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Event summary: 46th Plenary Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Representatives from Future Earth recently attended the 46th Plenary Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). At this event, which ran from 5 to 10 September 2017 in Montreal, Canada, national delegates to IPCC approved chapter outlines for the panel’s Sixth Assessment Report. It is a global assessment of the science related to climate change and is split into sections authored by three working groups:

  • Working Group I focuses on the physical science basis of climate change;
  • Working Group II focuses on the impacts, adaptation and vulnerability of climate change;
  • Working Group III focuses on solutions to climate change.

Read the final chapter outlines for Working Group I, Working Group II and Working Group III.

See the full report from Future Earth on IPCC’s 46th Plenary Session here.

The delegation from Future Earth, an observer organisation of IPCC, included representatives from the programme’s Secretariat, the City of Edmonton, Canada, the Human Impact Lab, Ouranos, the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research, the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) and local universities. The full participant list can be viewed here

The delegation hosted a side event on the upcoming CitiesIPCC conference in Edmonton and made three interventions:

  1. Supporting more extensive inclusion of short-lived climate forcers;
  2. Supporting the use of a coherent risk framework across the Working Groups;
  3. Highlighting the potential weakening of the IPCC’s scientific basis if resources were to be diverted from scientific research.

As part of its sixth assessment cycle, IPCC will produce three Special Reports, in addition to its global-scale report, which will be published in 2021. The special reports focus on global warming of 1.5°C, climate change and land and oceans and the cryosphere. Future Earth has invited nominations for experts from a range of scientific, technical and socioeconomic backgrounds to serve as authors and review editors on the Sixth Assessment Report.

You can see the full call for nominations here.

There are many opportunities beyond the current call for authors and review editors for the Future Earth community to get involved. The full timeline of important dates for the different reports is also available on the IPCC website.

This report will expand on the work done in IPCC’s fifth assessment cycle, with several changes. They include:

Increased integration across the three Working Groups, by:

  • Establishing task forces to support increased coordination and cohesion across the Working Groups in terms of scenarios, risks, references and terminology;
  • Establishing a common glossary across the three Working Groups to ensure consistency in the use of terms;
  • Emphasising regional aspects at the interface between climate response and impact;
  • Considering cross-cutting issues, such as co-benefits, risks and co-costs of mitigation and adaptation.

Stronger emphasis on human and social sciences, particularly in Working Groups II and III. The report will, for example, consider the perception of risks and benefits of climate change and adaptation and mitigation options in regions around the world. It will also delve into societal responses, including psychological and sociological aspects.

The concepts of loss and damage will be referenced more strongly to examine the “scientific, technical and socioeconomic aspects of current and future residual impacts of climate change, including residual damage, irreversible loss, and economic and non-economic losses caused by slow onset and extreme events.”

Assessment of the climate responses, risks and governance of geoengineering, including solar radiation management and greenhouse gas removal scenarios, such as carbon capture and storage. The goal will be to address uncertainties and answer questions of costs, risks, governance and the ethical implications of development and deployment.

The Global Stocktake, a key mechanism of the Paris Agreement, will be incorporated into the chapter outlines of all three Working Groups to provide the changing policy context. Through the Global Stocktake, nations will gauge their progress toward international climate goals every five years.

Larger regional emphasis on the effects of climate change, both across different sectors of society and within and between different regions, related to land, coasts and regional oceans. Working Group II will include chapters on regions. They will cover regional and sub-regional climate characteristics and zones, detection and attribution of observed impacts and region-specific information on exposure and vulnerability, as well as diverse adaptation options. The Mediterranean region, which was not explicitly considered in Fifth Assessment Report, will be addressed in a cross-chapter paper.

The concept of risk will have a common definition and framework to allow climate impacts to be compared across the different sectors and Working Groups.  Working Group II will try to integrate the “Burning Embers” risk visualisation, which was introduced in the Fifth Assessment Report, with other risk approaches, such as that of planetary boundaries. The Working Group will also link this communication tool to the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions and the Global Stocktake introduced by the Paris Agreement.