IPCC special report on 1.5 degrees scoped out

A scoping meeting for the IPCC special report on 1.5 °C, (SR 1.5),[1] was held in Geneva 15-18 Aug 2016. In the Paris decision, the UNFCCC had invited the IPCC to provide a speicial report (SR) in 2018 “on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways”. The Paris Agreement (PA) includes the aim to keep temperature increase “well below” 2 °C and pursue efforts limit to 1.5 °C.  Ambitious climate action needs to happen in the context of sustainable development – and that was debated along with many other issues in the meeting.

More than 100 participants at the scoping meeting identified six themes and likely chapter structure:

Front Matter

Summary for Policy Makers

  1. Framing and context
  2. Mitigation pathways compatible with 1.5°C in the context of
    sustainable development
  3. Impacts of 1.5 °C global warming on natural and human systems
  4. Strengthening the global response to the threat of
    climate change
  5. Approaches to implementing a strengthened global response to
    the threat of climate change
  6. Sustainable development, poverty eradication and
    reducing inequalities

Impacts and global emission pathways were in the request from the UNFCCC. The 43rd IPCC plenary (April 2016) had put this in the context of sustainable development (SD) and poverty eradication (as PA Art 2.1 does). Many presentations on the first day highlighting not only the PA, but also the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN, also in 2015. I hope it will be addressed in framing, as well as each chapter, and with a dedicated chapter 5 concluding. Transformation was another topic much debated, how to achieve them and which actors might bring about the change required. While many participants indicated they arrived aware that a carbon budget consistent 1.5 °C is close to used up, there was a sense that the challenge should be outlined – positively, while not ducking the hard issues. Somewhat surprising to me was the notion of comparing 1.5 °C only to 2 °C. It seems that comparison to higher levels of temperature (and greater avoided impacts from 1.5, and higher emission pathways) both adds more information and is highly policy-relevant – given than the aggregate effect of INDCs puts us on a path between 2.6 and 3.1 °C (see this paper in Nature).

The outline from the scoping meeting will go for approval to the next IPCC plenary, to be held in October 2016. That means an intergovernmental discussion on what scientists have proposed. Personally, I think the IPCC needs to be depoliticized and focus on the science. That was reflected in a good, collegial spirit among participants in Geneva – despite some very different views, there was always willingness to find a way forward that advances good information. I would hope the IPCC plenary has a similar spirit, certainly asks for information that is policy-relevant, but refrains from negotiating the issues – the place for that is the UNFCCC.

The draft outline will be on the IPCC web-site as part of the documentation for the next plenary.

 

[1] Full title of the meeting: “Scoping Meeting for the IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty”