Right now, leaders around the world are in Madrid for the Conference of the Parties (COP), a yearly UN meeting on climate change science, policy and solutions. Representatives from March for Science are on the ground in Spain to continue our work supporting grassroots movements and making sure leaders are uniting behind the science.
One of the most important bodies guiding the negotiations at COP is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is comprised of thousands of scientists and experts, and was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program. The purpose of the IPCC is to provide governments with the scientific data needed to produce and pass climate policies.
In 2015, COP negotiations led to the Paris Agreement, which set an international goal to keep post-industrial global warming temperatures below 2 degrees celsius. At the negotiations, island nations, also known as Small Island Developing States (SIDS), voiced their concerns about such a relaxed temperature target that would not do enough to address the devastating impact climate crisis was having on their countries. In response, they commissioned the IPCC to write a report on the difference it would make keeping warming to 1.5 degrees.
The IPCC 1.5C special report was published in October of 2018, authored by 91 experts from 40 different countries. The report found that the risks–exponential increase in floods, droughts, extreme heat, and poverty– associated with warming are substantially lower at 1.5˚C than 2˚C. The report warns that reaching the 1.5 target requires major and immediate transformation, and the world has 12 years to limit fossil fuel emissions to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.
Unfortunately, world leaders failed to formally accept the IPCC 1.5C special report at COP24 in Katowice, Poland when several oil and gas producing nations blocked it. There is a concerted effort at COP25 to champion the report and make sure that this tragic rejection of science at the world’s most important forum for international climate change negotiations doesn’t happen again. We shall see.
Scientists and frontline communities are clear about the work that needs to be done at the UN climate meetings and beyond. Our leaders should listen and act with the urgency that science and justice demand. We will be watching and reporting back as this year’s negotiations develop.