Day 1 at IPCC 43rd Session in Nairobi and updates on #CitiesIPCC Campaign

This post aims to provide a snapshot from the first day of the 43rd Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC43) held in Nairobi on 11-13 April, in particular in relation to #CitiesIPCC Campaign.

1- Representatives of the #CitiesIPCC Campaign attending the IPCC 43rd Session include Yunus Arikan from ICLEI, Emmanuaell Pinault from C40 Cities, and Raf Tuts and Marcus Mayr from UNHabitat. All these organizations are seated in the plenary with their flags.

2- Over the past couple of days, new organizations such as AIMF, Energy Cities, and the LSE Cities Platform have also endorsed the campaign. The most updated list is available on the C40 Blog and you can also follow updates from ICLEI’s homepage. A preliminary list of cities that have officially sent their letters to their national delegations includes: Sydney and Melbourne (Australia), Accra (Ghana), Mexico City (Mexico), Oslo (Norway), Rio (Brazil), Paris (France), Athens (Greece), Vancouver (Canada), Quito (Ecuador), Los Angeles and Boston (USA), Quezon City (Philippines), Istanbul (Turkey) and Seoul, Gangdong Municipal government of Seoul, Nowon Municipal government of Seoul, Ansan City, Nam Muncipal government of Incheon, Jeju Self governing province, Jeonju City (Republic of Korea)

2- After the very careful analysis of IPCC Co-Chairs and Vice Chairs, out of over 30 proposals, the priority options have been reduced to three themes (land use, oceans, cities), the COP21 request for an 1.5 degree Celsius analysis, and extended Regional Reports. Considering the 1.5 degree Report is an overarching requirement that is guided by not just COP21 but also the Paris Agreement, and the fact that Regional Reports have been a long term discussion within IPCC, it has to be acknowledged as a remarkable achievement that the cities report is ranked in the top three of all proposals thanks to the huge support from both inside and outside the IPCC. All participants in the #CitiesIPCC Campaign should be proud of this achievement and continue their advocacy. Regardless of the final decision for a special Cities Report, this recognition may also indicate that from now on, the IPCC will have to pay much more attention to the subject of cities.

3- At the opening plenary, the remarks from UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres (via video) underlined the essential role of the scientific community in helping with the implementation of Paris Agreement. This included a request for a detailed study on the 1.5 Degree goal. The presentation from the World Climate Research Programme delivered two startling messages: on the one hand, on 7 April, the Mauna Laoa Observation station recorded 407.4 ppm as the highest level of GHG concentration; on the other hand, recent studies show that a peaking of GHG emissions can be achieved before 2050 if ambitious policy and actions are leveraged and implemented immediately. Both signals demonstrate the need for rapid ratification of the Paris Agreement.

4- The debate on the IPCC Special Reports focuses on two main issues: how many and how deep. In both areas, there are limitations imposed by time as well as human and financial resources. Traditionally, the IPCC has published two Special Reports in every Assessment Report, which typically takes 5-7 years to prepare. There seems to be a general consensus that for this upcoming 6th Assessment Report (AR6), it may be possible to expect that each of these three Special Reports could be led by separate IPCC Working Groups (WG-I: Physical Science Basis, WG-II: Adaptation, WG-III: Mitigation).

5- The discussion on each of the proposals started in the last hour of the first day and will continue into the morning of the second day (12 April). But from the initial debate in the first day it is possible to note that, except for some critics from Saudi Arabian delegations, there is a strong consensus that the 1.5 Degree Report will be the first Special Report of IPCC AR6. A report on land use, agriculture and food security is mainly supported by Africa, landlocked countries, or countries in which agriculture constitutes a major portion of the economy, as well as by UN agencies such as the UN Convention on Combatting Desertification (UNCCD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). A report on oceans is highly popular given growing concerns over sea level rise, ocean acidification and biodiversity.

6- So far, Cuba, Venezuela, Belgium, France and Sudan have expressed support for the Cities Report. We heard in today’s deliberations that Argentina and Mexico will announce support. We had a very good dialogue with the US delegation, which is very positive and keen on the theme of Cities. After the morning of 12 April, we can make a more solid list.

7- The decision as to which theme will be dealt with by which IPCC Working Group may also impact the final selection of themes. Some delegations think that the 1.5 Degree target is a question of physical science and therefore must be dealt by WG-I. However, others argue that 1.5 Degrees is primarily a goal that can be achieved with strong mitigation policies. Similarly, for land use, some argue that it is mainly an adaptation or scientific issue, while other consider this as the mitigation potential of land use and agriculture.

8- The final decision on the Special Report on Cities may also depend on the scoping. It is possible to argue that Cities Report can address all of the three others (land use -> urban land, oceans -> adaptation, 1.5 Degrees -> transformative potential). It is also possible that cities could be discussed as part of a holistic and innovative approach in all of the other reports.

9- During today’s deliberations, ICLEI, as an accredited organization of the IPCC, will deliver a statement on behalf of the #CitiesIPCC Campaign, after the conclusions of Member States. The draft statement is attached for your information. It should be noted that Member States at the IPCC are not following the typical UNFCCC political groupings, which means that there is no a joint statement on behalf of G77/China or the EU (which is not a Member of the IPCC but an observer), or AOSIS. Instead, each country is delivering their own statements. This results in a very lengthy discussion for each agenda item.

10- IISD is covering the session with nice photos, and a summary will be available at the end. A recent blog posted by Richard Kelin from Stockholm Environment Institute at Climate Home offers a very good summary of the overall assessment, together with very good support to and recognition of the #CitiesIPCC Campaign. And Citiscope has provided good coverage, supported by interviews from C40 and UCLG.