Reform of UN climate panel hailed in China
Chinese climate experts have welcomed a decision by the scandal-plagued United Nations climate change panel to reform its management structure and enhance transparency, calling the measures 'positive steps in the right direction'.
China's role in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to be further boosted, leading mainland climate change researchers say. After weeks of soul-searching, the UN climate body has agreed to overhaul its structure and change its decision-making process to repair its tainted image and restore public confidence after controversies over the past year.
Nature magazine's website revealed some details of the proposed reforms on Monday, including the creation of a 13-strong executive committee to oversee the IPCC's daily operations.
Delegates from IPCC member countries also decided last week in Abu Dhabi to introduce a conflict-of-interest policy and several other measures to reduce errors and accommodate scientific uncertainties.
The changes were largely based on recommendations from an Amsterdam-based international science group, the InterAcademy Council, which conducted a review of the IPCC's management last year, commissioned by the UN.
The IPCC was established in 1988 and shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with former US vice-president Al Gore for its authoritative assessment of climate change. But it was dealt a serious blow by revelations about mistakes in its most recent assessment report, including a prediction that the Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035.
Its reputation was further tainted when leaked e-mails showed scientists tried to stifle critics and allegations of conflicts of interest involving its beleaguered chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian economist.
A mainland scientist and lead author of the IPCC's next climate assessment report said the steps reportedly adopted by the body were in line with China's expectations
'It's good to see the IPCC has taken steps to plug loopholes and fix problems with its academic research,' said Dr Jiang Kejun, of the National Development and Reform Commission's Energy Research Institute. Both Jiang and Professor Lin Erda, another lead author of the assessment report, due in 2014, believed China would gain influence once the executive body was established. They said it would better reflect developing countries' views.
Mainland scientists have voiced concerns in the past about rich nations' dominance of climate talks and the climate science field, which they said was unfair to developing countries like China.
Jiang also hailed the IPCC's effort to strengthen academic ethics in climate science.
'Transparency and public scrutiny will help reduce the political interference that has contributed to the UN body's crumbling credibility.'
Lin, a veteran Chinese delegate to climate change talks, noted that some of the measures had already been implemented. For example, IPCC officials and top scientists must now disclose financial and other interests relevant to their work.
But other analysts expressed doubts. Another Chinese climate negotiator, who refused to be named, said the reforms appeared to be largely aimed at limiting the power of Pachauri, who had refused to step down despite mounting calls to quit.
'The establishment of the executive body will essentially weaken Pachauri, as Western countries have hoped, while other measures are mostly clich?s,' the negotiator said.
While details and the timetable for the reforms would be discussed in the coming months, the negotiator said it remained to be seen if China would benefit substantially from the long-delayed overhaul of the IPCC.
'IPCC is an intergovernmental body, which means bureaucracy and politics still play a big part. All parties want to exert influence on the drafting of the next report, which subsequently decides the fate of the stalled climate talks,' the negotiator said.