The 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, better known as COP24, currently underway in Katowice, Poland, is quickly beginning to devolve into chaos after the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait were revealed to be blocking a key word change in the negotiating text which would have changed the text from taking “note” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C to “welcome” the report and its findings.
According to reports, the small island nation of the Maldives — which currently chairs the alliance of small island states — pushed the plenary to change “note” to “welcome.” That could seemingly be deemed an inconsequential change, but it is one with far-reaching ramifications. “This is not a choice between one word and another,” said Rueanna Haynes, a delegate for St Kitts and Nevis, speaking to the plenary. “This is us, as the [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)], being in a position to welcome a report that we requested, that we invited [scientists] to prepare. So it seems to me that if there is anything ludicrous about the discussion that is taking place, it is that we in this body are not in a position to welcome the report.”
However, it was a step too far for four big oil and gas producers — the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Specifically, the four countries said that it was enough for the members of the UNFCC to “note” the findings without being pushed to “welcome” them — a decision which will allow countries much more latitude in ignoring the findings of the IPCC’s report, which warned that “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
“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,” the US State Department said, revealing the underlying issue behind elevating acknowledgement of the IPCC’s report. “As we have made clear in the IPCC and other bodies, the United States has not endorsed the findings of the report.”
Unsurprisingly, insanity quickly devolved into chaos.
Describing the events of the weekend as ludicrous seems to be the defining understanding of the actions of the four big oil and gas producers. “It is ludicrous that the COP24 can’t ‘welcome’ the important information addressed in the UN IPCC report of October 2018,” Tim Buckley, Director of Energy Finance Studies at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), explained to me via email. “This report sets the urgency of the critical, global effort required to address climate change. At a time when California has just been engulfed in out of control extreme fires, the US is joining with Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait to delay and disrupt the need for a global consensus. Ridiculous, myopically short-sighted, and self-serving. It is time for consensus, global leadership and vision.”
During the plenary, the Maldives’ proposal was backed by the European Union, a bloc of at least 47 developed countries, as well as countries from Africa, Latin America, and South America — a number of which also went out of their way to denounce the four countries blocking the move.
Eventually, after two-and-a-half hours of debate on Saturday night, the four countries managed to block any updates to the text of the negotiating text, inciting further vitriol from observers and campaigners.
“I think it was a key moment,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, speaking to the AP. “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.”
“Deliberately ignoring the IPCC report would be wholly irresponsible and 350.org stands with the rest of world in condemning these climate deniers … and the vested fossil fuel interests behind them,” said May Boeve, the executive director of the activist group 350.org.
“Saudi Arabia, Russia, Kuwait, and especially the United States are rogue nations,” added Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid’s International Climate Lead. “These four major fossil fuel producers are working together against the interests of the rest of the world and jeopardising the chances of a safe climate. They show disregard for the wellbeing of the most vulnerable people on the planet. Climate change even threatens the future of their own people and yet they act to suppress scientific warnings.
“I had hoped that Saudi Arabia was undergoing reform and this was their chance to demonstrate it. But they have shown they don’t care about human rights, people or the planet. These nations are climate villains and they must be opposed by the rest of the world. Instead, they have found a steadfast ally and co-conspirator in the world’s most powerful country, the USA.”