I reported here on my efforts to get the WGIII Review Editors’ comments back online together with the Lead Authors’ Responses and the Review Editors’ Reports. I had sent Patrick Matschoss, the head of AR5 WGIII TSU an open letter for him to put to the IPCC Bureau urging an open and transparent process in the Fifth Assessment. Following the usual pattern I can now report some success but continuing reluctance on the part of the IPCC to be truly open and transparent .
I also want to ask any German speaking CA readers for help to understand the ‘Brandenburg’ legal implementation of the Aarhus Convention, as I think we may have to use it. I have located an English version of the Brandenburg “Inspection-of-Records and Access-to-Information Act”, here, but on page 3 it indicates that we what need is Part 2: Access-to-Information Acts, Book 2: The Environmental Information Act. If anyone knows of an English language version for this please post a link.
Returning to WGIII, you will recall that Dr Matschoss promised on 15 September to get back to me within one or two weeks. This is his reply received on 12 October.
Dear Mr Holland
Thank you for your letter as of 16 September 2009.
First of all let me convey apologies from Dr. Christ for not having answered to your earlier request. She was away from office for an extended period of time.
As to your requests you can find the AR4 comments on our website at:
According to the IPCC-procedures the comments will be made available after the assessment. Therefore, we do not provide any “guest” login to follow the review process while it is running. Other information is available either via plenary documents (timetables) or via the IPCC-procedures (instructions), available on the website of the IPCC Secretariat: http://www.ipcc.ch/
As the other requests (webcast, review editors’ reports) concern the IPCC as a whole I would have to ask you to address these to the IPCC-Secretariat directly.
Nearly four years after hundreds of Expert Reviewers first gave of their time to submit comments on WGIII drafts of the IPCC Assessment Report, they can see why their professional views were rejected. In the recent words of Dr Pachauri “So it’s a very transparent process”. Except that we are not allowed to see the Review Editors’ reports unless we write to the Secretariat, who do not answer or even acknowledge their emails.
Why so coy? Dr Meyer from PBL had said they were just signed forms and that they had sent everything they had to PIK. If so one more column and few more kilobytes on the PIK website and the job would have been done. I expect they are anodyne, maybe with the odd miss-dating and scruffy signature, so why not be open and transparent.
I think the answer is that for some time the IPCC Bureau have regarded the Appendix A procedures as their defence shield against the the overarching Principle of openness and transparency, and that if they give an inch we will take a mile. And so we shall. Accordingly I replied on 13 October to Dr Matschoss.
Thank you for your email of 12 October 2009.
The release of the Fourth Assessment Working Group 3 Reviewers’ comments with the Lead Authors’ responses is greatly appreciated, and no criticism of you nor PIK was, nor is, intended since you were not responsible for the archiving.
As for your intentions on the Fifth Assessment you are wrong to consider the “IPCC-procedures (instructions)” in isolation to, or as taking precedence over, the “Principles Governing IPCC Work”, to which they are clearly identified as an appendix. Coincidentally at this time, numerous British Members of Parliament, including our Prime Minister, are presently undergoing a humiliating catharsis for the same lapse in judgement.
The Principle, which by international agreement governs how you and PIK should manage the Working Group 3 Fifth Assessment of Climate Change, is:
The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, etc.
A procedure where the public only see comments and responses a year (or nearer two on the first draft) after they have been submitted is simply not open and transparent. Nor are confidentiality agreements that preclude Expert Reviewers from disclosing important IPCC correspondence.
The “procedures” described in Appendix A, which you are endeavouring to rely upon in order to deny public access to information, on the most important environmental matter we face, contain no such restrictions. The procedures do include for providing the 2500, or more, recipients with copies of the drafts and comments during the Assessment and for archiving them afterwards. These are simply specific procedures, which the Panel felt it was useful to spell out. The notion of confidentiality is unsustainable for widely distributed documents, which are not intended to be changed, and in fact are not changed subsequently, but are withheld until long after the report they refer to. The delay in publication serves only to preclude the public right to participation in the IPCC assessment process granted by the Aarhus Convention.
While I know that you are not the initiator of the perverse interpretation of Appendix A Procedures as limiting the Principles, frankly it is unworthy of public servants and is not going to be tolerated by the public in the Fifth Assessment. The extent to which PIK will or will not inform and involve the public is not ultimately a matter for you or the IPCC, as I indicated in my letter to you. The fifth preambular clause of Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, which became law within the EU on or before 14 February 2004 states:
On 25 June 1998 the European Community signed the UN/ECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (‘the Aarhus Convention’). Provisions of Community law must be consistent with that Convention with a view to its conclusion by the European Community.
While you and your colleagues may feel it necessary to test the law on this matter the example of the British MPs aught to serve as a caution. The spectacle of public funds being spent in an effort to avoid disclosure of what turned out to be very embarrassing matters only added to their difficulties. I would also hope that in the city of Potsdam which is now a regular venue for symposia on Freedom of Information, PIK would want to be seen at the forefront of compliance with Aarhus, rather than fighting it.
Accordingly, I remind you that my request for the AR4 WGIII Review Editors’ Reports was passed to you by Dr Meyer, on 9 September 2009, who indicated that PIK now hold them. I consider this a request within the meaning of the Directive that should have been answered by PIK within a month, but which you have failed to do.
You have neither confirmed nor denied that you hold the information requested, but referred the matter to an organisation outside the jurisdiction of the European Union. I find this unacceptable and ask that you reconsider and, if you do hold the information requested, that you email me copies of it.
If you hold the information, and are refusing to disclose it, you must in law explain why and advise me of the process, compliant with the Directive rather than the IPCC, by which I may dispute your decision.
I will let you know what happens