Greater representation for Pacific in IPCC needed, survey finds


There needs to be more representation of Pacific island countries and territories (PICT) at the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), a recent survey has found.

The IPCC is the scientific body which advises the United Nations on global temperature rise.

Pacific research in IPCC reports come from people and institutions outside the region, and this needs to change, the survey highlights.

Results to the current status quo include limited Pacific representation, low inclusion of Pacific experts, lack of Pacific data, Western dominance, low outreach and engagement, data not reflective of Pacific reality, limited opportunities to engage with IPCC and limited traditional knowledge inclusion, the survey has found.

The survey was carried out by the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Australian National University’s (ANU) Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, engaging 125 responses from across 15 PICT.

It was aimed at identifying options for improving PICT representation at the IPCC.

The survey was sent to ‘stakeholders across the Pacific, including practitioners, researchers and academics engaged in climate science, adaptation and mitigation in the region’.

On average, more people were dissatisfied with the current status quo.

Respondents say researches carried out in the Pacific by outsiders “did not reflect local realities and that this research needed contextualisation that could only come from people in the region”.

Traditional knowledge was also pointed out as an important missing factor, which some respondents point out is difficult to include with the IPCC’s current knowledge frameworks.

“I’m not happy with the representation because we have a lot of experts in the Pacific – our own people with both scientific and Indigenous knowledge but they are not involved at the author level. They may be consulted for some input, but most of the writing is done by the Professors and the experts from the first world,” one very dissatisfied respondent said.

“1) Lack of experiential knowledge/impacts from Pacific people. 2) Lack of Pacific voice in terms of other impacts that are not “scientific” for example, Loss and Damage does not include the cultural and heritage loss. 3) There should be more Pacific people/experts contributing to the different parts of the report. At this stage, the science is determined by the global North, but the impacts are felt by the global South that are not represented in the reports,” a somewhat dissatisfied respondent said.

“We need more Pacific Islanders involved in the whole process. This will amplify the voices of our region. They live in the region and know more about the region. [IPCC] Reports are based on findings and assessments carried out by scientists mostly outside the Pacific Region; the need to contextualize the reports has to come from the people of the region, not some assumptions made by outsiders who do not understand the region. We have to be heard, and this cannot be done by a minority of a very few of one or two people,” another somewhat dissatisfied respondent said.

The survey found that increased representation at the IPCC would benefit PICT in many ways including: Strengthen regional data representation in reports, Raise profile and support for PICT issues, Inform international negotiations, Provide local context, Improve responses and decision making, Amplify Pacific voices, and Strengthen Traditional Knowledge inclusion.

“The more representation the more representative the amount of data and analysis that goes into informed climate negotiations,” one respondent said.

“Pacific Islander representation in the IPCC remains shockingly low. In the latest AR6 synthesis report, for example, there were precisely zero Pasifika authors. This is, in itself, inequitable and so should be addressed…As shown recently in Maia Germano (2022) ‘Neutral’ Representations of Pacific Islands in the IPCC Special Report of 1.5°C Global Warming, Australian Geographer, 53:1, 23-39, this lack of representation by Pasifika authors can skew the IPCC’s assessments,” another said.

Options for enhancing representation and engagement by PICT in the IPCC report process include funding for greater inter-Pacific collaboration among researchers, training/greater support for academic writing, support for getting local and indigenous knowledge into IPCC database, and supporting regional organisations/ programmes already doing this work.

Challenges to PICT with lack of representation and engagement was found to be across the board in all three areas of the IPCC process – governance, writing and research.

This includes not enough outreach or lack of opportunities, limited understanding of the IPCC processes, limited time capacity for people to take on extra roles, complexity of applying for IPCC roles, and limited understanding of the importance and role of the IPCC.

Solomon Islands is represented in the IPCC in the governance area by the Meteorological Services Division of the Ministry of Environment (MECDM). The director for Met Service Dave Hiba did not respond to email for comments.

Other prominent academics contribute to writing and research including Dr Morgan Wairiu.

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