Monday, December 10, 2018

What is in a word? Lots when it comes to welcoming the IPCC special report on 1.5C to #COP24



During negotiations on Saturday at the UN climate change conference fossil fuel major countries blocked welcoming the IPCC Special report on 1.5C target for informing the negotiations. Blocking countries were Saudi Arabia, USA, Kuwait, and Russia.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on 1.5C was initiated by the Conference of the Parties as part of the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The report was based on over 6000 peer reviewed papers. The Summary for Policy makers document of the report was approved by a meeting of government representatives on the IPCC.


During negotiations in the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) on Saturday several countries stated they wanted to change the text from 'noting' to 'welcoming' the IPCC report. The Maldives proposed this as an amendment and had wide support among different negotiating blocks, but there were a few objections.

St. Kitts vetoed the respective paragraph in the decision text to force a discussion.

After no compromise was reached in a huddle, the SBSTA chair applied rule 16 - no decision on the IPCC report under SBSTA. He stated his deep disappointment.

The Parties who wanted just to 'note' the report were Saudi Arabia, USA, Kuwait, and Russia.

A majority of the parties were in favour of 'welcoming' the IPCC report.

The matter will be forwarded by the Chair to the COP presidency to raise. Europe also asked the matter to be discussed next week in the context of related Decision paragraphs.

This highlights the continuing scepticism within some countries of the UNFCCC. They would rather note the report, rather than welcome it as an important articulation of the problem and the urgency needed to act to achieve the targets already agreed to by the Paris Agreement.

Australia was noticeably silent in the sometimes heated debate.

“Australia’s silence in the face of this attack yesterday shocked many countries and is widely seen as de facto support for the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait’s refusal to welcome the IPCC report,” said Bill Hare, the managing director of Climate Analytics and a lead author on previous IPCC reports, according to The Guardian report.

“The fossil fuel interest – coal, oil and gas – campaign against the IPCC 1.5 report and science continues to play out in the climate talks, but even those countries [opposing welcoming the report] are being hit by the impacts of only one degree of warming.

“The big challenge now is for the Polish presidency to set aside its obsession with coal, get out of the way and allow full acknowledgement of the IPCC 1.5C report, and its implications for increasing the ambition of all countries, in the conclusion of COP24 later this week.” said Hare.

The Guardian also contacted COP24 attendee Richie Merzian, climate and energy program director at the Australia Institute, who said widespread goodwill across the Katowice talks was being undermined by “a handful of countries” trying to disconnect the science and urgency from the implementation of the Paris agreement.

“It is disappointing but not surprising that Australia kept its head down during the debate … by remaining silent and not putting a position forward, Australia has tacitly supported the US, Russia and Saudi Arabia’s rejection of the latest science on climate change.” said Merzian.





In the Closing Plenary of SBSTA (On-demand video) the issue was raised in item 6 on the agenda: Research and systematic observation.

The SBSTA Chair noted that under paragraph 11 consensus wasn't reached.

Maldives then spoke on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) group putting forward an amendment to item 6, paragrph 11 to change 'noting' to 'welcome'.

Here is the speech by Maldives:

Thankyou very much again, Mr Chairman.
With regard to this item that we have presented: L9. We believe we have had some very constructive discussions in Research and Systemic Observations. On that call we have had a good set of conclusions. All of us have had to compromise in the text as it stands. But we, the goup of Alliance of Small Island States believes there is one paragraph where we have not been able to reach consensus, and that is the paragraph that is critically important to our group and to many of the parties that present here

That is the issue on how we as parties respond on the special report on 1.5 degrees by the IPCC. The proposal that you have put us the Chair is, at least from our understanding, does not capture what the vast majority of the parties think about this report. Of course the IPCC special report was accepted by the IPCC plenary in October, on the basis that it was a comprehensive objective and balanced assessment of the impact of 1.5 degrees Celsius, and the emission pathways for getting there. Governments have had here in this room have already accepted the report. The IPCC has fulfilled it's mandate and the request, and we have seen from the presentations in recent days how valuable this report has been in informing all elements of our work.

To us, it is therefore incomprehensible that most of the valuable information of the report, that was produced at our request, could now not be welcomed in the research and systematic observation conclusions.

This report has confirmed to us the urgent need to accelerate our work in implementing the Paris Agreement and tackling climate change, and yet this urgency is being ignored by many in the room, and that will hurt us.

What signal does it send to the world and to the IPCC if we cannot welcome the best available science? We need to welcome it, and we need to listen, and we need to show that the world is serious about tackling climate change that we have understood. The message that the science is sending to us, that is one of greatest urgency.

Therefore we insist in welcoming the report of the IPCC. Thankyou

The following countries/ negotiating groups spoke in favour of Maldives amendment: Columbia on behalf of Latin American and the Caribbean States, the Korean Republic on behalf of the Environment Integrity Group (EIG) group, Ethiopia speaking on behalf of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Costa Rica, Norway, European Union, Belize, Tuvalu, Jamaica, Fiji, New Zealand. Argentina, Nepal, Marshall Islands, Bhutan and St Kitts.

Response by the USA:

The United States is ready to accept the draft conclusions on item 6 of SBSTA as proposed here. We would like to make the following statement regarding the IPCC Special report and reference these conclusions. The United States appreciates the hard work of the scientists and the experts who authored the IPCC special report. We note that as the United States stated at the IPCC plenary on October 6: "Acceptance of the report and approval of it's summary for Policymakers by the IPCC does not imply endorsement of the specific findings or the underlying contents of the report by the United States."

The USA were supported by Kuwait and the Russian Federation in the debate. Kuwait said "We would like to keep it as it is."

The Russian Federation also supported the Chair "to leave the text as it stands. We very much welcome the work of the authors but we don't think we need to welcome the report. It is enough just to note it in this case."

Saudi Arabia dug in "If we as parties are debating a word, 'note', I cant imagine what will happen when we come to the real stuff of the Paris Agreement, the Katowice package that we are all eyeing to adopt."

The Saint Kitts and Nevis response: "it seems as though the discussion that we are having is really being limited to a choice between one word and another. Just for the clarification of the Plenary, this is not a choice between one word or another, this is us as the UNFCCC being in a position to welcome a report that we requested, that we invited the IPCC to prepare. It seems to me that if there is anything ludicrous about the discussion that is taking place, it is that we, this body, are not in a position to welcome the said reports. And with that we are within your hands."

The short speech was met with applause.






Read a news report on this at Climate Home: Climate science on 1.5C erased at UN talks as US and Saudis step in

Read the news report at The Guardian: Australia's silence during climate change debate shocks COP24 delegates