Global Climate Council in Interlaken – Politics and science haggle over every word on the climate report ArchDaily


Often not only what is said is important, but also what is not said. This is currently evident in the Bernese Oberland. There, experts ponder the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is due out on Monday.

It is a struggle for every word. Because the opinions of more than 130 country representatives sometimes differ widely on how to sum up the state of scientific knowledge on climate change.

10,000 pages must become 30, and a synthesis of seven reports on various topics must be written and approved unanimously — a difficult process, as ETH Professor Emeritus Andreas Fischlin asserts: “It is about governments making this report the latest acceptance of the current state of knowledge once The report has been approved.”

Switzerland is committed to clear language

Fishlin has been active on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for 17 years and currently serves as Vice Chair of the Climate Change Adaptation Working Group.


Energy Minister Albert Rosti (here in conversation with Andreas Fischlin, right) opens the March 13 Interlaken Conference in Interlaken.

Fischlin gives an example that illustrates the political difficulties of this process: “There are countries like Saudi Arabia that make a living off oil exports. If the message is that we need to get away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible to minimize the damage, governments like that don’t like to hear that.”

As a result, these countries call for vague formulations. The Swiss delegation is different. Ambassador Franz Perez says these campaigns are for clear language.

He gives an example: “We would like the synthesis report to record knowledge that the 1.5-degree target is still achievable – both technically and because the necessary and inexpensive tools are available. Achieving the target is not only economically feasible, but also economically beneficial.”

There are no media, but NGOs on site

The public and journalists are not allowed into the conference room. However, NGOs may attend as observers. For example, representatives of the climate strike movement.

Countries refer to this report. This is why each formulation in the Synthesis Report is important.

Merritt Shaffer, 19, thinks the synthesis report that is about to be adopted is very important. It is the basis of our action as a climate strike. But countries also refer to this report – most of which do not read the thousands of pages that were originally written. This is why every single formulation is key.”

Night shifts included

While NGOs have to limit themselves to monitoring, governments can propose changes. Then the scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change try to turn this into a scientifically valid text.

And this seems to last. Negotiators will have to work night shifts and make progress much faster than before if the report is to come out on Monday as planned.

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