Ukrainian scientists ‘leave approval session of landmark UN climate report for safety of their families’

‘We need to think about [the] safety of our families and it is not possible to concentrate on the wording of the summary for policymakers under attack and bombing’

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Friday 25 February 2022 17:06 GMT
Ukraine-Russian invasion: People seek shelter from missiles inside Kharkiv subway station

Ukrainian scientists have been forced to abandon the eleventh-hour approval session of a landmark United Nations climate report out of fear for their families amid Russia’s full-scale attack on their country.

President Vladimir Putin unleashed war on Ukraine in the early hours of Thursday. Hundreds have been killed and citizens are fleeing en masse after Russia attacked on multiple fronts with airstrikes and shelling. On Friday, Russian troops were closing on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.

For the past ten days, Ukrainian scientists have gathered with hundreds of top climate experts from around the world to finalize the second chapter of a huge climate report issued by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) every five to seven years.

The meeting sees 270 scientists assess more than 34,000 scientific publications and comb through 62,000 review comments to come up with the authoritative global assessment.

But the deteriorating situation in Ukraine has left them with no choice but to abandon the task, according to posts on social media.

“Ukrainian scientists have left the approval session of the IPCC report,” tweeted Chloé Farand, a senior reporter with Climate Home News.

She added that one Ukrainian scientist had told her: “We need to think about [the] safety of our families and it is not possible to concentrate on the wording of the summary for policymakers under attack and bombing.”

Other scientists shared messages of solidarity with their Ukrainian colleagues. Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a climate physicist in Belgium and vice-chair of the previous IPCC report, tweeted that he was saddened by news of the Ukrainian scientists’ departure.

“The courage of the delegation of #Ukraine, which continued to contribute to our deliberations yesterday is remarkable. Science has no borders. #ClimateReport,” he tweeted.

In an email, an IPCC spokesperson told The Independent: “As the sessions are closed, we do not report on the presence, absence or attendance of any delegates.”

The major UN report will include seven regional chapters and examine how more intense and frequent climate extremes are impacting people’s day-to-day lives, with a focus on cities.

The specific details of the report are yet unknown as the content is intensely debated by authors and governments, and consensus is needed for the final version to be released.

The report is expected to be made public on Monday.

The first chapter of the three-part IPCC assessment in August was described as a “code red for humanity” by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The first chapter found “it is more likely than not” that the world will reach 1.5C - the ambitious temperature limit of the Paris Agreement -sometime over the next 20 years. The global average temperature is currently around 1.1C above pre-industrial levels.

The third report is expected in early April and will focus on actions that can be taken to curb the climate crisis, and adapt to changes that are already unavoidable.

This article has been updated to include the IPCC’s response

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