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Problem of Equity in IPCC Reports

Why is it in the news?

  • In a study analysing over 500 future emissions scenarios assessed by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), income, energy-use, and emissions disparities between developed and developing countries persist across all 556 scenarios.
  • These scenarios, focusing on mitigation actions such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions and increasing carbon sequestration, project ongoing disparities until 2050.

IPCC Assessment Reports

  • These reports are comprehensive assessments of climate change science, impacts, adaptation, and mitigation strategies.
  • They consist of three main Working Group reports:

1) Working Group I: Physical Science Basis

2) Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

3) Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

  • Additionally, there is a Synthesis Report that consolidates findings from the three Working Group reports.
  • Thematic Special Reports also contribute to specific areas of interest or concern.
  • IPCC reports serve as crucial resources for policymakers and the public to understand the state of climate science and formulate strategies for addressing climate change.
  • The current assessment cycle is the Seventh Assessment Report (AR7).

Assessment of Future Scenarios

  • IPCC utilizes modelled pathways to project potential future outcomes of climate change mitigation efforts.
  • These pathways are constructed using Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs), which are complex tools that integrate various aspects of human and Earth systems.
  • IAMs encompass macroeconomic models, energy models, vegetation models, and Earth-system models to provide comprehensive projections.
  • They aim to offer policy-relevant guidelines for climate action by assessing the feasibility and implications of different mitigation strategies.
  • However, IAMs often prioritize least-cost assessments, focusing on economic efficiency rather than equity considerations.

Findings of the Study

  • A study conducted by researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Studies and M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation analysed 556 scenarios from the IPCC’s AR6 report.
  • The study found persistent disparities in income, energy use, and emissions between developed and developing countries projected up to 2050 across all scenarios.
  • Developing countries, particularly those in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, are projected to have below-average per-capita GDP even in 2050.
  • There are also disparities in consumption patterns and energy usage between the Global North and the Global South.
  • The scenarios indicate a higher burden of mitigation action and carbon dioxide removal falling on poorer countries.
  • These scenarios fail to account for the historical responsibility of developed countries for climate change and the future energy needs of developing countries.

Principles of Equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities

  • The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) emphasizes principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities.
  • Article 3 of the Convention states that countries should address climate change based on equity and according to their respective capabilities.
  • Developed countries are expected to take the lead in combating climate change due to their historical contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and their greater capacity to address the issue.
  • Equity considerations recognize that poorer countries may require assistance in undertaking climate action and adapting to climate impacts.


  • The study concludes that current IPCC scenarios lack equity considerations and fail to address the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
  • There is a need to incorporate considerations of equity and climate justice into the construction of future scenarios.
  • This requires a shift towards model and scenario building techniques that foreground questions of equity and ensure environmentally sound outcomes.

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