Attempts to incorporate a key study on the impacts of a global temperature rise of 1.5C into global climate talks have failed. The report, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was launched in Incheon in South Korea in October and won praise from politicians all over the world. However, at the two-week COP24 Annual UN Climate Summit currently taking place in Poland, where actions from the report are being discussed, the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait have objected to this conference. The four countries have opposed proposals to strengthen the wording of the key text and officially “welcome the findings of the report. They want the conference to ‘take note’ of the report and support a ‘much more lukewarm phrase.'” Negotiators were trying to compromise on the report’s wording, however, no consensus was reached, and under the UN rules, this meant that the passage of text had to be dropped.
Many countries have expressed frustration, with scientists and campaigners also extremely disappointed by the outcome. “It’s not about one word or another, it is us being in a position to welcome a report we commissioned in the first place,” said Ruenna Haynes, a delegate from St Kitts and Nevis. “If there is anything ludicrous about the discussion, it’s that we can’t welcome the report,” she said to spontaneous applause. Yamide Dagnet, from the World Resources Institute and a former climate negotiator for the U.K. told the BBC it’s “atrocious that some countries dismiss the messages and the consequences that we are facing, but not accepting what is unequivocal and not acting upon it.”
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia had apparently supported the report when it was originally launched in October, however, they now seem to have issues with the political and economic implications of the UN taking the IPCC report’s findings at the heart of its policies and agreements. For this group of major oil and gas producers, this could be concerns relating to mitigation measures, including low carbon emission measures, or financing agreements including a two-tier system, where developing countries do not have to take on obligations similar to developed countries which can be too demanding for them to meet. Developed countries usually insist on one rulebook applying to all, although they are usually the highest contributors to climate change.
The COP24 conference has been dubbed ‘Paris 2.0’ after the 2015 Paris Agreement which was drawn up after COP21, where almost 200 countries committed to keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius. the Paris Agreement is due to come into effect in 2020, with COP’s role this year is to work with countries to compile a ‘rulebook’ outlining the details needed to implement the commitments made in Paris 2015. The findings and recommendations in the IPCC Report are meant to contribute to this rulebook, which has a deadline of the end of 2018 to be finalized. This means that any delays like the ones from the four countries that have taken place could slow down the implementation of the Paris Agreement in 2020. The U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement earlier this year which means they have no time pressure to welcome the report.
Many other delegates are hoping that the second week of the conference, with ministers arriving on Monday, will revive efforts to put the report at the heart of the conference and everyone’s minds. The IPCC Report says the world is completely off-track towards global temperature targets, heading towards three degrees Celsius this century rather than 1.5oC. To meet the 1.5oC target, greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by around 40% by 2030, with a net zero emission economy by 2050. If these targets aren’t worked towards, there will be inevitable risks of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people across the world. As the report was requested by the UN, the subsequent IPCC Report shouldn’t have come as a surprise to any country. The environmental, economic and social impacts of climate change transcend political differences and will be felt by every country. The countries who are not happy with the report need to understand that time is crucial, and it is frankly very disappointing that they are not considering the long-term global impacts of not taking actions at this very moment.