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Prestigious role for VU professor Bart van den Hurk on UN climate panel IPCC

17 August 2023
VU professor of Climate Change and Adaptation, Bart van den Hurk, has been elected co-chair of Working Group II of the IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). IPCC is the climate panel of the United Nations (UN). In this role, Van den Hurk will be concerned with climate change issues and the solutions needed at global level.

The climate scientist, also associated to knowledge institute Deltares, explains to be enormously honoured. He was elected during the IPCC plenary meeting at the home of the UN Environment Programme in Nairobi, Kenya. And his election is very special indeed. Besides the fact that the panel consists of 195 countries, the last appointment of a Dutch researcher as co-chair dates back to 2007. "Internationally, the Netherlands is renowned on water management and climate change adaptation issues. An opportunity arose to nominate a Dutchman again and the government chose me," says Van den Hurk.

As an IPCC working group is led by two co-chairs, Van den Hurk will be joined by scientific colleague Winston Chow, professor of Urban Climate at Singapore Management University. The IPCC Working Group II (WGII) that the scientists will lead assesses climate change impacts from a global to a regional view on ecosystems and biodiversity, and on people and their diverse communities, cultures and settlements.

Climate change in cities
One of the issues Van den Hurk will investigate is climate change in cities. The focus here will be on the proportion of vulnerable communities and stakeholders and ensuring that knowledge gets to where it is needed. Up front, a lot of knowledge is needed, but to actually get started in practice, you often have to deal with side effects of implementations in order to tackle climate change. For example ethical dilemma/social justice, but also the importance of synergy between short-term and long-term needs. The IPCC provides valuable reports to deal with climate issues. But action often lags.

Van den Hurk: "I feel a strong need to deliver the message in such a way that the knowledge that is missing triggers social action. Because often the response from society lags to what is actually needed. Both in terms of mitigation - reducing global emissions - and adaptation - helping countries prepare for an increasing number of adverse effects of climate change. And I would actually like to find out which bottle necks exist to come up with the knowledge needed to trigger the aforementioned action."

About IPCC
The IPCC is the UN body that reviews the science related to climate change. Thousands of people from around the world contribute to the IPCC's work. For the assessment reports, experts volunteer their time as IPCC authors to review the thousands of scientific papers published each year.

Technical Support Unit
IIn the Netherlands, Van den Hurk will have a technical support unit. This unit will be co-funded by four ministries. Exploratory talks are currently underway to determine where this unit will be located.