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Monday, January 29, 2024

IPCC plans 7th assessment cycle reports including Climate Change and Cities, Short-lived Climate Forcers, Carbon Dioxide Removal

The 60th Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) met in Istanbul, Turkiye from 16–19 January 2024  (IPCC-60). This session started the planning for the seventh assessment cycle which will run over the next 5-6 years. More than 300 delegates from 120 governments met to determine the work cycle of what reports to produce. 

Outcomes include reports from the three Working Groups, plus a Synthesis Report as in previous assessment cycles. Special reports will include: Special Report on Climate Change and Cities, Methodology Report on Short-lived Climate Forcers, Methodology Report on Carbon Dioxide Removal Technologies, Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage. All three are important foundations for climate policy decision making.

Some climate scientists had previously called for a special report on catastrophic climate change, a blind spot in peer reviewed research and thus in the IPCC assessments. No mention made of this in reports of the IPCC meeting.

The IPCC works on consensus, so even these meetings can be difficult in navigating the geo-politics. 

One of the largest hurdles was aligning the IPCC complicated report generation process with the UNFCCc 5 year program of the Global Stocktake (GST) under the Paris Agreement. The second global stocktake is due in 2028, so having the 3 working group reports completed by then would be useful to feed-in to the Global Stocktake decisions.

Key Reports on: Cities, Short Lived Climate Forces, CO2 Removal and CCUS

The United Nations Environment Program says that "Estimates suggest that cities are responsible for 75 percent of global CO2 emissions, with transport and buildings being among the largest contributors." In a May 2023 report - Thriving: Making Cities Green, Resilient, and Inclusive in a Changing Climate - the World Bank argues that Cities Key to Solving Climate Crisis . A dedicated report from the IPCC on Cities and Climate Change will be important for climate policy and urban planning and development.

The Methodology Report on Short-lived Climate Forcers will have a focus on a variety of short term pollutants such as black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), due to their atmospheric impacts. They primarily come from fossil fuel production and combustion. Rapid action to reduce these climate forces can buy us much needed time. There is already frameworks in place to tackle some of these including under the 2016 Kigali amendment of the Montreal Protocol and the voluntary Global Methane Pledge. The methodology report will be a useful summary of existing actions and further actions needed.

The Methodology Report on Carbon Dioxide Removal Technologies, Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage is needed to outline carbon dioxide removal solutions, and those purported solutions which have failed, or failed to live up to expections. It is important to put this on a scientific basis and not let the Fossil Fuel Industry push solutions which have proven so far very problematic. 

Assessing Tipping Points and Catastrophic climate change risks 

Some scientists had advocated the IPCC should produce a special report on catastrophic climate change, including tipping points. There was discussion about topics for potential reports, which included “tipping points,” “climate change adaptation, adaptation goal, adaptation metrics, limits, and gaps to adaptation” and “loss and damage” garnering the most mentions. The ENB summary says:

ARGENTINA, SPAIN, and CAN EUROPE supported focusing on tipping points. URUGUAY, TANZANIA and others supported a Special Report on tipping points including loss and damage. SURINAME supported combining tipping points, adaptation, and loss and damage. NIGER, LIBYA, GUINEA, and the PHILIPPINES supported focusing on loss and damage. PAKISTAN said loss and damage should be integrated into the cycle. VENEZUELA proposed focusing on loss and damage and the SDGs. CUBA, ALGERIA, and BELGIUM supported a Special Report on climate change and sustainable development. SAUDI ARABIA and MOROCCO called for work on adaptation, addressing, inter alia, the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) and loss and damage. The UK suggested focusing on solutions integrating mitigation and adaptation.

LUXEMBOURG supported a Special Report on “Reversible and irreversible climate change impacts and how to avoid and respond to tipping points” or “Exceeding a warming level and returning.” The NETHERLANDS and DENMARK also supported a second Special Report on overshoot, tipping points and related risks for adaptation and consequences for mitigation, including loss and damage, to be completed by all three WGs and ready by 2027 to serve as input to the GST. UKRAINE suggested grouping topics around the theme “risks to climate resilient development,” focusing on, among other things, shock events.

