Fight for science delays key UN climate report

The release of a major new United Nations report on climate change is being delayed by a battle between the powerful rich and developing nations over emissions targets and bailouts for vulnerable nations.

TOFRANK JORDANS Associated Press

BERLIN — The release of a major new UN report on climate change is being delayed by a battle between rich and developing countries over emission targets and bailouts for vulnerable countries.

The report by hundreds of the world’s leading scientists was to be approved by government delegations on Friday at the end of a week-long meeting in the Swiss city of Interlaken.

The deadline was repeatedly extended as officials from major countries such as China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and the United States and the European Union haggled over the weekend over the wording of key phrases in the text.

The report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is intended to complete the series of studies on global warming collected since the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.

The report’s summary was approved early Sunday morning, but three sources close to the talks told the Associated Press that there was a risk that agreement on the main text would have to be delayed until a later meeting. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the confidential nature of the talks.

The unusual process of countries signing a scientific report is designed to ensure that governments take its findings as authoritative advice on which to base their actions.

At the start of the meeting, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged delegates to provide “cold, hard facts” to make it clear that the world has little time left to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared to with pre-industrial times.

While average global temperatures have already increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius since the 19th century, Guterres insists that the 1.5 degree cap remains feasible “with rapid and deep reductions in emissions across all sectors of the global economy.”

Observers say IPCC meetings are becoming increasingly politicized as stakes on curbing global warming rise, reflecting the annual UN climate talks that usually take place at the end of the year.

Among the most burning questions at the current meeting is how to determine which countries are considered vulnerable developing countries, which makes them eligible to receive money from the “loss and damage” fund agreed at the latest UN climate talks in Egypt. Delegates also argued about numbers indicating how much to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years and how to include artificial or natural efforts to remove carbon into the equations.

As the nation with the largest carbon footprint since industrialization, the United States has strongly opposed the notion of historical responsibility for climate change.


This story was corrected to the United States, not the United Nations, in the third paragraph.

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