IPCC Chair’s Statement at the opening of the 54th Session of the IPCC and 14th Session of Working Group I


(Approval session for the Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report)
Statement to the Opening Ceremony by IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee
26 July 2021

A warm welcome to the government delegates, observer organization representatives, IPCC authors, Bureau members, and staff of the Secretariat and Technical Staff Units, as well as to the media representatives following this Session.

It was 3 years and 10 months ago that the Panel approved the outline of the Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report.

We did not expect then the pandemic, global lockdown, economic collapse, the rapid development of vaccines, and aspiration for a green recovery.

Amid this turmoil, scientists serving the IPCC have kept on working and have produced today the Working Group I report for the Panel’s approval and acceptance. I salute you authors for your commitment and determination.

This report has been prepared in exceptional circumstances, and this is an unprecedented IPCC approval session.

This work has required multiple series of virtual meetings across time zones, disrupting daily lives and work rhythms, especially in the most critical phase of the last 16 months as we shaped the final draft.

Despite these unexpected hurdles, the time spent on the production of the Working Group I report in the Sixth Assessment Report cycle is less than the time spent in the Fifth Assessment Report, while the literature base expanded by an order of magnitude as did review comments.

This reflects the leadership of the Working Group I Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs, and the collaborative spirit running through the scientific community. And of course, it is also the result of the excellence and dedication of the Working Group I Technical Support Unit head and staff.

In this cycle, we have released three Special Reports and one methodology report, unheard of in IPCC history. This was possible due to the strong support from the scientific community, collaboration among scientists, and the continued trust and support from you, the IPCC member states, and observers.

We look forward to your continued support for the completion of the remaining Sixth Assessment Report contributions.

Throughout this cycle, we have been telling the world that science has spoken and it’s now up to the policymakers for action.

Policymakers have indeed responded.

A growing number of countries have declared mid-century net-zero goals.

A growing number of companies – accounting for 20% of the total carbon dioxide emissions of publicly traded corporations – have committed to Environmental, Social and Governance or ESG principles.

A growing number of asset managers are rebalancing their investment portfolios in recognition of climate risk turning to potential financial risk.

Countries have begun to consider ways to harmonize carbon prices across national boundaries.

Public opinion polls point to growing concerns about worsening climate change.

Climate litigation has increased.

In the pandemic, the public has seen first-hand the critical role of science.

And recognizing the fundamental threat from climate change, the public is likely to have a high expectation for science to tackle the climate change challenge.

I expect that the value of the IPCC reports will increase as policymakers and business leaders begin to mainstream climate change into their plans, and the demand for evidence-based decision-making will increase.

This is the context in which the world will see the release of the Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report, and indeed the remaining assessment reports in this cycle.

This new Working Group I report will provide many new resources for policymakers.

For example, among others, there is a better understanding of the attribution of extreme weather to climate change.

This is in line with the three themes the Working Group I Co-Chairs highlighted for contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report in the IPCC session approving the Working Group I outline in 2017: large-scale climate change, global climate processes, and regional climate information.

This ensures that the Working Group I report provides the physical science foundation for all the work of other Working Groups and the Synthesis Report.

On preparing these approval meetings, the Secretariat and Working Group I Technical Support Unit have worked together, as mandated by the 53rd (bis) Session of the IPCC. We are mindful of the fact that we are making IPCC history: this is the first time we have conducted a line-by-line approval of the Summary for Policymakers by virtual means.

We have made good use of our experience with the hybrid 53rd Session and the virtual 53rd (bis) virtual Session.

The Secretariat in collaboration with the Working Group I Technical Support Unit has made every effort to alleviate the connectivity problems for delegates and develop a process that is acceptable to all, seeking guidance from the national focal points of the IPCC.

So let me thank you, our Members, for your flexibility and guidance that enables us to convene the Panel to complete this Report.

We face difficult times and circumstances.

Please work with the utmost collegiality, flexibility, understanding, and respect so that we can deliver the report the authors have worked on so hard and for so long in a timely fashion to our governments and the public at large.

The world is waiting to hear what the IPCC says.

I urge our government delegates to lead by example to conclude this report according to the highest scientific standards in a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent manner.

Thanks for your attention and I wish you a productive meeting.

I declare the 54th Session of the IPCC and the 14th Session of Working Group I open.