But such a special report on tipping points was not authorised. Some of the assessments of the threat of  tipping points will be covered in the Working Group reports.

Because the assessment cycle is based on reviewing current peer reviewed literature, there can be blind spots where research has not been undertaken, or only minimally so. Luke et al in their 2022 paper - Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios -  highlight "The IPCC reports synthesize peer-reviewed literature regarding climate change, impacts and vulnerabilities, and mitigation. Despite identifying 15 tipping elements in biosphere, oceans, and cryosphere in the Working Group 1 contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report, many with irreversible thresholds, there were very few publications on catastrophic scenarios that could be assessed."

They identify a Sample Research Agenda for Extreme Earth System States, Mass Mortality, Societal Fragility, and Integrated Climate Catastrophe Assessments. Knowing the low probability but high impact risks is key for effective risk management. The researchers suggest  four key strands:

  • Understanding extreme climate change dynamics and impacts in the long term
  • Exploring climate-triggered pathways to mass morbidity and mortality
  • Investigating social fragility: vulnerabilities, risk cascades, and risk responses
  • Synthesizing the research findings into “integrated catastrophe assessments”

The article concludes:

There is ample evidence that climate change could become catastrophic. We could enter such “endgames” at even modest levels of warming. Understanding extreme risks is important for robust decision-making, from preparation to consideration of emergency responses. This requires exploring not just higher temperature scenarios but also the potential for climate change impacts to contribute to systemic risk and other cascades. We suggest that it is time to seriously scrutinize the best way to expand our research horizons to cover this field. The proposed “Climate Endgame” research agenda provides one way to navigate this under-studied area. Facing a future of accelerating climate change while blind to worst-case scenarios is naive risk management at best and fatally foolish at worst.

Australia at IPCC-60

It is not easy to track all the positions of a country at these international meetings, but the IISD/Earth Negotiating Bulletin provides some standout positions. 

The IPCC established the Financial Task Team (FiTT) for the new assessment cycle, with Kenya and Australia as Co-Chairs and core team members from Bahamas, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and the US.

AUSTRALIA, stressed the importance of long-term planning.

Working with related organisations such as IPBES: "SWITZERLAND underscored the need for the IPCC to be able to respond swiftly to emerging requests and, with many other governments, supported exploring synergies with related processes, including the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). AZERBAIJAN noted the challenge of fully assessing the increasing “flood of information” while ensuring balance, and suggested cooperation with all countries and other organizations, especially IPBES. VENEZUELA called for assessing cooperation between the IPCC and related institutions. LUXEMBOURG, AUSTRALIA, SWEDEN, and others supported the proposal in the Chair’s Vision document to have IPCC Vice-Chairs liaise with some of these related organizations. SAUDI ARABIA opposed, saying there is no mandate for this activity and describing the Vice-Chairs’ roles as focal points was “ambiguous and vague.”

SWITZERLAND, the UK, JAPAN, and AUSTRALIA also noted the Synthesis Report (SYR) should be produced in 2029 rather than 2030.


In deliberations during the four-day meeting, the governments agreed to produce:

  • the three Working Group contributions to the Seventh Assessment Report, namely:
    • the Working Group I report on the Physical Science Basis,
    • the Working Group II report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability and
    • the Working Group III report on Mitigation of Climate Change. 
  • The Synthesis Report of the Seventh Assessment Report will be produced after the completion of the Working Group reports and released by late 2029.
  • Special Report on Climate Change and Cities 
  • Methodology Report on Short-lived Climate Forcers. 
  • Methodology Report on Carbon Dioxide Removal Technologies, Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage.
  • revision of the 1994 IPCC Technical Guidelines on impacts and adaptation as well as adaptation indicators, metrics and guidelines, will be developed in conjunction with the Working Group II report and published as a separate product.


IPCC, 20 January 2024, IPCC agrees on the set of scientific reports for the seventh assessment cycle

IISD/ENB, Summary report, 16–19 January 2024, 60th Session of the IPCC (IPCC-60)

Image: Photo by IISD/ENB | Anastasia Rodopoulou

Luke Kemp, Chi Xu, Joanna Depledge, and Timothy M. Lenton (1 August 2022), Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios, PNAS 119 (34) e2108146119,


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