Departing UN climate science chief says organisation should increase tempo of reports and boost scrutiny on countries
By Ed King
The UN’s top climate science body should assess countries’ progress in slashing global greenhouse gas emissions every year.
That is the view of the outgoing chair Rajendra Pachauri in a “vision paper” for the organisations future, published on its website last week.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) could release an annual “brief and accurate report”, he wrote, evaluating whether the world was on course to avoid dangerous warming.
“Such a product would be of enormous value to the global community,” Pachauri added, suggesting it could be “entrusted to a task group to be set up by the Panel”.
The IPCC is set to appoint a new chair by October, who will shape the institution’s future. Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, currently a vice-chair, has thrown his hat into the ring. He promises to “stimulate real collaboration” with others, including the UN climate body, if chosen as chair.
Traditionally the IPCC, the world’s leading authority on global warming, releases a major report on the state of climate change every seven years, with its last set of findings coming out in 2013 and 2014.
But many governments back the idea of the IPCC playing a greater and more active role in monitoring carbon cuts, and are likely to raise the issue at a meeting in Nairobi later this month.
“Whether that regularity is changed is up for debate right now – it has not been settled,” said a UK official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Van Ypersele told RTCC if elected chair and the IPCC’s mandate changed, he would make sure it “assumes this new role in the best manner”.
Negotiators are set to strike a global climate deal in Paris this December, setting a framework for countries to cut emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
One proposal under consideration calls for any Paris deal to be “science-based and informed by the assessments of the IPCC”, with reports every five years.
Another suggests any “review / assessment / mechanism to be consistent with science, on the basis of equity and sustainable development, and informed by – the assessment reports of the IPCC”.
Under draft plans for the Paris deal, countries are likely to submit targets for emission cuts every 5 or 10 years.
The UN’s climate body will release its own one-off synthesis of how ambitious collective government pledges are on November 1 this year, but it is unclear who will assess progress moving forward.
Speaking from Geneva, where nearly 200 countries are stuck in talks over the shape of the Paris deal, UN chief climate official Christiana Figueres offered a lukewarm welcome to Pachauri’s proposal.
“We welcome the initiative of several organisations out there – IPCC, UNEP – and several analytical NGOs, all of whom will also be looking at these numbers and coming up with their own conclusions – all of which are welcome,” she told the media in a press call.
Richard Klein from the Stockholm Environment Institute, who has contributed as lead author to six IPCC reports since 1994, said it would be important for the body to be explicitly invited to conduct assessments by countries.
“I don’t think that’s part of the IPCC’s mandate and I don’t think it’s particularly well equipped to do this at short notice,” he said.
Working out projected carbon cuts would be an added challenge because a set of guidelines governing baselines, time horizons and other targets were scrapped at last year’s main climate summit, he added.