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The forty-fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The forty-fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 19 October 2016. Photo by IISD/ENB | Leila Mead.
20 October 2016 17:06

Video: Scientists on priorities for IPCC’s special report on 1.5C

Multiple Authors

IPCCVideo: Scientists on priorities for IPCC’s special report on 1.5C

At a meeting in Bangkok this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agreed the outline for its proposed special report on 1.5C.

The report was commissioned following a specific “invitation” by the UNFCCC, after language about efforts “to pursue 1.5C” made it into the final text of the Paris Agreement.

The decision rubber stamps – with some amendments – the draft outline proposed by 85 nominated experts (pdf) at an IPCC meeting (pdf) in Geneva in August this year.

At a recent conference on “1.5 degrees: Meeting the challenges of the Paris Agreement” organised by the Environmental Change Institute, Carbon Brief asked a number of delegates for their thoughts on the most important topics the 1.5C report should cover.

Below is a compilation of their responses. The video features, in order of appearance:

Agreed outline

The outline (pdf) for the 1.5C special report agreed in Bangkok sees two changes from the one proposed in Geneva.

The first is that chapters four and five from the proposed outline have been merged into one. These chapters focus on the “global response to the threat of climate change” – in other words, looking at the current and emerging options for adaptation and mitigation.

Instead of having individual chapters on “strengthening” and “approaches to implementing” this global response, the agreed outline (pdf) will have a single chapter covering both.

Responding to a question from Carbon Brief at a press conference, IPCC vice-chair and chair of the IPCC scientific steering committee, Dr Thelma Krug, explained the reason for the change:

“We did merge chapters four and five because there was a perception of redundancy…because one was addressing ‘what?’ and one was addressing ‘how?’ [about the same issue]”

Bringing the two chapters together “won’t make any difference”, says Krug, because they will have coordinating lead authors to focus on each area.

Responding to the change, Prof Piers Forster – who identified the implementation chapter as the most important in the video above – says the decision to merge the chapters “was inevitable but, to me, disappointing”. He tells Carbon Brief:

“There has always been a disconnect between top-down mitigation targets and action on the ground from various stakeholders: industry, consumer behaviour etc. This gap needs bridging for Paris ambitions to be realised and I had hoped that this chapter would have supported this effort.”

However, it is a hard chapter to write, says Forster, as it requires time, input from a lot of stakeholders, plus there is limited peer-reviewed research to draw upon:

“All this being said, I would have liked to see the IPCC having tried.”

The second change sees the chapter on “sustainable development, poverty eradication and reducing inequalities” cut in half – from 40 pages to 20.

This decision was made because sustainable development was “already permeating the other chapters”, explained Krug – again in response to a question from Carbon Brief:

“There was also a very strong voice from the small islands that this report should signal the importance of addressing – in particular – impacts and the way to get to 1.5C.”

The decision was also taken in an effort to keep the special report “succinct”, says Krug. This was echoed by IPCC chair Dr Hoesung Lee, who said the new outline had a more “sharpened focus” than before.

Overall, the amendments to the outline slims the size of the report down from an expected 267 pages to 225. One thing that hasn’t got any shorter is the full title of the report, which remains:

“Global warming of 1.5C: An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5C above preindustrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.”

Finally, the timeline for the production of the report also stays as it was proposed in Geneva, says Lee:

“It will be delivered in 2018, in time for the facilitative dialogue that will be held that year by governments to review progress on the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to well below 2C, whilst pursuing efforts to hold it to 1.5C.”

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