• Lead-organizer: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
  • 15:30 - 17:00
  • Date: 15 Jun 2012
  • Room: T-6

Connecting the dots: science, the IPCC and the policy picture

Organizing partners

IPCC (lead organizer)


Policy-makers need to base their decisions on firm foundations. This is particularly important when addressing complex environmental, economic and social issues such as climate change. The IPCC was founded in 1988 to prepare a comprehensive and unbiased assessment of the risks of anthropogenic climate change, which provided the basis for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and it continues to provide scientific and technical information to support the Convention. The importance of IPCC assessments for the UNFCCC was highlighted in the Durban decisions and the IPCC?s rigorous assessment process has become a template for science-based assessments work. Besides comprehensive assessment reports, the IPCC produces special reports on emerging and other issues relevant for policy implementation and risk management at a country level. An examination of two recent special reports will take two of the key themes of the Conference, disaster risk reduction and energy, as examples.

Detailed programme

The side event will briefly recall what we know about anthropogenic climate change and how scientific understanding has evolved in the past 20 years. It will also recall the role IPCC assessment reports, which aim to be policy relevant but are never policy prescriptive, have played over the past 24 years for the UNFCCC.

To ensure its assessment reports are both rigorously science-based and transparent, the IPCC has developed a writing and review process involving hundreds of authors from a wide range of disciplines and all regions, a multi stage review and thousands of expert comments. Being policy relevant requires also an active science-policy dialogue. IPCC encourages wide stakeholder input in the scoping process for IPCC reports and governments approve and accept of the completed reports.

Over the past two decades the scope of IPCC reports has broadened from focus on natural sciences to include the economic and social dimensions of Sustainable Development. The IPCC assessment reports integrate various dimensions of natural sciences relevant for understanding climate change, socio-economic implications for human and natural systems, and how to mitigate them. In their breadth the reports cover the full range of priority areas and critical issues being discussed at Rio, from agriculture and food security, to oceans, forest and biodiversity, to energy, transport and human settlements and human well being and security.

A simple example illustrates the power and relevance of this approach: a given country may aim in energy policy to provide affordable energy resources, while keeping pollution to a minimum. Its industrial policy will reflect the need to consume low-cost low-polluting energy while seeking viable opportunities to generate affordable clean energy. And its health policy will support the move to clean energy. Sustainable development is only possible when social, economic and environmental policies are mutually reinforcing in this way.

Given the focus of the Rio+20 Conference, the findings of two relevant Special Reports completed in the year 2011 will be presented, representing the knowledge base for implementing policy decisions in the energy sector and in disaster risk reduction.

Weather and climate related disasters have social as well as physical dimensions. The Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) addresses the interaction of climatic, environmental and human factors that can lead to disasters. It addresses aspects that influence vulnerability and exposure, such as settlement patterns, urbanization and changes in socioeconomic conditions and changes in extreme climate events. It analyzes past experiences with managing climate extremes and presents options for improved management of risks of climate extremes and disasters at local, national and international level. In this way the report is a textbook example of cooperation between scientists from different disciplines, bringing together the work of those studying the physical aspects of climate change and how it affects extreme weather, people with expertise in impacts, adaptation and vulnerability and experts in disaster risk management. At the side event, possible strategies for effectively managing disaster risks and climate change adaptation that are assessed in the SREX will be presented.

To mitigate climate change and to avoid its most severe impacts, efforts need to be made to transform current energy systems. Renewable energy sources can contribute substantially to decouple development and the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. This is one of the main findings of the IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) that was released in May 2011. By enhancing energy access, securing energy supplies, and reducing negative environmental and health impacts of fossil fuel-based energy provision, renewable energy sources can be drivers of sustainable development. The report examines the costs and opportunities of alternative energy from an economic, environmental and urban development perspective, among others.

Senior representatives from the IPCC will present key finding from IPCC Reports. Senior representatives from UNEP, ISDR and governments will provide a user perspective and speak about the relevance of the IPCC as model for other assessment processes.

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