© Elisabeth Kruger / WWF

Mountain and Polar groups seek urgent COP26 decision

9 November 2021

Arctic Climate Change Pan-Arctic Outside the Arctic

Climate talks lacking knowledge of the permanent global impacts from glacier and ice sheet loss, they say, and this must change.

(GLASGOW, Scotland) Monday 8 November 2021: Mountain and polar groups are calling for COP26 to approve a decision point mandating the UNFCCC to arrange a meeting to decide on actions at the next climate intersessional, scheduled to take place in Bonn in June 2022.

As a matter of urgency, they ask for more consideration of the dire global impacts on the world’s regions shaped by ice, snow and permafrost that will result should governments not take greater action as the climate talks in Glasgow begin their second and final week.

Dr Martin Sommerkorn, WWF Arctic Programme Head of Conservation and IPCC SROCC author, said: “Our planet’s frozen elements have been absent from the climate debate at the UNFCCC for too long, even though their crucial role in determining the future for more than a billion people and our climate is becoming ever clearer. The UNFCCC must urgently create space for Parties and stakeholders to discuss actions to be taken in response to this cryosphere crisis.”

The research, environmental and indigenous organizations calling for such formal exchanges span the entire global “cryosphere”, from the poles to the high mountains of Asia. The real implications of cryosphere impacts for climate goals need more attention from governments, they say, and that an entire day should be devoted to their impacts, especially as regards thresholds and tipping points.

Pam Pearson, Director of the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, said: “This science is so clear, yet complex; and the changes so drastic and permanent that more dialogue is essential. The questions by governments during discussion of the latest IPCC report last week at COP26 underscore that this issue needs more than a 15-minute presentation.”

Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) Director General, said: “Nations in High Mountain Asia are already seeing the effects of glacier and snowpack loss. What these negotiations lack is an understanding that these changes will not be temporary. The higher the temperature, the greater the permanent damage. It is much harder to grow back a glacier, than to keep it from disappearing in the first place. And these losses of water resources will be irreversible.” ICIMOD is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of the British Antarctic Survey, said: “The polar regions are no longer an early warning signal for climate change. Instead, they are now a driver of climate change, and this reality needs to be better understood.”

In addition to the organizations cited above, several academic institutions, including the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), Grantham Institute at Imperial College, Bolin Centre at Stockholm University, and the National Snow and Ice Data Center at University of Colorado Boulder are supporting the cryosphere efforts at COP26, including the hosting of a cryosphere pavilion. The Cryosphere Pavilion is located at Hall 4, stand 44.

For more information, or to request an interview:

Udayan Mishra

Johanna Grabow

Dr Gerlis Fugmann

Bolin Centre:
Dr. Gustaf Hugelius

Heather Goldstone

Mark Serrezze

WWF International:
Martin Sommerkorn

Heid Sevestre
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