Oil giant Saudi Arabia 'attempted to block' UN climate change report

Oil giant Saudi Arabia 'attempted to block' UN climate change report

Oil giant Saudi Arabia held up adoption of a report on global warming and its devastating impact on ocean's and the earth's frozen zones.
3 min read
24 September, 2019
Saudi Arabia held up the adoption of a report on climate change [Getty]

A major report detailing the dire impact of global warming on oceans and the earth's frozen zones was approved by the UN's 195-nation climate science body Tuesday, after an all-night standoff with Saudi Arabia over its wording.  

"Gavelled! The IPCC Special Report on the #Ocean and #Cryosphere is approved!", Jean-Pierre Gattuso, a French scientist and one of the report many authors, tweeted at the end of the five-day talks.

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) said it will unveil an executive summary on Wednesday. 

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest producer of oil, held-up the adoption of the Summary for Policy Makers - 30-odd pages, vetted line-by-line - by challenging another landmark UN assessment that highlights the need to slash carbon emissions caused by burning fossil fuels, multiple sources told AFP.

At issue is what might have been a routine reference to the October 2018 IPCC report on the feasibility of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

That assessment detailed the stark consequences for humanity of piercing that threshold, and the need to rapidly draw down the use of fossil fuels.

Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, has consistently raised similar objections to IPCC reports in the past.   

"It really seems like Saudi Arabia only came to this meeting to block any language on 1.5C," a participant in the Monaco meeting told AFP.

Global warming and pollution caused by humanity's carbon-heavy footprint are ravaging the earth's oceans and icy regions in ways that could unleash misery on a global scale, the IPCC report is set to conclude.

Observed and projected impacts include vanishing glaciers and expanding marine heatwaves, irreversible rises in sea-levels that could eventually displace hundreds of millions of people, according to a draft seen by AFP.

Under the IPCC's consensus rules, all countries must sign-off on the language of the executive summary, which is designed to provide leaders with objective, science-based information.

The draft phrasing seen by AFP to which the Saudis objected - "This assessment reinforces findings in IPCC Special Report on 1.5 C" - was removed. 

The 2015 Paris Agreement calls for capping global warming at "well below" 2 C, and 1.5 C if possible.

In-depth: Why Turkish academic Ibrahim Ozdemir is pushing for an Islamic approach to environmentalism

Meanwhile, environment activist Greta Thunberg and 15 others filed a complaint to the UN on Monday against five countries, saying they are not doing enough to tackle climate change.

Sixteen-year-old Thunberg accuses Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey of failing to uphold their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed 30-years-ago.

Thunberg is in New York as world powers meet for the UN General Assembly Meeting, due to take place on Tuesday.

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