The draft report, a summary of which was released in Berlin, Germany, this week (13 April), is written by the IPCC’s third working group, which focuses on climate change mitigation. The draft is part of the panel’s fifth assessment report (AR5) and will be incorporated into its synthesis report — a revised collection of the reports from all three working groups, due to be approved in October.
It suggests that the best way to avoid catastrophic climate change is by employing a mix of technologies — including carbon capture and storage (CCS), and nuclear and renewable power — while also reducing global use of consumables such as fossil fuels.
Without mitigation, average global surface temperatures will increase by 3.7 to 4.8 degrees Celsius by 2100 compared with preindustrial levels, it warns, making it clear that taking action now would be wise.
Yet the report has met with a mixed reception from experts. Climatepolicy analysts from developing countries tell SciDev.Net that the report downplays the responsibilities of rich countries for greenhouse gas emissions and fails to take proper account of the needs of developing nations when recommending mitigation measures.
Two big problems
Shreekant Gupta, coordinating lead author for the report’s chapter on integrated risk and uncertainty, and an economist at the University of Delhi, tells SciDev.Net that he finds the summary report “problematic”.
First, it “shifts the focus of the emissions timeline to recent decades, emphasising the rises in emissions over the last 40 years and diluting the focus on historical emissions” made by rich countries, says Gupta.
Because the report focuses on rates of increase in emissions, developing nations are presented as the worst offenders, when many actually still contribute little to global emissions, he says. Neither does the report break down countries’ emissions per person or by GDP (gross domestic product).
Second, Gupta says, the report ignores the issue of how technology can be transferred to developing countries — without tech transfer advanced technologies such as CCS will remain an option only for rich countries.
Martin Khor, executive director of the Switzerland-based South Centre, an intergovernmental policy analysis organisation of developing countries, says the negative reaction to the report is due to the IPCC’s commitment to only examine peer-reviewed publications — the majority of which originate from developed countries — and the fact that most authors of the report are from the West. “The rules of the game are loaded against developing countries,” says Kohr.
But N. H. Ravindranath, a drafting author for the summary report, dismissed the criticism. He says that from a pragmatic point of view, “one should look at the recent past, rather than what happened 100 years ago”.
Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the third working group from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, notes that the IPCC’s policy is not to recommend particular actions to certain countries. “The report tries to be policy-relevant, without being policy-prescriptive,” he says.
He adds: “There is a lot of uncertainty about global carbon storage capacity. The IPCC has not said that CCS is a riskless technology,” only suggested it as an option.
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