The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for assessment of climate change. It is a key source of scientific information and technical guidance to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. The IPCC provides governments at all levels with scientific information they can use to develop climate policies.
The IPCC is an organisation of governments that are members of the United Nations or the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The IPCC currently has 195 members.
IPCC’s main activities are to prepare:
- comprehensive assessment reports on climate change, its causes, impacts and response options
- methodology reports, which provide practical guidance to Parties to help them prepare national greenhouse gas inventories
- special reports on topics that inform the assessment reports.
The IPCC does not undertake new research but synthesises published and peer-reviewed literature to develop a comprehensive assessment of scientific understanding, published in IPCC assessment reports.
The IPCC’s work is guided by a set of principles and procedures that govern all the main activities of the organisation. IPCC member governments and observer organisations nominate experts and the IPCC Bureau selects authors and editors with expertise in a range of scientific, technical and socio-economic fields. IPCC reports are the product of multiple drafting and review processes to promote an objective, comprehensive and transparent assessment of current knowledge.
The IPCC was created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Sixth Assessment Report
The IPCC is developing its Sixth Assessment Report. The report provides an update on the scientific, technical and socioeconomic aspects of climate change, including:
- its causes
- potential impacts
- response strategies.
The Sixth Assessment Report is being published in parts, with 3 Working Groups contributing separate reports.
The Working Group reports are:
The final part is a Synthesis Report summarising the science and knowledge around climate change. It is based on the Working Group reports, as well as the 3 IPCC Special Reports published between 2018 and 2019.
Read about the Sixth Assessment Report on the IPCC website.
The IPCC appointed more than 700 experts from 90 countries to develop the Sixth Assessment Report.
Australia is well represented in the author teams, with 40 Australian experts invited to participate. Australian experts are also invited to review draft reports.
Many other Australian researchers contribute to the science that underpins the reports.
Methodology reports and special reports
Our department was involved in the preparation and approval of these reports, through:
- participating in the IPCC Plenary sessions that approved the reports
- reviewing the draft reports, inviting comments from federal, state and territory government agencies
- managing the nomination of, and subsequent support for, IPCC Bureau-selected Australian experts to participate in author meetings to develop the reports.
The IPCC approved new guidance to help countries estimate their greenhouse gas emissions. The 2019 Refinement to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories was adopted and accepted by IPCC member governments in May 2019. The report provides an updated scientific basis for improving national greenhouse gas inventories. Several Australian experts served on the writing and review teams to develop this report.
The IPCC delivered 3 special reports between 2018 and 2019:
- Global warming of 1.5°C assesses literature relevant to global warming of 1.5°C and for the comparison between global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C above pre-industrial levels. It was requested by the parties to the Paris Agreement to inform key aspects of climate policy and strengthening the global response to climate change.
- The Ocean and the Cryosphere in a Changing Climate assesses how the ocean and cryosphere have and are expected to change with ongoing global warming. It also assesses the risks and opportunities these changes bring to ecosystems and people, and options for reducing future risks.
- Climate Change and Land provides information on the impacts of climate change on land systems and opportunities for action. The report covers climate change and its relevance to land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.
Several Australian experts served on the writing and review teams for these special reports and many made a significant contribution to the science underpinning these reports.
Structure of the IPCC
The IPCC Plenary is the main body of IPCC members. Representatives of IPCC member governments meet one or more times a year in plenary sessions of the panel. They elect a bureau of scientists for the duration of an assessment cycle. Governments and observer organisations nominate, and bureau members select, experts to prepare IPCC reports.
National Focal Point
Each IPCC member designates a National Focal Point, which:
- nominates experts to the IPCC Bureau for appointment on author teams
- ensures a broad range of experts are invited to review draft reports
- contributes to decisions of the panel in relation to governance arrangements, approving the work program and the final reports.
Our department is Australia’s National Focal Point.
- works closely with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment in relation to climate science and adaptation aspects of the IPCC work program
- coordinates input from Australian Government agencies reviewing draft reports
- administers the IPCC Author Support program funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) which provides grants to experts selected by the IPCC Bureau to develop IPCC reports
- manages the Australian Government’s contribution to the IPCC Trust Fund, funded by DFAT, to support developing nations to participate with equal status in the IPCC’s work.