Thursday, July 11, 2024

Expert reflection: UN climate panel approval of 6-year programme with focus on adaptation


Reflecting on the recent announcement of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) about its new six-year working programme, I find it a significant stride in our global efforts to address climate change. The focus on adaptation in this cycle is particularly noteworthy, given the increasing urgency to respond to the tangible impacts of climate change that communities worldwide are already experiencing. 

The adoption of this new programme by more than 300 delegates from 120 governments in Istanbul, after extensive debates and negotiations, is a testament to the complex nature of global climate politics. Reaching a consensus among such a diverse group of stakeholders highlights both the challenges and the critical need for collaborative action in tackling climate-related issues. 

The IPCC’s emphasis on adaptation in this cycle marks a crucial shift in the narrative of climate action. For years, the discourse has been predominantly centered on mitigation – reducing emissions and curbing the rise in global temperatures. As we witness the escalating impacts of climate change, the need for adaptation strategies becomes increasingly apparent. This includes developing infrastructure and systems resilient to extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts, and enhancing our ability to recover from such incidents. 

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The decision to produce an additional “Special Report on Climate Change and Cities” and another on carbon capture and storage reflects the nuanced approach required in our response to climate change. Urban areas, being hubs of population and economic activity, face unique challenges and opportunities in the context of climate adaptation and mitigation. Similarly, exploring viable options for carbon capture and storage is critical, as we need all available tools to address the excess greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. 

Another aspect of the programme that I find particularly encouraging is the establishment of new indicators and recommendations to measure adaptation efforts. This is a vital step in understanding the effectiveness of our actions and ensuring that our strategies are evidence-based and targeted. 

The IPCC’s report also serves as a stark reminder of the urgency of our situation. Global emissions have yet to peak, and we are facing a narrowing window to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The IPCC’s role in synthesizing academic consensus is more crucial than ever, providing the foundation upon which global climate negotiations are built. 

The IPCC’s new working programme, with its emphasis on adaptation and the inclusion of special reports, is a positive development in our global response to climate change. It acknowledges the immediate and diverse challenges we face while continuing to underscore the need for rapid and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. As we progress through this critical decade, the work of the IPCC will undoubtedly be central to informing and guiding our collective actions towards a sustainable future. 


Dr. Edward Mungai
Dr. Edward Mungai
The writer, Dr. Edward Mungai, is a global sustainability expert. He is the Lead Consultant and Partner at Impact Africa Consulting Ltd (IACL), a leading sustainability and strategy advisory in Africa. He is also the Chief Editor at Africa Sustainability Matters. He can be contacted via

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