UN approves plans for new IPCC global warming report

Top climate scientists have just under two years to deliver assessment of dangers and avoiding strategies for warming of 1.5C

Low-lying coral atolls like the Solomon Islands are vulnerable to climate change and reliant on a shipping industry, which refuses to control its emissions (Photo: UN Photos)

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Governments have approved plans for a new UN report to explore the impacts of warming of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels at a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.

The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Hoesung Lee said the study will be delivered by 2018 ahead of a global review into efforts to tackle climate change.

An outline of the study released on Thursday revealed the IPCC will explore development pathways compatible with limiting warming to 1.5C and their economic implications.

Scientists will also examine the global and regional changes that can be expected under warming up to and above 1.5C. So far, the world has heated to around 1C above 1850 levels.

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Under the new Paris Agreement on climate change, nearly 200 countries decided to target a warming limit well below 2C and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C.

The lower temperature goal was a key ask of countries deemed vulnerable to higher levels of warming like small island states and coastal countries in Africa and Asia.

“Small islands wanted it [the IPCC study] to focus on impacts, to give the right message to policymakers,” said IPCC vice chair Thelma Krug in a press conference.

In contrast with previous IPCC publications this will be “succinct and objective to provide policymakers with guidance to act,” she added.

Still, some commentators noted that a draft plan for the report approved by scientists had been watered down after the Bangkok meeting, specifically areas focused on strengthening global efforts to tackle climate change.

“The material that was removed relates to increasing ambition, policy, institutions,” said Glen Peters, a senior researcher at Oslo-based CICERO.

“These are all the areas that are critical to understand if we want to get to 1.5C, but also the areas the governments seemingly want to keep off limits.”

According to analysts at Carbon Brief, current emission levels mean the world has just over four years at current emission levels before warming above 1.5C is virtually guaranteed.

Asked by Climate Home if the level of emissions required to drive warming above 1.5C could be met by 2018, Krug refused to be drawn, arguing the study is focused on a longer term perspective.

Read more on: 2C | Climate Science | IPCC |