By Anders Lorenzen
At the early stages of the COP24 climate conference in Poland (which finished last week), four countries emerged as determined to slow down progress to tackle climate change.
They did so by refusing to adopt the latest UN climate report which warned about the danger of warming above 1.5 degrees C.
In the report published in October, scientists examined the difference between warming of 1.5 degrees C and 2 degrees C. They found that the difference was so significant that everything must be done to prevent warming above 1.5 degrees C, and if that threshold were broken the implications could be disastrous and lead to runaway climate change.
But at the conference which was held in Katowice, Poland, ironically a mining stronghold, the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait all objected to the report being adopted. This essentially means that the only reference to the report in the final text which was agreed upon will be that it had been noted rather than welcomed. As the UN operates on a consensus basis everything agreed upon must be agreed by all member states.
Of those four countries, the objection to progress on tackling climate change appears to be lead by Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil economy. They had also objected in Seoul, South Korea in October where the UN report was being unveiled, before reluctantly accepting it.
Together those four countries represent some of the world’s largest oil producers and, as a result, they believe it is in their commercial interest to slow down action as much as possible. However, some policymakers would argue that the only way to protect business interests is to tackle climate change.
Since Trump took office in January 2017, the US has made a 180-degree turnaround on climate change, working to undo any effort that the Obama administration had made on the issue. Under Trump, the US has repeatedly questioned the scientific consensus on climate change.
The move by those four countries in choosing not to accept the report has caused outrage amongst other delegates and climate advocates.
While the general public might not see it as a big deal as it is literally a discussion about two words ‘welcome’ and ‘note’. But in legal negotiations, those words have huge significance. In this instance, it literally means whether to act or not, on what the world’s leading scientists are saying we need to do to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.