by S. Gopikrishna Warrier
The wait for the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is almost over, with the report scheduled to be released on August 9.
The work has already begun this week online with the Working Group 1 meeting to approve the Summary for Policymakers of the WG-1 report. The IPCC, which is a body of thousands of scientists across the world, provide political leaders across the world an assessment of the latest scientific understanding on climate change and its implications to the 195 member countries and the world at large.
Every few years, the IPCC produces an assessment report that examines all the scientific literature published in the years since the last report. The preparation of the report follows a two-stage process – first, the scientists assess the latest in scientific updates on one of the topics of the Working Group, and then together with officials they prepare a summary for policymakers, which is done in a manner that is easy for policymakers to make an informed decision to deal with climate change.
The Assessment Report process involves the publication of the reports of three working groups – Working Group I, dealing with the physical science basis of climate change; Working Group II, dealing with impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Working Group III, dealing with the mitigation of climate change.
In simpler words, the report of Working Group I will lay out the framework of the assessment, reporting to the world what science is reporting about an increase in global temperature, sea surface and deep-sea temperatures, sea-level rise, glacial melt, etc. These conclusions are articulated in the form of high level of confidence, low confidence, etc.
While the Working Group II’s report, which is expected in February 2022, will look at the impact of these climate change realities, and which parts of the world are more vulnerable than others, it will also suggest how nations and communities can adapt, or learn to live with climate change.
Subsequently, the Working Group III will deal with the action needed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in the near-, middle- and long-term future to keep the global temperature increase within 1.5 degrees Celsius from the time of the Industrial Revolution (that is 1850 to 1900) to the year 2100. All these three elements will be synthesised in the Synthesis Report and the summary for policymakers.
How long will the AR6 process take?
The online meeting to finalise the report of the Working Group I began on 26 July and will continue till 6 August. During the meeting, the participants will vet every word and line of the summary. Similar meetings for Working Group II and Working Group III are scheduled to be held in February and March 2022, while the meetings to organise the final AR6 Synthesis Report are expected to be held from 26 September to 6 October 2022.
The report of Working Group I will ensure that the world knows how it has fared in dealing with climate change in the past years before the upcoming Conference of Parties (CoP) to the Climate Change Convention to be held at Glasgow in November 2021. However, the full picture of the IPCC AR6 will emerge only by the next CoP.
How did the IPCC start and what is its purpose?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide political leaders with periodic scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies.
In the same year, the UN General Assembly endorsed the action by the WMO and UNEP in jointly establishing the IPCC. Currently, it has 195 member states. The IPCC published its First AR in 1990, second in 1995, third in 2001, fourth in 2007 and the Fifth Assessment Report in 2014.
The reports are significant and often become the foundation for discussion during global climate summits. For instance, the AR5 was taken as a basis for discussions at the Paris Conference of Parties of 2015, which resulted in the Paris Agreement.
In addition to the ARs, the IPCC also prepares special reports dealing with specific subjects. The most famous recent one was on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees C of 2018. There was the Special Report on Ocean and Cryosphere (2019) and also Climate Change and Land (2019). Of special relevance to India was the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters of 2012.
The Assessment Report coming this year is significant as the year 2020 was considered a milestone in international climate change negotiations as it is the year in which the 2015 Paris Agreement became operational, and the CoP of 2020 was considered as the transition point between the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
However, the CoP of 2020 did not happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic across the world. So, the 2021 CoP at Glasgow has an added importance and thus the starting of the AR6 process is considered as an appropriate curtain-raiser to the Glasgow CoP later this year. The incidents of flooding across the world over the past weeks that many experts are attributing to climate change could ensure that the AR6 process receives the required attention.
What is the significance of IPCC assessment reports for India?
Like with the other parts of the world, the report of the AR6 Working Group I will give a picture of what are the climate change realities for India. So, even though the IPCC AR assessments are global in scale, it will help India realise where its development and environment conservation trajectories are moving vis-à-vis these climate change realities.
Since, in the past few years, extreme weather events such as floods and droughts have been occurring with increased frequency and intensity, the report will give the trend for the coming years for India, which is considered a crucial player in the global climate change debate.
India has also had a paradigm transition since the Paris Agreement. In the pre-Paris Agreement scenario, India did not have emission reduction targets. Although voluntary, declared through the Nationally Determined Contributions, India now has some form of a target as it promised to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.
According to the INDCs, India promised to adopt a climate-friendly and cleaner path, achieve about 40 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from nonfossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030, create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
India also promised to better adapt to climate change by enhancing investments in development programmes in sectors vulnerable to climate change, particularly agriculture, water resources, Himalayan region, coastal regions, health and disaster management.
Now, six years later, the Working Group I report will help India mark its trajectory against the climate reality. The Working Group II report will help identify vulnerabilities and adaptation possibilities. And the Working Group III report will help India fine-tune its mitigation strategies.
In keeping with its INDC commitment, India has embarked on an energy transition process to renewable energy sources. Of the 175 GW committed by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030, India has reached 96.9 GW installed capacity.
However, to kickstart the economy after the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, India had also announced policy measures to promote coal mining. In recent months, India has also been under pressure to declare a year for converting to net-zero emissions.
When the figures come out with the Working Group I report on August 6, India will have an opportunity to touchstone its policy framework, and strengthen action on the ground to deal with climate change.
This article was originally published on Mongabay.com.
Mongabay-India is an environmental science and conservation news service. This article has been republished under the Creative Commons license.