home page. Retrieved from https://unece.org/

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). (n.d.).About UN Environment Programme | UNEP – UN Environment Programme. Retrieved fromhttps://www.unep.org/

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). (2021).  Tracking progress on food and agriculture-related SDG indicators 2021: a report on the indicators under FAO custodianship. Retrieved from https://www.fao.org/home/en

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). (2022). Home page. Retrieved from https://www.fao.org/home/en

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (n.d.). Home page. Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (2021). COP 26.  Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/conference/glasgow-climate-change-conference-october-november-2021

United Nations Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity. (2022) Cop 15- press release. Retrieved from https://www.cbd.int/article/cop15-cbd-press-release-final-19dec2022


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