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Increasing African Participation in the IPCC 6th Assessment Report




September 21, 2017


The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment reports are internationally regarded as authoritative sources of climate change knowledge. However African participation remains low. We call on the climate research and policy communities to promote the call for 6th Assessment Report author nominations within their African networks. We highlight a new e-learning initiative to train prospective expert reviewers. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has 195 member countries, The IPCC Assessment reports are internationally regarded as authoritative sources of climate change knowledge. The periodic assessment reports are also highly influential: Not only do these reports play a central role in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, they also inform policy making on national and subnational levels, actions by local and international civil society, private sector investments, and news and popular press reporting. A strict process for developing the assessments has also ensured extensive international collaboration, transparency, academic rigor and policy relevance. The fifth and latest assessment report involved 831 authors from over 70 countries. However, participation from African authors and expert reviewers remains extremely low. For the 5th Assessment Report, out of approximately 8000 expert reviewers, only 92 (1.15%) were African.:
AR5 Assessment Reports African Expert Reviewers
Working Group I: The Physical Science of Climate Change, 2013 0.3 % (4 out of ca 1500)
Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, 2014 2 % (about 80 of ca 4000)
Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change, 2014 0.3 % (7 out of ca 2400)
Synthesis Report, 2015 1 % ( 1 out of ca 84)
The number of African reviewers in the WG II reports is much higher, perhaps due to the nature of WG II subjects, and the fact that the WG II report contains a dedicated chapter on Africa. But since the African continent contains 17 % of the world population and 20 % of the world land surface area, there is still a clear underrepresentation of involved African experts. By far the most African reviewers are from South Africa, while many other African countries have not participated in review rounds at all. Whilst there has been a long standing awareness from the IPCC community over the lack in balance between developed and developing country authors (especially from Africa), effective actions to address this have been few. Increasingly scientific literature is making the argument that African expertise is not just essential for political legitimacy and policy relevance but for fundamental advances in climate science as well. Reasons for the under-representation of African contributions to the IPCC Assessments are multiple, complex, and indicative of a wider system of northern domination of global science. These issues deserve urgent and sustained attention in the long run. Within the much narrower context of the 6th Assessment report process, opportunities remain to promote participation of African experts. The call for nomination of authors is currently open until 27 October. We call on researchers to circulate the call widely within their African research communities and networks. We call on African experts to contact their IPCC national focal point or observer organisations who are designated to make nominations to the IPCC. The IPCC is seeking a balance of men and women, as well as between those experienced with working on IPCC reports and those new to the process, including younger scientists. “We are seeking scientists with expertise across the disciplines assessed by the IPCC,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “We also hope that more scientists from developing countries and more women scientists will be nominated as IPCC authors to give us diverse author teams that can provide a range of relevant perspectives.” Beyond participation as an author, there are also opportunities to participate as an expert reviewer for any of the Special Reports or main assessment reports. The review windows for each are as follow: 2018 – Special Reports
  • SR 1.5 1 January – 25 February Second Order Draft (SOD) review
  • SR Oceans 30 April – 24 June First Order Draft (FOD) review
  • SR Land use 28 May – 22 July FOD review
2019 – Main Assessment Reports
  • WG I 29 May – 16 June FOD review
  • WG II 21 October – 15 December FOD review
  • WG III 9 December – 2 February 2020 FOD review
2020 – Main Assessment Reports
  • WG I 2 March- 26 April SOD review
  • WG III 1 June – 26 July SOD review
  • WG II 10 August – 4 October SOD review
At a recent gathering of African hydro-met experts, the AMCOMET Hydromet forum, African participants noted that they were unaware about IPCC processes and how to get involved as an expert reviewer. Highlighting the need for wider promotion of this function. Whilst authors and expert reviewers are not paid for their work, several reasons may motivate participation:
  • Climate change remains an issue of utmost importance for the African continent. Informing the 6th Assessment Report provides an opportunity to improve its relevance to African challenges and influence African policy decisions and civil society.
  • Participation in the IPCC process contributes to career advancement. The names of those who submit review comments to draft reports are published in the final assessment reports, with their affiliation and country. More generally, the process draws experts into an international community and is itself a learning experience. As Prof Bruce Hewitson from the University of Cape Town notes: “As a participant, you always get more out than you put in.”
To support increased participation of African expert reviewers, the Future Climate for Africa will be hosting a micro e-learning course on Reviewing Assessment Reports of the IPCC. The micro e-course will include:
  • How the IPCC and its review process works;
  • IPCC guidance to expert reviewers;
  • Judging draft texts, diagrams and figures;
  • Analysis of the validity of a statement by checking underlying literature sources;
  • The appropriate usage of grey and non-English literature.
Further information on the course and how to register can be found here. If you know of any other initiatives to support increased participation of African experts or have queries about linking African research networks to the Future Climate for Africa community, please do get in touch. FCFA has an on-going interest in tracking and supporting African participation in the 6th Assessment Report. Written by Leo Meyer and Jean-Pierre Roux