The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).In 2007 it received the Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with Al Gore. Its Secretariat is based in Geneva, in the headquarters of the WMO.
Laurent Fabius, Pascal Canfin and Dr. Rajendra K.Pachauri, IPCC chairman at the Forum "Climate Change: science to political action" September 30, 2013 in Paris. (Photo: MFA / F. de la Mure)
The roles of the IPCC
The IPCC has the role of assessing and presenting clear and objective information of scientific, technical and socioeconomic nature relevant for understanding the scientific basis for risks linked to human-induced climate change, methodically and without bias. Specifically, it studies the possible consequences of this change and envisages strategies for adaptation to climate change and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Its assessments are based on scientific and technical publications whose scientific value is widely recognized.
In France, 35 scientists, including Jean Jouzel, Vice-Chair of Working Group I on the Physical Science Basis, participate in the drafting of Assessment Reports. The IPCC’s work fuels reflection on climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, as well as development assistance and international negotiations. It is a basic working tool for several hundred people in France.
A guiding role in international climate negotiations
The IPCC’s major publications are its Assessment Reports (ARs). The scientific information collated by the IPCC through reference publications in the scientific community helps document international efforts to combat climate change.
The first report was published in 1990 and had major influence on the content of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The message of the world’s scientists in 1990 made the signature of the Convention possible. The second Assessment Report was published in 1995. It had decisive influence on the provisions of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. A third report, dated 2001, helped deepen study into the impact of climate change, recalling the need for adaptation. And the fourth AR appeared in 2007. It established a solid basis for negotiations aimed at reaching a universal agreement which could succeed the Kyoto Protocol. During the 2007 Bali Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, the conclusions of this report led to greater awareness of the need for more ambitious international action to combat climate change.
Generally, the quality of the IPCC’s work and its scientifically rigorous methodology have provided negotiators with a solid scientific foundation for the "shared vision”: the major principles and goals of the fight against climate change, which is the very basis of collective efforts within the UNFCCC.
The goal of limiting the global mean temperature rise to 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels was recognized in 2010 as central by the Parties to the UNFCCC, after the IPCC indicated that the consequences of climate change beyond that level would be significant.
A very considerable part of the global scientific community is involved in drafting IPCC Assessment Reports. The Group’s collegial operating model makes it possible to break down information very rigorously. The fourth AR was published in 2007, with more than 500 authors participating in drafting and 600 scientists involved in the two-stage review process. The drafting of the fifth AR involved 831 scientists.
Publication of the fifth Assessment Report
The fifth IPCC Assessment Report (AR5) will comprise three volumes and a Synthesis Report:
• The Working Group I volume on the Physical Science Basis of climate change was published on 27 September 2013;
• The Working Group II volume on Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation to climate change will be published in March 2014;
• The Working Group III volume on Mitigation of Climate Change will be published in April 2014.
• The Synthesis Report will be published in October 2014.
The information AR5 will contain will have to be fully taken into account in the framework of the wording of the 2015 climate agreement, in order for it to be sufficiently ambitious to address the challenge of climate change.