COP24: US, Russia and Saudi Arabia condemned as 'climate villains' for blocking crucial global warming report

‘The fact that a group of four countries were trying to diminish the value and importance of a scientific report they themselves, with all other countries, requested three years ago in Paris is pretty remarkable’

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Monday 10 December 2018 14:13
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Sir David Attenborough at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice: Climate change 'our greatest threat'

The US has allied with major oil producers Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to intercept the adoption of a crucial climate change report by world leaders at a UN conference.

Experts have condemned these “climate villains” after their efforts plunged talks into chaos at the critical COP24 climate summit in Poland over the weekend.

The four nations blocked the full endorsement of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report, which was commissioned at a previous COP meeting.

Their actions triggered a diplomatic standoff that went on long into Saturday night, and set an ominous tone as ministers arrive for the second week of the climate event.

In October the IPCC released their report, which revealed the unprecedented global action required to stop global warming exceeding 1.5C and avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Yet when their conclusions, based on the work of thousands of scientists, were formally presented on Saturday, the group of oil producers took issue with the meeting “welcoming” the report.

Instead, they opted for the watered-down pledge to “take note” of the IPCC’s findings. As no consensus could be reached, the text ultimately had to be dropped.

“The fact that a group of four countries were trying to diminish the value and importance of a scientific report they themselves, with all other countries, requested three years ago in Paris is pretty remarkable,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

While the oil-producing Gulf states had long been “troublemakers”, and Russia’s intentions were unclear, Mr Meyer attributed US action to president Donald Trump’s “cavalier attitude” towards climate science.

An avowed climate sceptic, since taking power Mr Trump has rolled back many US environmental protections and declared the withdrawal of the US from the Paris climate agreement.

“That fossil fuel corporations and governments overrun by fossil fuel interests are buddying up should come as no surprise, but there should be no place in these climate talks to take steps backwards, to attempt to sideline the IPCC report, or to ignore its conclusions,” May Boeve, executive director of campaign group 350.org, told The Independent.

Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid’s international climate lead, described the four oil-producers “rogue nations”.

“These nations are climate villains and they must be opposed by the rest of the world,” he told The Independent.

Prominent US climate scientist Dr Michael Mann added his voice to the condemnation, describing the alliance of oil states as an “axis of evil” in a tweet on Saturday evening.

“It is the fossil-fuelled triumvirate of Trump, Putin and Saudi Arabia who have colluded to sell out the future of this planet for their own short-term financial gain,” he wrote.

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Almost all 200 of the countries represented in the Polish city of Katowice had wanted to “welcome” the report as diplomats wrapped up the first week of technical discussions.

A coalition of small island states and developing countries, as well as the EU, spoke in favour of the report, which spells out the need to set more ambitious targets to cut fossil fuels.

However, the US State Department said in a statement: “The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report.”

Besides raising international ambitions to cut emissions, other controversial topics set for further discussion include financial support for poorer nations to make a green transition, and the “rulebook” for implementing the Paris agreement and reporting emissions.

Additional reporting by AP

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