Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

IPCC’s Climate Assessment Report


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: IPCC

Mains level: Climate Change and the background for its negotiation

The Geneva-based Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release the first part of its Sixth Assessment Report, the periodic status check that has now become the most widely accepted scientific view of the state of the Earth’s climate.

What is IPCC?

  • The IPCC, an intergovernmental body was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • It was later endorsed by the UN General Assembly. Membership is open to all members of the WMO and UN.
  • The IPCC produces reports that contribute to the work of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the main international treaty on climate change.
  • The objective of the UNFCCC is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-induced) interference with the climate system.”
  • The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report was a critical scientific input into the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement in 2015.

What are IPCC reports?

  • IPCC reports cover the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.
  • The IPCC does not carry out original research, nor does it monitor climate or related phenomena itself.
  • Rather, it assesses published literature, including peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed sources.
  • However, the IPCC can be said to stimulate research in climate science.

The Assessment Reports

  • The five previous assessment reports that have come out since the IPCC was established in 1988 have formed the basis of international climate change negotiations, and the actions of the governments.
  • Their value has been globally acknowledged, and the fourth assessment report, which came out in 2007, won the IPCC the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Each of these voluminous reports, the last couple of them running into thousands of pages, have built upon the previous ones with updated knowledge and understanding of the climate system.
  • The reports have presented projections for temperature rise till 2100 under different scenarios and the kind of impacts that can be expected under each of these pathways.

Key projections of the 6th Report

Apart from incorporating the latest available scientific evidence, the Sixth Assessment Report is also attempting to provide more actionable information to help governments take policy decisions.

  • REGIONAL FOCUS: It is expected that this report would likely state what the scenarios for sea-level rise in the Bay of Bengal region is, not just what the average sea-level rise across the world is likely to be.
  • EXTREME EVENTS: There is expected to be bigger focus on extreme weather events, like the ones we have seen in the last few weeks.
  • CITIES: Densely populated mega-cities are supposed to be among the most vulnerable to impacts of climate change. The report is expected to present specific scenarios the climate change impacts on cities and large urban populations, and also implications for key infrastructure.
  • SYNERGIES: IPCC is expected to present a more integrated understanding of the situation, cross-link evidence and discuss trade-offs between different options or pathways, and also likely to cover social implications of climate change action by countries.

Why it matters?

  • The IPCC assessment reports have been extremely influential in directing the dialogue and action on climate change.
  • The First Assessment Report led to the setting up of the UNFCCC, the umbrella agreement under which international negotiations on climate change take place every year.
  • The Second Assessment Report was the basis for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that ran till last year, and the Fifth Assessment Report, which came out in 2014, guided the Paris Agreement.
  • The global climate architecture is now governed by the Paris Agreement, which replaced the Kyoto Protocol from this year.
  • There have been enough indications to suggest that global action was far below what was needed to keep the temperatures below 2°C, as mandated under the Paris Agreement.
  • In the immediate future, the IPCC report could serve as the most important warning towards the rapidly closing window of opportunity.

Try this PYQ now:

Q.The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international treaty drawn at:

(a) United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm,1972

(b) UN Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992

(c) World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, 2002

(d) UN Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen, 2009

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Back2Basics: UNFCCC

  • The UNFCCC established an international environmental treaty to combat “dangerous human interference with the climate system”, in part by stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
  • It was signed by 154 states at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992.

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Un conference on environment and development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992

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