Climate change research focuses on a wide range of topics such as earth sciences, climate processes and system, climate variability, climate modelling and prediction; climate change impacts, vulnerabilities, risks, extreme events, adaptation and mitigation. It covers a broad spectrum of sectors, society, economies and ecosystems, as well as cross-cutting and interdisciplinary research.

The UNFCCC secretariat works in close collaboration with the the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), which coordinates the coupled model intercomparison project (CMIP), Future Earth, and a variety of international and regional research programmes and organizations active in climate change-related research. It facilitates dialogue and communication on the research needs and priorities expressed by Parties of the Convention to the scientific community, particularly through the research dialogue (see below).

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has a well established role in the Convention process in communicating scientific information to the Convention through its regular assessment reports and its wide range of special reports and technical papers. Although it does not carry out its own research, it plays a key role in assessing the information from worldwide climate research in peer-reviewed literature, journals, books and other sources. It also has an important function in identifying priority needs for further research activities.

In addition, Parties regularly report on their national and cooperative research activities and their contributions to climate science, as well as emerging research needs and priorities, in their national communications.

Research Dialogue  

The foundation for the research dialogue was given in decision 9/CP.11 (FCCC/CP/2005/5/Add.1) on research needs relating to the Convention, which stipulated an enhanced communication between Parties and the scientific community, and requested the SBSTA to regularly consider research needs and systematic observation relating the Convention. The objective of such communication is two-fold:

  • To inform Parties about on-going and planned activities of regional and international climate change research programmes and organizations, and

  • To communicate Parties' views on research needs and priorities to the scientific community.

In response to this request, the SBSTA initiated a dialogue on research needs under the Convention between Parties and regional and international climate change research programmes and organizations. At SBSTA 26 (see FCCC/SBSTA/2007/4, para 47), it was agreed to develop and maintain such dialogue in the context of decision 9/CP.11, and relevant research programmes and organizations were invited to regularly inform the SBSTA of developments in research activities relevant to the needs of the Convention, including: emerging scientific findings, research planning activities, research priorities and gaps, research capacity building activities particularly in developing countries, regional climate change research networks and relevant communication issues

Decision 16/CP.17 (FCCC/CP/2011/9/Add.2, page 47, para 3) urges Parties, in particular developing country Parties, and invites regional and international research programmes and organizations active in climate change research to utilize the research dialogue as a forum for:

  • Discussing needs for climate change research and research-related capacity-building, particularly those of developing countries, to support the work of the Convention;

  • Conveying research findings and lessons learned from activities undertaken by regional and international research programmes and organizations of relevance to the Convention.