Even in the debate over climate reports, developing countries remain vulnerable - Hindustan Times
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Even in the debate over the timeline of climate reports, developing countries remain vulnerable

ByJayashree Nandi
Feb 03, 2024 07:37 PM IST

Time is running out on keeping warming under the goal of 1.5° C, but a shortened seventh cycle of the IPCC will not help generate unbiased assessments

Will a rushed or abbreviated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cycle that releases several scientific reports before the second Global Stocktake (GST) help push action on the climate crisis?

Developing nations want more focus on adaptation measures and climate finance to adapt to challenges presented by extreme weather events(REUTERS) PREMIUM
Developing nations want more focus on adaptation measures and climate finance to adapt to challenges presented by extreme weather events(REUTERS)

The controversy over the timeline of IPCC's seventh cycle started at the 60th session of the IPCC, held in Istanbul between January 16 and 20, which was attended by 120 governments.

The IPCC completed its sixth assessment cycle last year with the Synthesis Report—a summary of its earlier reports released in March. But, during the meeting to discuss schedules for the seventh, and possibly most critical assessment (since time is running out on keeping warming under the Paris Agreement’s goal of 1.5° C), developed and developing countries sparred over most basic issues including when the reports will be delivered.

Now, the dates for the delivery of the seventh working group reports remain to be decided. Member countries have requested the IPCC bureau to decide the dates. The final Synthesis Report is expected to be published towards the end of 2029 if the cycle is not shortened.

At the heart of this issue

Developing nations want more focus on adaptation measures and climate finance to adapt to challenges presented by extreme weather events. The rich nations, on the other hand, are focused on mitigation targets and ensuring that emerging economies (that may not be historically responsible for present climate change), contribute adequately to mitigation. This is at the core of the debate.

“The 2030s will be the decade of climate action. Our knowledge of adaptation actions and their effectiveness is much more limited than what we know about mitigation because of the nature of the literature. Therefore, the product planned on adaptation, metrics and indicators is a very important one for developing countries, and focusing well on that will help developing countries take tangible adaptation action and developed countries fund those actions. Now when it comes to the physical basis of climate change, AR6 already presented the state of the art and I don’t think there would be a lot of new insights in AR7 on that particular front from now till the end of the cycle,” said Aditi Mukherji, director, Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Impact Action Platform of the CGIAR and IPCC author.

“In the meanwhile, the research community and the practitioner community really need to focus more on adaptation-related knowledge which is where most of the developing countries are also interested in. So in balance a long cycle should work out fine as long as the developed countries and the historical emitters also keep mitigating along the lines shown in AR6, there is no alternative to rapid mitigation by countries in the Global North and for that, we don't need another report," she added.

"In light of the paramount importance of the IPCC's analyses on climate science and action, it is imperative that the integrity of these reports is not compromised by expedited processes or abbreviated assessment cycles. As we navigate the complexities of climate change, the contributions of other esteemed scientific bodies in the coming years will be crucial for informing policy decisions. Equally vital is the amplification of scientific insights from developing nations, which have historically been underrepresented. Ensuring a comprehensive and inclusive approach to climate science is fundamental in devising equitable and effective strategies for our shared future and collective actions," said Harjeet Singh, global engagement director for the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative who has been advocating for the needs of Global South at climate negotiations.

Another Indian researcher who has contributed to IPCC reports in the past said, “It’s not clear that the vulnerable benefit from not having an IPCC that is timed to inform the second GST. The protests against an early timeline seem consistent with a view that the IPCC only has northern voices and so sidelining as much as possible is in the interests of the Global South.”

A plethora of reports

The AR6 cycle which ended last year already released the Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis Report on August 9, 2021; Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report on February 28, 2022; Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change report on April 4, 2022, and the Synthesis Report, Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report last year.

These reports helped set the tone for the first global stocktake in Dubai last year. At COP28 last December in Dubai, 196 countries agreed to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Fossil fuels which have been a topic of taboo for years in climate negotiations were finally addressed in a very carefully calibrated decision text titled ‘The UAE Consensus’ through consensus building and various trade-offs.

"With an accelerated timeline, it would be dominated by the literature from developed countries which overwhelmingly ignore these aspects as happened in AR6 with the Special Report on 1.5 Degree Warming. Given their much higher capacities and availability of resources, this is certain to happen and developing countries therefore need the time for their scientific community to be heard. Governments would have significantly less time to review the draft versions of these reports. From the experience of the AR6 cycle, India has to devote a lot of time and effort to review the drafts as they are full of biased, unbalanced, not fully established conclusions and findings and in several instances have biased statements particularly targeting India," a senior official from India's IPCC delegation said.

Even if IPCC reports are not ready before the second GST, that information can be provided by other global and domestic agencies.

“National agencies and organisations should always be at the forefront to analyse, assess and inform the regional climatic changes (past and future) to the respective governments. This should be in place regardless of the IPCC reports which provide a global scale overview," said Roxy Mathew Koll, climate scientist, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and IPCC author.

The scenarios considered by the IPCC for keeping global warming under 2°C are highly inequitable as rich countries will continue to occupy the largest shares of the carbon budget, said a policy brief, prepared by the Climate Change Programme at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Chennai, and the Energy, Environment and Climate Change Programme at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru in 2022.

What’s at stake

What is clear is that IPCC's forthcoming cycle needs to focus on adaptation as climate change impacts accelerate and become more pronounced each year.

The year 2023 was the warmest ever, overtaking the last record set in 2016 by a large margin. It was 0.60°C warmer than the 1991-2020 average, and 1.48°C warmer than the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average, barely below the 1.5°C limit the world is hoping to stay within in the 2015 Paris climate accord to avoid the most severe effects of the crisis according to Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Scientists and advocacy groups have also sought more balance in the reflection of climate science, from literature on historical responsibility, progress on mitigation by Annex 1 or developed countries to disproportionate impacts faced by the Global South and future pathways to net zero emissions by mid century. If available science on the state of climate itself is lopsided, the future pathways will naturally favour the global North, they said.

“Several contentious issues emerged during the meeting. These included the timeline of AR7, including its 3 Working Group (WG) assessment reports; whether a Synthesis Report (SYR) should be produced; the sequence of the reports; alignment of the IPCC Assessment Report cycle with the Global Stocktake (GST) process under the Paris Agreement (PA); whether to update the 1994 adaptation guidelines; whether there should be additional special reports and methodology reports in the AR7 cycle…” reported Third World Network, a non-profit international research and advocacy group on January 26.

HT reported on January 29 that India along with other developing countries has flagged serious concerns over attempts by developed nations particularly, the US, to shorten the timeline for the delivery of the seventh assessment cycle reports of IPCC.

The IPCC informs governments about the state of knowledge of climate change by examining all the relevant scientific literature on the subject.

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