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40th Session of the IPCC (IPCC-40)

The 40th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-40) will meet from 27-31 October 2014 at the Tivoli Conference Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, to consider and finalize the Synthesis Report (SYR), which integrates and synthesizes the findings from the three Working Group (WG) reports. Together, these comprise the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). The Panel will approve, line by line, the SYR's Summary for Policymakers (SPM) and adopt the draft SYR. More than 800 authors and review editors from 85 countries have participated in the preparation of AR5 over the past six years.

In addition to approving the SPM and adopting the SYR, IPCC-40 will address, inter alia: the IPCC programme and budget through 2017; future work of the IPCC; communication and outreach activities; a request for a technical report on climate change, food and agriculture; and implementation of the IPCC conflict of interest (COI) policy. The third meeting of the Task Group on the Future Work of the IPCC (TGF) met immediately prior to IPCC-40 on 26 October to consider, among other things, the refined Options Paper prepared by the Task Group Co-Chairs.


The IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to assess scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant to understanding the risks associated with human-induced climate change, its potential impacts, and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC does not undertake new research, nor does it monitor climate-related data. Instead, it conducts assessments of knowledge on the basis of published and peer-reviewed scientific and technical literature.

The IPCC has three WGs: WGI addresses the physical scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change; WGII addresses the vulnerability of socioeconomic and natural systems to climate change, impacts of climate change and adaptation options; and WGIII addresses options for limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigating climate change. Each WG has two co-chairs and six vice-chairs, except WGIII, which, for the Fifth Assessment cycle, has three co-chairs. The co-chairs guide the WGs in fulfilling the mandates given to them by the Panel and are assisted in this task by Technical Support Units (TSUs).

The IPCC also has a Task Force on National GHG Inventories (TFI) to oversee the IPCC National GHG Inventories Programme, which aims to: develop and refine an internationally-agreed methodology and software for the calculation and reporting of national GHG emissions and removals; and encourage the use of this methodology by parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Panel elects its Bureau for the duration of the preparation of an IPCC assessment report. The Bureau’s role is to assist the IPCC Chair in planning, coordinating and monitoring the IPCC’s work. The Bureau is composed of climate change experts representing all regions. Currently, the Bureau comprises 31 members: the IPCC Chair and Vice-Chairs, the WG Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs and the TFI Co-Chairs. In 2011, the IPCC established an Executive Committee to assist with intersessional work and coordination among the WGs. The Committee consists of the IPCC Chair, IPCC Vice-Chairs, WGs and TFI Co-Chairs, and advisory members, including the Head of the Secretariat and the four Heads of the TSUs. The IPCC Secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland, and is hosted by the WMO.

IPCC PRODUCTS: Since its inception, the IPCC has prepared a series of comprehensive assessments, special reports and technical papers that provide scientific information on climate change to the international community and are subject to extensive review by experts and governments.

The IPCC’s First Assessment Report was completed in 1990; the Second Assessment Report in 1995; the Third Assessment Report in 2001; and the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) in 2007. Currently, the Assessment Reports are structured into three volumes, one for each WG. Each volume is comprised of an SPM, a Technical Summary and an underlying assessment report. All sections of the reports undergo an intensive review process, which takes place in three stages: a first review by experts; a second review by experts and governments; and a third review by governments. Each SPM is approved line by line by the respective WG. The Assessment Reports also include a SYR, highlighting the most relevant aspects of the three WG reports, and an SPM of the SYR, which is approved line by line by the Panel.

In addition to the comprehensive assessments, the IPCC produces special reports, methodology reports and technical papers, focusing on specific issues related to climate change. Thus far, special reports include: Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) (2000); Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (2005); Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) (2011); and Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) (2011). Technical papers have also been prepared on Climate Change and Biodiversity (2002), and on Climate Change and Water (2008), among others.

In addition, the IPCC also produces methodology reports or guidelines to assist countries in reporting on GHGs. Good Practice Guidance reports were approved by the Panel in 2000 and 2003. The Panel approved the latest version of the IPCC Guidelines on National GHG Inventories in 2006. The IPCC also adopted the 2013 Supplement to the 2006 Guidelines for National GHG Inventories: Wetlands, and the 2013 Revised Supplementary Methods and Good Practice Guidance Arising from the Kyoto Protocol.

For its work and efforts “to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about manmade climate change, and to lay the foundations needed to counteract such change,” the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with former US Vice-President Al Gore, in December 2007.

IPCC-28: During this session (9-10 April 2008, Budapest, Hungary), the IPCC agreed to prepare the AR5 and to retain the current structure of its WGs. In order to enable significant use of new scenarios in AR5, the Panel requested the IPCC Bureau to ensure delivery of the WGI report by early 2013 and completion of the other WG reports and the SYR as early as possible in 2014.

IPCC-29: This session (31 August - 4 September 2008, Geneva, Switzerland) commemorated the IPCC’s 20th anniversary. The Panel elected the new IPCC Bureau, and reelected Rajendra Pachauri (India) as Chair. The Panel also continued discussions on the future of the IPCC and agreed to create a scholarship fund for young climate change scientists from developing countries with the funds from the Nobel Peace Prize.

IPCC-30: During this session (21-23 April 2009, Antalya, Turkey), the Panel focused mainly on the near-term future of the IPCC and provided guidance for an AR5 scoping meeting, which was held in Venice, Italy, from 13-17 July 2009.

