Second Equinox Summit a major step forward

18 April 2024

“The 2nd Equinox Summit marked significant progress and momentum in strengthening the links between climate knowledge providers and users across Europe, which is its main objective”

– Frank McGovern, Chief Climate Scientist, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ireland and Equinox Vice-Chair, JPI Climate.

The Equinox process, initiated last year by JPI Climate and launched with a first Equinox Summit under the auspices of the Belgian Minister of Climate and State Secretary for Research, is supported by the Horizon Europe project MAGICA and aims to accelerate the transfer of knowledge from science and innovation to policy and action in Europe.

The second Summit, held in Brussels on 26 March under the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, was officially opened on behalf of Belgium by Ambassador Luc Jacobs, Special Envoy for Climate and Environment, who confirmed his country’s continued support for the Equinox process. Frank McGovern highlighted the significant progress made since the first meeting in March 2023. The discussions reinforced and deepened the key messages and emphasized the need for Europe to take the lead in providing accessible knowledge to inform policy and support stakeholders and citizens across Europe in achieving shared climate goals.

Long-term investments in research and systematic observations put Europe at the forefront of climate change science. This is reflected in its contributions to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, Europe can benefit from improved scientific assessment and communication mechanisms to disseminate the latest scientific findings and solutions to policy makers, climate practitioners and citizens across Europe.

The 2023 Equinox Summit Declaration had focused on the challenges of achieving climate neutrality, climate resilience and managing transition and transformation, as well as supporting the next generation of climate scientists and expert climate communicators. The Equinox process will now build on a network of climate/policy actors, scientists and experts across the European Research Area. The Equinox II Summit culminated in a declaration recognising the significant progress made in these areas and the need to include assessments of new information from basic science and observing systems in the Equinox Process. The European focus was reaffirmed, while its global vision and reach were emphasized.

As a concrete example of an Equinox product informing policy and decision makers, the joint First Assessment Report on Sea Level Rise was presented by the Joint Knowledge Hub on Sea Level Rise that JPI Climate runs together with JPI Oceans. In his presentation, Bart van den Hurk, co-chair of the Knowledge Hub and co-chair of IPCC Working Group 2, announced its publication in the coming weeks. The report will synthesize current scientific knowledge on sea level rise and its impacts at local, national and European basin scales to support evidence-based policy and decision making, particularly for coastal areas.

During the expert panel discussions, there was a strong emphasis on the importance of inclusivity to build confidence in the results of scientific assessments. One comment was that Equinox needs to build in a mechanism of inclusivity to ensure that people’s voices are heard and respected. This will lead to more trust and better use of the science by different groups of people. It would also mean better involvement of the private sector. The Equinox Process is committed to empowering diverse voices and should enable intergenerational science.

The critical role of the Equinox process became evident: to enable, on the one hand, the synthesis of knowledge from different European countries and, on the other hand, the transfer of this knowledge across different policy levels. Multiple pathways need to be used to achieve this.

Discussions also highlighted that the Equinox Process will foster the next generation of scientists capable of translating climate change knowledge into tangible solutions.

The Equinox II Summit reaffirmed the vital role of scientific research in climate policy and action and encouraged the next steps in the implementation of its activities. In order to establish a network of Equinox experts, JPI Climate will soon launch an open call for interest to key scientific stakeholders to collaborate on this important work.

To take stock of progress, Barbara Botos, Hungary’s Ambassador at Large for Climate, has invited them to Budapest later this year for an upcoming high-level climate ambassadors’ event organised under the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.