The United Nations body that scrutinizes the most recent science on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has announced the election of UK scientist Jim Skea as its new chair.
On Wednesday, Skea triumphed over Brazil’s Thelma Krug in a contested run-off, held at the United Nations Environment Programme’s Nairobi headquarters, by a majority of 90 votes to 69. His term of office is expected to last for a crucial five to seven years, coinciding with a period when temperatures are projected to approach 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The IPCC, a collaborative creation of two UN bodies in 1988, has a pivotal role in supplying comprehensive, impartial reports regarded as the pinnacle of scientific insight on climate change. The timing of Skea’s appointment is significant, given the imminent climate thresholds the world is teetering on.
The newly elected chair, a professor of Sustainable Energy at Imperial College, London, has an extensive history with the IPCC. Skea has been instrumental in its work on climate change mitigation for the past three decades.
Skea, 69, expressed his gratitude for his new role on the popular messaging platform X, previously known as Twitter. He communicated his deep honour and humility at being elected to such a pivotal position and outlined his commitment to prioritizing “the use of the best and most relevant science.”
In his address to the IPCC delegates, Skea underscored the gravity of the ongoing global crisis, defining climate change as an “existential threat” to our planet. His vision for the IPCC is centred around inclusivity and forward-thinking, an organisation that values every voice while seizing the opportunities of today to shape a better tomorrow.
Skea set forth three key priorities for his term – advancing inclusiveness and diversity within the panel, protecting the scientific integrity and policy relevance of the IPCC’s assessment reports, and ensuring the effective use of the best and most current science on climate change.
Skea’s election indicates a clear mandate for his future leadership of the IPCC, underscoring his considerable reputation in climate science and policy. The upcoming years, and indeed his term as chair, will be pivotal in determining how the world responds to the growing climate emergency.