IPCC-31: This session (26-29 October 2009, Bali, Indonesia) focused on approving the proposed AR5 chapter outlines developed by participants at the Venice scoping meeting. The Panel also considered progress on implementing decisions taken at IPCC-30 regarding the involvement of scientists from developing countries and countries with economies in transition, use of electronic technologies, and the longer-term future of the IPCC.

INTERACADEMY COUNCIL (IAC) REVIEW: In response to public criticism of the IPCC related to inaccuracies in AR4 and the Panel’s response to the criticism, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and IPCC Chair Pachauri requested the IAC to conduct an independent review of IPCC processes and procedures and to present recommendations to strengthen the IPCC and ensure the quality of its reports. The IAC presented its results in a report in August 2010 and made recommendations regarding, inter alia: the IPCC’s management structure; a communications strategy, including a plan to respond to crises; transparency, including criteria for selecting participants, and the type of scientific and technical information to be assessed; and consistency in how the WGs characterize uncertainty.

IPCC-32: This session (11-14 October 2010, Busan, Republic of Korea) addressed the recommendations of the IAC Review. The Panel adopted a number of decisions in this regard, including on the treatment of gray literature and uncertainty, and on a process to address errors in previous reports. For recommendations requiring further examination, the Panel established task groups on processes and procedures, communications, COI policy, and governance and management. The Panel also accepted a revised outline for the AR5 SYR.

IPCC-33: The session (10-13 May 2011, Abu Dhabi) focused primarily on follow-up actions to the IAC Review. The Panel established an Executive Committee, adopted a COI Policy and introduced several changes to the procedures for IPCC reports. The Panel also considered progress on AR5. 

IPCC-34: This meeting (18-19 November 2011, Kampala, Uganda) adopted the revised Procedures for the Preparation, Review, Acceptance, Adoption, Approval and Publication of IPCC Reports, as well as the Implementation Procedures and Disclosure Form for the COI Policy.

IPCC-35: This session (6-9 June 2012, Geneva, Switzerland) concluded the Panel’s consideration of the recommendations from the IAC Review by approving the functions of the IPCC Secretariat and TSUs and the Communications Strategy.

WGI-12 and IPCC-36: During these meetings (23-26 September 2013, Stockholm, Sweden), WGI finalized its AR5 contribution titled “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis.” The Panel then met to approve the WGI SPM and also accepted the underlying report, including the Technical Summary and annexes.

IPCC-37: During this session (14-17 October 2013, Batumi, Georgia) the Panel considered and adopted two methodology reports: “2013 Supplement to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National GHG Inventories: Wetlands” and “2013 Revised Supplementary Methods and Good Practice Guidance Arising from the Kyoto Protocol.” The IPCC also undertook initial discussions on mapping the IPCC’s future.

WGII-10 and IPCC-38: These meetings (25-29 March 2014, Yokohama, Japan) finalized the WGII contribution to AR5 titled “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.” The Panel then met to approve the WGII SPM and accepted the underlying report, including the Technical Summary and annexes.

WGIII-12 and IPCC-39: These meetings (7-12 April 2014, Berlin, Germany), finalized the WGIII contribution to AR5: “Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change.” The Panel then approved the WGII SPM and accepted the underlying report, including the Technical Summary and annexes. The Panel also discussed, inter alia, future work of the IPCC and COI. The first meeting of the TGF met on 6 April.


Second Meeting of the TGF: This meeting (16-17 September 2014, Geneva, Switzerland) considered submissions from scientists, observer organizations, TSUs and the Secretariat regarding future IPCC products, the structure for producing these products, and ways to enhance developing countries’ participation in and contributions to the IPCC’s future work. It also considered an options paper prepared by the TGF Co-Chairs.

Third Meeting of the TGF: This meeting (26 October 2014, Copenhagen, Denmark) discussed: options for and recommendations on future IPCC products; an appropriate structure and modus operandi for producing these products; and ways to enhance developing countries’ participation in and contributions to future work. The TGF is expected to complete its work during the first half of 2015 at IPCC-41, when the Panel is expected to agree on size, structure and composition of the next IPCC Bureau.

This issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin © <[email protected]> is written and edited by Deborah Davenport, Ph.D., María Gutiérrez, Ph.D., Elena Kosolapova, Ph.D., Leila Mead, and Mihaela Secrieru. The Digital Editor is Mike Muzurakis. The Editor is Pamela Chasek, Ph.D. <[email protected]>. The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI <[email protected]>. The Sustaining Donors of the Bulletin are the European Commission (DG-ENV and DG-CLIMATE) and the Government of Switzerland (the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC)). General Support for the Bulletin during 2014 is provided by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, SWAN International, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies - IGES), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Specific funding for the coverage of this meeting has been provided by the IPCC Secretariat, IGES, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and Aramco. Funding for translation of the Bulletin into French has been provided by the Government of France, the Wallonia, Québec, and the International Organization of La Francophonie/Institute for Sustainable Development of La Francophonie (IOF/IFDD). The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD or other donors. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in non-commercial publications with appropriate academic citation. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at <[email protected]>, +1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11D, New York, NY 10022 USA. The ENB team at IPCC-40 can be contacted by e-mail at <[email protected]>.