What the world is doing wrong

Nations around the world are working together to reduce greenhouse emissions and try to avoid the worst climate impacts.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an international scientific body set up in 1988 by two United Nations organisations – the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Program. The IPCC produces reports that cover the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. Its work is based on assessment of published literature, including that which has been assessed by the scientific community (peer reviewed) and that which has not. Thousands of scientists and other experts contribute to writing and reviewing reports. It is the internationally accepted authority on climate change.

The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was the first international treaty for global cooperation to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change. Today it is still the main forum for climate change negotiations.

In 1995, participating countries realised stronger actions were needed and in 1997 they adopted the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol, which legally binds developed countries to emission reduction targets. There are now 195 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and 192 parties to its Kyoto Protocol.

In the current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2013-2020), 91 countries, covering more than 80% of global emissions, have made pledges to cut their emissions before 2020.1

In 2010, governments agreed that emissions need to be reduced so that global temperature increased do not rise above 2°C. The indications are that global emissions must peak and begin falling in this decade if the world is to keep global warming below 2°C and avoid the most significant climate impacts.2

According to the CSIRO, for the world to have a chance of keeping human-induced average global warming below 2°C, cumulative emissions need to stay below one trillion tonnes of carbon. The world has already emitted more than half of this quota since the industrial revolution, and (at current growth rates for CO2 emissions) the rest will be emitted by the middle of this century.3

Greenhouse gas levels are currently increasing at the top end of the worst-case emission scenario. The decisions made this decade by governments and international treaties will determine if the world can avoid the worst impacts of climate change.4

To find out more about global negotiations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, go to the Australian Government’s climate change website negotiations page.  To learn more about the Kyoto Protocol, visit the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change page.


  1. http://climatechange.gov.au/sites/climatechange/files/files/reducing-carbon/mpccc/international-climate-change-policies-pdf.pdf
  2. http://www.dfat.gov.au/issues/climate-change/
  3. http://www.csiro.au/Outcomes/Climate/Climate-Change-Book/Chapter-2-Climate-and-greenhouse-gases.aspx
  4. http://www.dfat.gov.au/issues/climate-change/

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