Debate over crucial UN climate report hits record

Order of the day The UN climate report is about to drop and will chart pathways to a low-carbon, more resilient and less perilous future.

The plot: It was supposed to surface a few hours ago, but negotiations between scientists from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and government officials from the group are well past their deadline.

  • And it is revealing. Countries were mired in battles over how to formulate key conclusions, including the need for a rapid shift away from fossil fuels, and the policy, financial aid and technological levers needed to get there.
  • The lively discussion — the longest in three decades of these great IPCC reports – reflected the fact that we were at a turning point in climate change.

Why is this important: IPCC assessment reports set the terms of the climate debate with world leaders, CEOs and activists. A 2018 report galvanized a global youth protest movement.

  • There is no longer time to delay action to have a chance of meeting the Paris Agreement temperature targets. The agreement’s more ambitious goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is already out of reach.

The context: The report’s expected call for radical change is a stark departure from current policies and ways of doing business around the world.

  • While scientists determine the content of reports, summaries are negotiated by consensus between scientists and decision makers. One country’s objection to a single word can block the whole process.
  • In this case, several countries would have raised issues with different sections of the text.
  • The combination of scientists and government officials is unique to the IPCC and serves to encourage government buy-in.
  • The Executive Summary is what most people in power will read. This is another reason for the word-by-word approval process, conducted via Zoom due to pandemic restrictions. (Screenshot faces of the co-authors during the debate, via IISD and Columbia’s Andrew Revkin, suggest what those sessions were like.)

What we are looking at: IPCC reports previously released last year, as part of the same broader 2021-2022 assessment, made it clear how fast the globe is warming, with effects evident from the depths of the sea to the deepest. high mountain peaks.

  • They also made the case for making changes that transform our way of life.
  • Now, the new third chapter will detail our options in unprecedented detail, calling for rapid and drastic emissions cuts far beyond what any country is about to achieve, as well as development unproven climate technologies such as direct air capture.
  • The report may warn that these technologies are not yet proven at scale and may have significant downsides.

The bottom line: The emissions trends and policies now in place are either the exact opposite of what this report will recommend (a push for more oil and gas drilling) or, in some cases, just don’t go far enough (commitments emission reduction volunteers) .