Decision to Ensure IPCC Reports Released in Time to Inform Next UN Global Stocktake Punted

Statements by Adam Markham and Dr. Delta Merner, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jan 20, 2024

ISTANBUL—The 60th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) taking place in Istanbul, Türkiye, concluded today. Experts from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)—an official observer organization—attended the meeting, where delegates from member countries and scientists came together to reinforce their commitment to providing the world with rigorous, comprehensive scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and possible policy solutions.

The meeting was defined by a lengthy debate around creating a production timeline for the forthcoming IPCC Seventh Assessment Report (AR7) and supplemental products in an attempt by many nations to produce robust reports in time to inform the Second Global Stocktake (GST)—an accounting of nations’ collective progress towards meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Ultimately, a 2028 timeline for the foundational reports was viewed by some delegates as unachievable. A last gasp consensus was finally reached, after the meeting ran deep into overtime, to retain the existing structure of the core IPCC reports—three working group reports on the scientific basis of climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, and mitigation of heat-trapping emissions, followed by a synthesis report to help inform global policymaker actions. A decision on the release date of the working group reports has been punted to a subsequent meeting while the synthesis report is slated to be completed by late 2029.

The IPCC also agreed to complete three additional products, a special report on climate change and cities and methodology reports addressing short-lived climate forcers such as methane emissions and carbon dioxide removal. Each of these will be completed by 2027, allowing their outcomes to inform the 2028 GST. Further, delegates affirmed that adapting to climate change is a topic that requires special attention during this report cycle and agreed to complete a product providing technical guidance on climate impacts and adaptation metrics.

Below is a statement by Dr. Delta Merner, the lead scientist for the Science Hub for Climate Litigation at UCS.

“The meeting didn’t achieve what we had hoped. As the climate crisis rapidly worsens, the decisions and actions policymakers take are more critical than ever. They require robust, timely science to help guide decisions. Unfortunately, IPCC delegates were unable to agree on a timeline that would allow the core reports to be prepared in time for the UNFCCC’s 2028 Global Stocktake. While three smaller reports will be completed in time to inform the Stocktake, these reports will not contain the comprehensive science review that policymakers need. The IPCC will still produce a critical body of work for helping the global community understand climate change, however decisions today mean that this report cycle will likely be less relevant to key moments for international policy than it could, and should, have been.

“Additionally, the IPCC has planned to advance its work on the complex and controversial topic of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It’s important that this research not only explores technological feasibility but also rigorously examines the societal implications, including possible harm to communities or misuse to further the greenwashing agendas of fossil fuel companies and petrostates. The next steps are clear: science and integrity must lead our path forward in collectively addressing climate change.”

During the plenary session, Adam Markham, the deputy director of the Climate and Energy Program at UCS, presented the final report from the IPCC’s International Co-Sponsored Meeting on Culture, Heritage and Climate Change on behalf of that meeting’s scientific co-chairs. The report addressed the need for greater attention to culture and heritage in understanding the toll of loss and damage, climate mitigation, and climate adaptation and resilience. The report recommended convening an IPCC expert meeting on cultural heritage and climate change as an input to the IPCC’s AR7 and establishing a new IPCC task force to develop guidelines for better incorporating Indigenous and traditional knowledge within the IPCC’s reports and other work. The IPCC decided in Istanbul that the AR7 will undertake activities to diversify literature and knowledge sources, including drawing on Indigenous Peoples’ Knowledge.

Below is a statement by Adam Markham, the deputy director of the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.

“The Istanbul meeting advanced the recognition that meaningful inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in the work of IPCC is essential. Indigenous and local community knowledge is vital for contributing to nations’ collective understanding of climate impacts and loss and damage, as well as to informing policymakers how best to adapt and increase community resilience to these mounting challenges. The involvement of Indigenous voices, including Indigenous scientists, will be crucial to the IPCC’s future success.”

Relevant Resources:

  • Report: “Global Research and Action Agenda on Culture, Heritage, and Climate Change,” found here.
  • Blogpost: “Why the IPCC 7th Assessment Matters,” found here.
  • Blogpost: “IPCC Assessment 6 Outcomes: The Latest IPCC Report Will Make You Sad. And Mad. Don’t Give Up!” found here.
  • Blogpost: “COP28 Took Steps Toward Safeguarding Cultural Heritage from Climate Change,” found here.
  • Blogpost: “What Did the UN Climate Talks at COP28 Achieve and What’s Next?” found here.