Statement by IPCC Chair: Opening of Fourth Lead Author Meeting of Working Group II for the Sixth Assessment Report


Opening ceremony of the Fourth Lead Author Meeting of Working Group II for the Sixth Assessment Report
Virtual/hosted by Guatemala, 1 March 2021
Statement by IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee

I would like to thank the Government of Guatemala for hosting this meeting.

It’s highly appropriate that we are meeting in Guatemala, if only virtually.

Recent studies show that Guatemala is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change.

Indeed, this region is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

Here, the economies and livelihoods are highly dependent on agriculture.

Climate change is disrupting agriculture, now to the point of affecting food security, and the frequent and severe extreme weathers intensify internal displacement and security concerns.

The work that the Working Group II authors will undertake over the next two weeks on assessing impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, global as well as regional, will be highly policy-relevant to this country and the broader Central America region.

I am very pleased to see two experts from Guatemala participating in this report, along with authors from other countries in the region.

There is another reason that makes it appropriate for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to meet in Guatemala.

Let me briefly recall the fact that the IPCC was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its work on climate change.

And in 1992, Guatemala’s Rigoberta Menchú won the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.

IPCC assessments draw on and respect indigenous knowledge all over the world, and that is particularly the case for this group for the assessments of Working Group II. We recognize that:

  • Traditional agriculture practices can be resilient to climate and non-climate stressors.
  • And indigenous knowledge systems and practices allow local people to adapt to many climatic changes.
  • Such initiatives based on indigenous knowledge have a foundation of legitimacy in local communities.

It would have been truly wonderful if we were able to hold this meeting in person in our host country Guatemala.

This Fourth Lead Author Meeting is the final author meeting for the preparation of a final version of the assessment results to be submitted for the IPCC approval and acceptance.

The process began over four years ago in September 2016 with the IPCC inviting member governments to identify policy-relevant questions and topics for the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) to address, followed by the AR6 scoping meeting in May 2017 and the IPCC approval of the scoping outcome as the Sixth Assessment Report outlines in September the same year.

For all these years, we have worked hard for the successful assessment, and now we come to this all-important Lead Author Meeting.

It is regrettable that this virtual format is the best we can under this pandemic.

All IPCC meetings are now virtual, not only for the lead author meetings but also all the administrative meetings.

For the IPCC assessment tasks, it imposes tremendous extra burdens on authors and other participants.

  • Different time zones mean some participants are working in strange hours. I know what it is, I have been there.
  • Interference/disruptions from other duties, very often pressing regular duties.
  • Digital connectivity problems, especially in countries in the developing world, preventing some people from participating fully.
  • And the lack of face-to-face meetings deprives spontaneous informal contact we were used to for our work.

These are the hidden cost of the pandemic to our assessment, and I believe this hidden pandemic cost will become an external cost to the society, impacting the productivity growth of the economies.

Despite these extremely difficult conditions, our 260 authors of the WGII have continued to contribute their time and expertise for assessment products that will be valuable to policymakers for their decisions and implementation.

For that, I salute you on behalf of the IPCC.

I would like to thank the Working Group II Technical Support Unit and IPCC Secretariat for all their work in finding technical solutions to these challenges.

I thank the Working Group II Co-Chairs and the rest of the Bureau for their leadership.

I wish you a fruitful and productive meeting.