IPCC Private Thinking Space - justification?

David Holland made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Energy and Climate Change

The request was refused by Department of Energy and Climate Change.

From: David Holland

Dear Department of Energy and Climate Change,

The somewhat lengthy preamble to this request is to provide you with the necessary background information to assist me as is required under both regulation 9 of the EIR and section 16 of the FoIA in finding the documentary information, if in fact it exists, that enables IPCC Working Group One and the Minister to contradict the long settled Principle of the IPCC that its assessments are to be “open and transparent” as opposed to “strictly confidential” until after the Summary for Policymakers is released.

At the Ninth Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1993 the British government agreed the first version of the IPCC rules for undertaking the assessment of climate change. The words below have remained unchanged in subsequent reconsiderations and updates to which all government members of the IPCC have continuously agreed.

“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 risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”

However, at the website of IPCC Working Group One (WGI) can be found a document on Confidentiality entitled “Guidance Note for Holders of Functions and Offices in IPCC Working Group I” created on 8 October 2010. Inter alia it states:

“It is the IPCC practice that all drafts are confidential and should not be cited, quoted or distributed. This principle, which must be adhered to, is clearly stated when report drafts are sent out for expert and government review and also applies to the review comments and author team responses. However, upon completion of the Report, the review comments and responses are made publicly available and are retained in an open archive.”

In his letter dated 4 February 2011 to my MP under reference MC2010/08074/AF the DECC Minister of State wrote:

“Mr Holland makes a number of comments about the process of generating and reviewing IPCC reports. As an expert assessment process, we consider that the reports should be prepared and reviewed by those with appropriate expertise – Indeed, the credibility of the reports depends on this.

Mr Holland suggests that information about the Expert Review stage of IPCC report preparation should be made public earlier. While such decisions will be made collectively by the IPCC as a whole, the UK considers that it is in the interest of IPCC reports - and therefore more widely in the public interest - that IPCC's authors and editors are provided with a degree of private thinking space to be able to exchange views frankly without fear of misinterpretation. We consider that the degree of privacy afforded to review editors helps to ensure that the critique of IPCC reports is both informed and frank.”

For example please supply:

[1] Any official, that is Panel approved, documented “practice” or “principle” and the number of the IPCC session report in which the agreement to it by Panel members is recorded, that authorises the “confidentially” Guidance Note issued by WGI and referred to above.

[2] Any document approved by the Panel that defines the words “openness and “transparency” as used in the “Principles Governing IPCC Work”.

[3] Any judicial rulings upon which the Minister intends to rely to support the WGI ruling on confidentiality.

[4] Any official, that is Panel approved, IPCC document that specifies “the degree of privacy afforded to review editors”

[5] Any IPCC or DECC official document other than that from WGI cited above that outlines and justifies the doctrine of “private thinking space” in relation to IPCC assessments in contravention of the fundamental IPCC principle of openness and transparency.

Yours faithfully,

David Holland

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From: FOI Requests

DECC Ref: 11/0313

Dear Mr Holland,

Thank you for your request for information which was received on 25
February 2011. Your request has been passed on to the appropriate official
at the Department of Energy and Climate Change to deal with.

Your request is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 and will be responded at the latest by 25 March 2011.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact the information
rights unit at BIS who have a shared service when dealing with requests
for DECC. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any
future communications.

Best wishes,
Information Rights Unit

Information Rights Unit | Department for Business, Innovation & Skills |
[1][email address] | Victoria 3, 5th Floor, 1 Victoria Street,
London, SW1H OET | [2]www.bis.gov.uk | BIS have a shared service level
agreement with DECC to process and advise on their FOI requests

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) is building a
dynamic and competitive UK economy by creating the conditions for business
success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone
the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this we will foster
world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS -
Investing in our future

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From: FOI Requests


Attachment Final Response to FOI EIR 2011 0313 IPCC Private thinking space.pdf
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Dear Mr Holland

Please see the attached response to your Freedom of Information request.

<<Final Response to FOI EIR 2011 0313 IPCC Private thinking space.pdf>>

Regards

Information Rights Unit
Information Rights Unit | Department for Business, Innovation & Skills |
[1][email address] | Victoria 3, 5th Floor, 1 Victoria Street,
London, SW1H OET | [2]www.bis.gov.uk | BIS have a shared service level
agreement with DECC to process and advise on their FOI requests

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) is building a
dynamic and competitive UK economy by creating the conditions for business
success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone
the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this we will foster
world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS -
Investing in our future

show quoted sections

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recorded for legal purposes.

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