Delegates from more than 100 governments and many of the world’s top climate scientists are meeting in Copenhagen this week to finalize a report that will be used as a foundation for important upcoming climate summits. The leaked United Nations draft report, due to be published on Nov. 2nd, says climate change may have “serious, pervasive and irreversible” impacts on human society and nature.
Hopes are set on a new, post-Kyoto Protocol global climate agreement to be reached at the Paris summit at the end of 2015. There will a major climate meeting in Lima, Peru at the end of this year to help set the framework for the 2015 gathering.
“The report will be a guide for us,” Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, told Reuters.
This final report is a synthesis of three comprehensive IPCC reports published over the course of the last year. Those reports focused on the physical science; impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and mitigation. This flagship report received over 2,000 comments from government officials relating to changes to be made prior to publication.
According to a Reuters analysis, many governments want the draft to be written in a more clear and accessible manner with a focus on extreme weather events such as storms, heat waves, and floods. The U.S. wrote that the report needs to be useful for those without deep technical knowledge of climate issues.
“What about drought? Cyclones? Wildfires? Policymakers care deeply about extreme events,” the U.S. team wrote. “After all, in many ways it is how extreme events will change that will determine many of the (near-term, at least) impacts from climate change. As such, the authors should strongly consider saying more about the projected changes in extreme events.”
U.S. commenters also wrote that the report should stress impacts on rich countries more, saying “there are very few references to the vulnerability of wealthier countries to climate change.”
The E.U. team wrote that “the key messages should contain more substance that can help guide policy makers rather than general overarching statements,” and that “the overall storyline … is sometimes not clear and still looks fragmented.”
While the report warns of the dire consequences of the continued rise of GHGs, it also says the worst impacts can still be avoided. It states that a combination of adaptation and substantial, sustained reductions in GHGs can limit climate change risks and reduce the costs and challenges of mitigation.
Over the past five years some 2,000 scientists worked on the fifth iteration of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change’s Assessment Report. With leaders gathering to finalize the report this week, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, urged world governments not to be overcome by hopelessness as they engage in negotiations.
“May I humbly suggest that policymakers avoid being overcome by the seeming hopelessness of addressing climate change,” he said. “Tremendous strides are being made in alternative sources of clean energy. There is much we can do to use energy more efficiently. Reducing and ultimately eliminating deforestation provides additional avenues for action.”
In one hopeful indication, last week leaders of the European Union agreed to cut emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. European leaders hope this will build momentum for when the bloc hosts the critical Paris climate summit next year, and that it will encourage other major emitters yet to make pledges — such as the U.S. and China — to rise to the occasion. Countries have until early next year to announce the targets they intend to negotiate with at the Paris summit.