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According to IPCC scientists, we require authority to establish climate regulations.

Experienced climate specialists are urging for a revamp of the framework and authority of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change due to frustration with the sluggish progress of climate efforts.

The Guardian interviewed five lead authors from IPCC reports who believe that scientists should be allowed to propose policy solutions and potentially supervise their implementation by the 195 countries that have signed the UNFCCC.

Their request was made following the revelation that the United Arab Emirates had intentions to capitalize on its role as host of Cop28 by making deals involving oil and gas.

Sonia Seneviratne, who has been a vice-chair of the IPCC and coordinating lead author since 2012, stated: “There comes a time when we must acknowledge that in order to achieve the goals set by policymakers, specific policies must be put into action.”

“As the severity of climate change increases, it is increasingly challenging to address policy issues without proposing specific solutions.”

According to her, scientists should have the power to advocate for reductions and elimination of fossil fuels. The disconnect between IPCC research and practical efforts is perplexing for scientists as it lacks logical reasoning.

According to Gert-Jan Nabuurs, who has served as coordinating lead author for three IPCC reports, the organization’s crucial and unbiased role is becoming less clear. This decline appears to be allowing countries to have a greater influence.

The issue for writers was that they were unable to prescribe policies, therefore unable to make definitive statements on the necessary actions to take, according to the speaker.

Nabuurs questioned the value of continuing to produce assessment reports when “we already know that in five to six years’ time the message is not going to be very different, the problem will still be there, emissions will still be going up, there will be more evidence of impacts and less time to try to stay under 2C [of heating above pre-industrial levels]”.

Despite numerous warnings from scientists about the potential for climate tipping points, it is projected that greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 9% by 2030. To achieve the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5C outlined in the Paris climate agreement, emissions would need to decrease by 43% within the next decade.

Julia Steinberger, a primary author responsible for coordinating the information on climate change solutions in the IPCC’s latest report, referred to as AR6, expressed that the organization is currently restricted from making definitive and logical statements, such as the urgent requirement to shift away from using and investing in fossil fuels. Additionally, many scientists have adopted a personal approach of avoiding policy recommendations in their communication, not just within the IPCC. In my view, this self-censorship is unproductive.

More than half of all atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions since 1751 have occurred since the Cop summits began in 1995. The UNFCCC has overseen a new emissions record in almost every year since then, and 2023 looks as if it will be no different.

Yamina Saheb, the primary writer of a section in AR6, expressed a desire for a process in which scientists suggest solutions and their implementation is monitored. Governments are then asked to approve and follow through on these recommendations, with subsequent evaluation of their progress.

According to Steinberger, certain governments have served as representatives for the meat and livestock industry and have managed to alter the wording used in the AR6 summary, replacing “plant-based diets” with “sustainable healthy diets”.

“Several other countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Switzerland, have advocated for their fossil fuel and financial sectors.”

The control that governments, like the UAE, have over crucial reports is a specific worry for IPCC writers.

Steinberger stated that this Cop will showcase the unfeasibility of successful climate diplomacy as long as the fossil fuel sector holds significant influence over government and intervention in negotiation teams.

The IPCC’s modus operandi is to provide assessment reports of the latest climate science, which can be more than 3,000 pages long, every six to seven years. A shorter “summary for policymakers” is also assembled, condensing the main findings.

Government officials carefully examine each document, making changes and collaborating with IPCC scientists. Both parties have the power to reject, but scientists often feel constrained from exercising their veto power.

A confidential document from US diplomats during the March 2021 AR6 negotiations, obtained by the Guardian, criticized scientists for suggesting policy changes and failing to acknowledge the potential impacts of behavior and lifestyle changes on demand-side mitigation.

The article cautioned against using words like “wasteful” or “excessive” to characterize consumption, as they carry connotations of judgement. It also questioned the inclusion of the idea of “energy sufficiency” in the summary, which refers to decreasing the need for energy, materials, and water while improving human welfare.

According to Saheb, a chart depicting the flow of climate funds revealed that the amount invested for mitigation in developing nations was inadequate. However, this diagram was removed from the AR6 summary due to opposition from the US and other wealthy countries.

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The United States document, authorized by Trigg Talley, the top consultant to US climate envoy John Kerry, criticized scientists for having a strong negative opinion on the market and placing too much emphasis on immediate economic recovery measures and monetary easing.

The report only evaluates the stranded assets of fossil fuel producers and does not consider the impact on the livelihoods of those who rely on the industry.

According to Glen Peters, who is a primary contributor to the emissions projections in AR6, it is important for IPCC researchers to have the freedom to pinpoint the reasons behind a country’s rise in greenhouse gas emissions, such as the use of coal in China. They should also be able to provide examples of effective strategies for reducing emissions in other regions.

According to documents from negotiations, a statement made by IPCC scientists claiming that China and India were accountable for over half of the worldwide increase in emissions between 2010 and 2019 was omitted from the most recent summary intended for policymakers.

Peters emphasized the importance of the IPCC taking action to address the issue. If this does not occur in AR7, he believes the organization will become less important. He also noted that the IPCC must adapt to the changing world.

There is disagreement among IPCC scientists. Joyashree Roy, a leading author for AR6, asserted that the IPCC is already gaining more autonomy and changing it into a supervisory body would result in “disjointed decisions [that] cannot effectively address this unprecedented issue for humanity.”

She stated that negotiators are putting in extra effort in their preparation, which is evident over time and in the way they present their arguments during the review and approval of policymakers’ summaries.

“Nations are engaging in thorough preparations supported by scientific evidence, which contributes to enhancing both the reports and the parties’ comprehension.”

The IPCC states that its primary obligation is to supply scientific information to support and solidify the efforts of UNFCCC negotiators.

A representative from the IPCC stated: “It should be noted that the IPCC evaluations offer policy relevance, but are not intended to prescribe policies. They may include forecasts of potential climate change based on various scenarios and address the dangers posed by climate change, as well as discuss the potential impact of response strategies. However, they do not dictate specific actions for policymakers to take.”

According to the official, the most recent IPCC report demonstrated improvements in its representation of gender and different regions.

The authors pointed out that a majority (60%) of the bureau members for the IPCC hail from developing countries. However, these countries, which make up 84% of the world’s population, only contribute 7% of the IPCC scientists. The least developed countries, which account for 14% of the global populace, have a disproportionately small representation in the IPCC.

According to Saheb, only scientific research from the global north is taken into account. Those in the south are at a disadvantage due to the high cost of databases and the requirement for meetings to be conducted in English, which not everyone can understand. This unequal treatment perpetuates the effects of colonialism.

Over 650 climate experts have joined together to urge President Joe Biden to swiftly and equitably eliminate the use of fossil fuels and provide greater financial support for developing countries to combat climate change.

Source: theguardian.com