IPCC establishes new work programme

Outcomes of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 43rd session

By Rehana Dada

This week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held its 43rd session in Nairobi, producing a strategy and timeline for its next cycle, which includes three special reports as well as the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).

IPCC Chair, Hoesung Lee, said: “We now have a clear roadmap for the production and delivery of AR6”. In addition, the IPCC has agreed to produce a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1,5 degrees Celsius, as requested by the UNFCCC in Paris last year, a report on climate change and the oceans and cryosphere, and one on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.

With regards to the report on1,5 degrees Celsius, Lee explained that although AR5 had shown that serious impacts emerge at global warming at that level, not enough had been said because of a limited amount of scientific research available on that matter: “We are not at this moment in a position to say what messages the report will deliver…. It is a very important report…so although there is a lot to find out about the impacts at that level, we are ready to embark on this special report and we hope it will provide guidance for the 2018 UNFCCC conference”.  He said that work will begin as soon as possible, with a call for experts for scoping.

AR6 will be released in stages in 2020 and 2021, with a Synthesis Report in 2022, which Lee pointed out is well in time for the global stocktake of the UNFCCC.  He said the IPCC also recognises the UNFCCC’s five year cycle, but did not commit to a tighter cycle for the IPCC in the future.

With regards to inclusion of traditional knowledge in AR6 that is not in the formal scientific domain, Lee said that the IPCC has a “desire” to expand its knowledge base and improve its understanding: “We will attempt to be inclusive, not only in terms of the scientists, but also the information base that we need to access… but it’s important to note that we are working with a scientific process, and peer review is important”.  During the AR5 cycle, the IPCC organised workshops to access traditional knowledge, and Lee drew attention to work in Australia in particular, as well as workshops held in partnership with the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability), said: “This is a particular issue that concerns the Co-Chairs and as a result in terms of the various working groups, there has been a tension in the organisation to place emphasis on Co-Chairs that are based in the global south in a meaningful way so that we can reach out more effectively into our regions to find the right participants and bring those views into this process”. She said that early in this cycle, there has already been a commitment to a conference on cities which will draw on a large and varied expertise base.

Youba Sokona, one of the IPCC Vice-Chairs, said that the issue of increasing participation of developing country scientists is one that the IPCC is paying attention to.  Lee said that this has been a top priority, but emphasised that it is important for developing country scientists to publish their work in the scientific literature so that it can be accessed by IPCC authors.  The IPCC has reached an agreement with the United Nations Environment Programme for lead authors to access journals at no cost.  This is particularly important for scientists in developing countries.  In addition, the IPCC has held briefings with developing country scientists, and there was a request from participants to hold the briefings annually so that governments can ensure that the right expertise is nominated to the IPCC.

AR6 will pay special attention to the impacts of climate change on cities and the opportunities they provide for adaptation and mitigation, and there is an intention to produce a special report on climate change and cities in the AR7 cycle.  The IPCC will also produce an updated methodology for reporting, particularly with regards to greenhouse gas inventories, which it intends to release in 2019.

The organisation’s recently updated communications strategy will play a key role in the work of the IPCC going forward.  Communications experts are being involved right from the beginning of the AR6 cycle to ensure that the reports are accessible for broader usage.  Head of Communications and Media Relations, Jonathan Lynn, said that for AR5, authors have been travelling around the world to present the results to policymakers, scientists, students and journalists, both to share the results and to encourage greater involvement in IPCC reports and assessments.

At the meeting, Abdalah Mokssit formally accepted an offer to become Secretary of the IPCC.  He is currently director of the National Meteorological Service of Morocco and has a long relationship with the World Meteorological Organisation and the IPCC.