October 02, 2013
Shreekant Gupta, coordinating lead author of the just-released IPCC Working Group III report, highlights what was left out of the summary and the report due to opposition from countries with diverging views
A 33-page summary for policymakers (SPM) of the Working Group III report (Assessment Report 5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released on Sunday in Berlin. The SPM was debated line by line over several days since it has to be unanimously approved by all governments of all countries.
According to newspaper reports, this time round developing countries objected to graphs on trends in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which according to them “would open the door for industrialised countries – which they see as historically responsible for climate change – to reframe the discussion on how to share the burden of climate action.” These graphs were eventually deleted from the SPM but remain in the full report.
Similarly, “rich countries — including the United States — struck out language implying that they needed to write big cheques to the developing countries.”
What ultimately resulted is a fairly anodyne document that states the obvious and does not add much to what is known since Assessment Report 4 (AR4), which came out in 2007. This is true not only of the SPM but also of the underlying report.
While the SPM and the report make a strong case for early and deep cuts in GHG emissions and talk about energy efficiency, decarbonizing electricity supply and promoting renewables etc. the same things were said in AR4. Further, it is not spelt out who will do all this and who will pay for it.
The report unfairly focuses on rising GHG emissions due to energy needs of growing population and incomes in the developing world, mainly in China and other large countries. This ignores already high consumption and emission levels in the rich countries that comprise a small proportion of world population. In this context, it is interesting to note there is no mention in the SPM of highly unequal per capita emissions across countries.
Shreekant Gupta, Associate Professor at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, was the coordinating lead author of the chapter on Integrated Risk and Uncertainty Assessment of Climate Change Response Policies in the 2014 IPCC Working Group III report