Countries seeking to change climate report ahead of COP26

climate report
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with Sir David Attenborough to launch COP26. Source: Number 10 (via. Flickr)
A leak of documents has revealed the names of countries attempting to persuade the UN to amend its climate report in their favour.

By Darcy Arnold | Contributor

As reported by BBC news, a massive leak of documents has revealed the names of countries attempting to persuade the UN to amend its recommendations on how to tackle climate change. 

Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia are named, among other countries, as having lobbied the UN to downplay the need to move away from fossil fuels, alongside wealthier nations questioning the need to pay poorer states to move to greener sources of energy.

This release of information comes just days before the COP26 climate summit, where the same countries will be asked to make significant commitments to slowing down climate change and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees. 

The leaked documents consist of more than 32,000 statements made by governments, companies and other interested parties in order to bring together the best scientific evidence on how to tackle climate change, compiled by a team of scientists.

These reports will have a crucial input into the upcoming Glasgow conference. 

The leak reveals a number of countries argued that the world does not need to reduce it’s fossil fuel usage as quickly as is being suggested. 

An adviser to the Saudi oil ministry demands “phrases like ‘the need for urgent and accelerated mitigation actions at all scales […]’ should be eliminated from the report”. Similarly, one senior Australian government official rejects the conclusion that closing coal-fired power plants is necessary, even though the use of coal is one of the stated objectives of the COP26 conference.

A senior scientist from India’s Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research warns coal is likely to remain the mainstay of energy production for decades because of what they describe as the “tremendous challenges” of providing affordable electricity. 

Various countries are in favour of carbon capture and storage (CCS), such as Saudi Arabia, China, Australia and Japan as well as the organisation of oil producing nations, Opec. Claims state that CCS technologies could dramatically cut fossil fuel emission from power plants and some industrial sectors.

However, Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, requests the UN scientists delete their conclusion that “the focus of decarbonisation efforts in the energy systems sector needs to be on rapidly shifting to zero-carbon sources and actively phasing out fossil fuels”.

Brazil and Argentina, two of the biggest producers of beef products and animal feed crops in the world, strongly argue against findings in the draft report that reducing meat consumption is necessary to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Both countries wish to delete or alter passages in the text referring to ‘plant-based diets’ that state that a change in diet has a hand in tackling climate change.

Argentina also requested that any taxes on red meat or an international ‘Meatless Monday’ campaign, which encourages people to forego meat for one day a week, be removed from the report. Both Brazil and Argentina feel that there is insufficient evidence to promote this view, with the former stating that “plant-based diets do not themselves guarantee the reduction or control of related emissions”, despite a recent study finding that meat accounts for almost 60% of all greenhouse gas emissions from food production, and twice as much pollution as the production of plant-based food.

A significant number of Switzerland’s amendments were directed at the part of the report arguing that developing countries will need financial support from richer countries in order to meet emission reduction targets. Australia makes a similar case, stating that climate pledges do not depend solely on financial support.

Several eastern European countries argue that the report could be more supportive of the role that nuclear power can play in meeting the UN’s climate targets. They argue it can play a positive role in delivering most of the UN’s development agenda.

The attempts by these nations to change or remove sections of the climate report are likely to have a significant impact on COP26, the agenda of which will be partly informed by the report. The revelation that countries are trying to alter the report lays bare the politicisation of climate discussion, and how some states attempt to influence which topics are given more weight than others, without the scientific basis to do so.


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