The 33rd Plenary Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ended in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on 13 May. The Plenary Session decided on a number of reforms that improve the efficiency and transparency of the IPCC's procedures.
Photo: Eija Vallinheimo
The IPCC has decided to adopt a number of revisions to its procedures pertaining to the IPCC’s management, the clarity and transparency of processes, the development of assessment work for reports, the management of relations with the media, and refraining from political stands. In addition, the Plenary Session discussed the preparation of the Fifth Assessment Report.
The previous Plenary Session of the IPCC set up task groups for preparing the development of activities. The proposals submitted by the task groups were discussed at the 33rd Plenary Session, which decided, for instance, on the following reforms:
- An Executive Committee will be appointed to speed up decision-making. The Executive Committee can react more rapidly to topical issues than the Plenary Sessions that are arranged once or twice a year.
- Guidelines were drawn up for dealing with and correcting any errors that might arise in IPCC reports.
- Measures were adopted to improve the writing and revision of assessment reports and the transparency of the entire preparatory process. Among other things, a standardised method for describing the reliability of research findings was established, and guidelines on the use of sources outside scientific literature were specified.
- Uniform principles were approved for determining any conflicts of interest that people participating in scientific studies and the management of the IPCC might have.
- Communications by the IPCC will be strengthened and new guidelines on the IPCC communications strategy were approved.
Finland was represented at the Plenary Session by Heikki Tuomenvirta, Secretary of the Finnish IPCC Working Group, who sees these changes as useful.
“Increasingly clear guidelines ensure that scientific findings on climate change and all different views are discussed during the assessment process. In this way, it can be guaranteed that assessment reports are comprehensive, carefully crafted and of a very high scientific standard,” Tuomenvirta says.
In March 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon commissioned the InterAcademy Council, an independent body comprised of the world’s leading scientists, to study how the IPCC’s activities could be developed. The IAC gave recommendations for making the IPCC’s processes more efficient. The revisions now decided are largely based on these recommendations.
According to the current timetable, the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report will be published in four parts in late 2013 and in 2014. Over 800 authors are working on the report.
“The IPCC Assessment Reports are conclusions drawn by the wide scientific community itself, and they are absolutely essential in issues pertaining to climate change. However, after 23 years of operations, the management and procedures of the IPCC were in need of revision. The revisions help to ensure that the most recent and best possible research findings can be collected to support decision-making in the future as well,” says Counsellor Jaakko Ojala of the Finnish Ministry of the Environment.
Heikki Tuomenvirta, Secretary of the Finnish IPCC Working Group, Finnish Meteorological Institute, tel. +358 50 574 6824, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jaakko Ojala, Counsellor, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 50 362 2035, email@example.com
IPCC press release on the topic: