UN climate change conference drops crucial IPCC report

At the COP24 talks, four nations have rejected the idea of “welcoming” the key scientific report from the IPCC, which stated that global warming needs to be limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Unable to find a compromise between countries, negotiators have been forced to drop the pivotal study from the global climate discussions.

Scorched earth
Scorched earth
Kate Nicholson

Four nations including the United States and Russia have protested against the notion of “welcoming” the recently released UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report at the ongoing COP24 talks, leading it to be dropped from the agenda all together.

COP24 gathers representatives from almost all of the world’s nations to discuss the planet’s changing climate and how to address it. Held this year in Katowice, Poland, between 3 and 14 December, the failure to incorporate the latest scientific findings regarding rising global temperatures appears at odds to the conference’s very purpose.

The IPCC report, released 8 October, sent shockwaves around the world when it revealed that the world’s temperature is soaring to unprecedented levels and is already 1.1°C higher than during the pre-industrial age. The study confirmed that 1.5°C is the maximum our world leaders can allow the temperature rise without incurring irreversible damage to our planet. To achieve this, nations would have to significantly curb their production of fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions.

Yet, the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait frustrated many scientists and delegates in Poland this week by objecting to the prioritisation of the report. The four major oil and gas producers asked for the conference to instead “take note” of its findings, instead of openly “welcoming” the research.

Whilst negotiators did try to agree a compromise wording to suit all nations, no decision could be reached. The passage of text was subsequently dropped under UN rules, leading to ripples of frustration and disappointment throughout the room from delegates over 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,” Ruenna Haynes, delegate from St Kitts and Nevis, told the conference. “If there is anything ludicrous about the discussion it’s that we can’t welcome the report.”

The study itself was commissioned by delegates at the 2015 climate conference in Paris, and goes beyond the 2015 Paris Agreement, which stated that countries should be limiting global temperature rises to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The report emphasises that just that half a degree difference would increase floods, droughts, heat, food insecurity and thus negatively affect human civilisation as we know it.

Whilst the US did support the IPCC report when it was first released, President Trump announced his intention to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia had already attempted to limit the discussions of the study in South Korea in October, when the IPCC report was revealed. Whilst this was unsuccessful, the nation continued to object to the IPCC report at the COP24.

“Climate science is not a political football. All the world’s governments - Saudi included - agreed the 1.5°C report and we deserve the truth. Saudi can’t argue with physics, the climate will keep on changing,” said Camilla Born from the Climate Think Tank, E3G, to the BBC.

Yamide Dagnet from the World Resources Institute, and a former climate negotiator for the UK, also told the BBC: “We are really angry and find it atrocious that some countries dismiss the messages and the consequences that we are facing, by not accepting what is unequivocal and not acting upon it.”

“We hope that the rest of the world will rally and we get a decisive response to the report,” continued Dagnet. “I sincerely hope that all countries will fight that we don’t leave COP24 having missed a moment of history.”