The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the German IPCC Coordination Office

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an institution of the United Nations. Since its foundation in 1988, it has provided the basis for knowledge-based decisions on climate policy, without, however, proposing concrete solutions or making political recommendations for action. The German IPCC Coordination Office acts as a national contact point for researchers, the German federal government, authorities, the public and the media on questions relating to the IPCC, and advises the German federal government on IPCC related matters.

As a high-profile instrument for scientific policy advice, the IPCC illustrates the relevance of climate change research for politics, society and the economy: scientific information plays a crucial role in acknowledging global climate change as a problem, understanding its causes, and pointing to innovative solutions.

The IPCC is both a scientific body as well as an intergovernmental institution. On its behalf, thousands of scientists worldwide collect and assess the results of research on climate change.

The IPCC's main products are its Assessment Reports. Currently, the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) is being produced. This is due to be published in 2021/22. The Working Group I contribution "Physical Science Basis" was published in August 2021, Working Group II contribution "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability" in February 2022, and Working Group III contribution in April 2022.

The contribution of Working Group I establishes beyond doubt: Climate change is detectable in all regions worldwide and has been caused by human activities. It also shows that climate change has progressed faster in recent decades than before.

The contribution of Working Group II makes clear that human-induced climate change has had significant negative impacts for ecosystems and humans in all regions for decades, and that continued climate change would further increase many risks and may lead to unprecedented impacts. The IPCC identifies ways in which humanity can mitigate climate change and its risks, or adapt to unavoidable impacts and damages.

The contribution of Working Group III shows that despite progress since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise. Nationally Determined Contributions submitted to the UNFCCC by early October 2021 would not limit warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. Even to stay below 2 °C global warming would require an abrupt, very large increase in these efforts from 2030. The report also shows what mitigation options exist in all sectors and assesses their potential and costs.

In addition to the AR6, the IPCC has produced three Special Reports and a Refinement to the 2006 Methodology Report:

  • "1.5 °C Global Warming - An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty." (SR1.5, published October 2018)
  • "Climate Change and Land: An IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems" (SRCCL, published August 2019)
  • "IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate" (SROCC, published September 2019)
  • Refinement to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (published May 2019)

A synthesis report, published in March 2023, summarizes the main messages from all the reports in this cycle.

55 experts from Germany are members of the writing teams for the reports of the IPCC's sixth assessment cycle. In addition, numerous others are involved in peer review and scientific quality control. The BMBF welcomes the commitment of researchers from Germany and all over the world who do not receive additional payment for this work.

The IPCC process provides a reliable scientific basis for national and international climate policy. The BMBF supports this unique risk monitor for a knowledge-based precautionary policy on climate change in many ways:

  • Over the past ten years, around 600 million euros were invested in climate research programmes: in direct support of the IPCC process, for example for model runs and infrastructure, as well as in research projects the results of which are or will be included in reports of the current assessment cycle. This continuity and the extent of climate research funding by the BMBF has enabled science in Germany to contribute significantly to the IPCC Assessment Reports and Special Reports.
  • The BMBF is also committed to quality assurance by providing scientific assistants to the German Coordinating Lead Authors of the IPCC reports and financially supporting the Technical Support Unit of IPCC Working Group II on Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (based at the Alfred Wegener Institute, AWI, co-chair: Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner). For AR5, the BMBF already financed the Technical Support Unit of IPCC Working Group III on Mitigation (based at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, PIK, then co-chair: Prof. Ottmar Edenhofer) from 2010-2015.
  • Together with the German Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt, AA), the BMBF regularly organises dialogues on the IPCC process as well as the findings of the IPCC reports. These dialogues serve as a platform for political and societal exchange on concepts for action and research gaps.

German IPCC Coordination Office - interface between science and government in the field of climate change

Together with the BMUB (now BMUV), the BMBF established the German IPCC Coordination Office at the DLR Project Management Agency in 1998. In course of governmental reorganization, responsibility for IPCC matters was transferred from BMUV to the Federal Foreign Office (AA). The German IPCC Coordination Office acts as a national contact point for researchers, government, authorities, the public and the media on questions relating to the IPCC and promotes the integration of the results of German research groups into the international stocktaking on climate change. As a service provider, the Coordination Office advises the German government on IPCC matters and helps to strengthen the IPCC as an institution and ensure the quality of its reports. More information can be found on the De-IPCC website.

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