By Agence France-Presse
Oil giant Saudi Arabia backed down at the last minute Saturday from obstructing the adoption of a major report by the UN’s climate science panel, sources told AFP.
With the threat removed, the meeting of the 195-nation panel in Incheon, South Korea — deep into overtime — swiftly approved the report on how to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), and what a 1.5C world might look like.
The Saudis had objected to the inclusion of a passage emphasizing the need for sharp reductions in the use of fossil fuels — Saudi Arabia’s main export.
“Saudi Arabia withdrew its blockage of the passage when their objection was about to be formally recorded in a footnote,” said a participant in the meeting.
“It was a game of chicken, and the Saudi’s blinked first.”
The 500-page report — based on 6,000 peer reviewed studies — under review at the meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a collaborative effort of the world’s top climate scientists.
Under the IPCC’s consensus rules, all countries must sign off on the language of a 20-page Summary for Policymakers, designed to provide leaders with objective, science-based information.
After six hours of fruitless negotiations Saturday morning, the chair of the IPPC meeting adjourned the plenary around midday, warning: “The report hangs in the balance.”
A break-out group — or “huddle,” in UN jargon — made no progress in resolving the deadlock.
Finally, when the plenary resumed, the Saudi’s withdrew their objection just before their demand was to be rejected and noted in the record.
“We expected tough negotiations on this landmark report and we are happy that governments have delivered a good reflection of the underlying science,” said Stephen Cornelius, WWF’s chief advisor on climate change and a former IPCC negotiator.
“Current country pledges to cut emissions are insufficient to limit global warming to 1.5°C — you can’t negotiate with science.”
A email to Saudi officials was not answered, and delegates at the closed-door meeting were not available for comment.