Media reports reveal that some highly confidential documents have been leaked, showing how some countries are trying to manipulate a crucial climate change report. They have been approaching a team of scientists who have prepared a UN report with pieces of evidence on climate change.
According to the reports, the leaked documents contain more than 32,000 submissions requesting the UN to tone down the details in that report. These submissions are mostly made by governments, corporations, and other interested parties. Saudi Arabia, Australia, China, Argentina, Norway, and Japan are among the countries strongly asking the UN to remove the points that indicate the need to stop fossil fuel consumption.
The leak was acquired and compiled by the UK’s team of investigative journalists, Unearthed and then released to the media.
Climate Change Report for Governments to Take Action
The leak comes a few days before the start of discussions on the latest climate change report at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November 2021. These assessment reports are produced after every 6 to 7 years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body responsible for studying climate change science.
These reports are then used by governments to take required action in tackling climate change. The latest report that countries want to change is supposed to be the key part of negotiations at the conference. All the world governments are required to participate in the process to achieve an accord on climate change. However, countries are pushing back on UN recommendations even before the start of the conference. Reportedly, at the summit UN was supposed to reach an agreement with the countries to make huge commitments in reducing the climate change effects and keep global warming levels to 1.5 degrees.
In the leak, there are comments from governments that urge the UN to improve the quality of the final report and make it more constructive.
Countries Ask Scientists to Delete Some Phrases
The leak shows that countries and organizations are stressing that the world does not need to reduce its consumption of fossil fuels as suggested in the latest draft of the climate change report.
Saudi Arabia (SA) demanded IPCC remove phrases like “the need for urgent and accelerated mitigation actions at all scale” from the report. Moreover, it also requested the UN to eliminate their conclusion which stated that “the focus of decarbonization efforts in the energy systems sector needs to be on rapidly shifting to zero-carbon sources and actively phasing out fossil fuels”. It indicates that it’s necessary to shut down coal-powered plants to prevent climate change.
SA is one of the largest producers and exporters of oil in the world that largely supports carbon capture and storage (CCS). It is an emerging and expensive technology designed to capture and permanently store carbon dioxide underground. Other big producers and users of fossil fuels like China, Japan, and Australia also back SA’s argument in favor of CCS and reject IPCC’s conclusion. OPEC, the collective organization of oil-producing nations, also supports CCS. It asked the body to delete the phrase that stated: “lobby activism, protecting rent extraction business models, prevent political action”. Australia also asked the scientists to remove a reference to the analysis of the role fossil fuel lobbyists played in making weak climate actions in the US and Australia.
Governments Argue Need for Fossil Fuel Consumption
The supporters of CCS technology deny the conclusive statements of the UN because they believe that it can dramatically reduce fossil fuel emissions from industry and power plants. India, which is the second-largest consumer of coal in the world, warns that coal is likely to remain its main source of energy production for the coming decades due to challenges in producing cost-effective electricity. Norway argues that the UN should allow the use of CCS as a potential tool for reducing emissions.
The draft of the climate change report acknowledges that CCS could play a role in the future but also questions its viability. The report states that it is not clear if this technology meets the objectives of the Paris Agreement because its ability to meet 1.5C and 2C targets, is a subject of research.
When the media approached OPEC for its comments on the IPCC’s climate change report, it claimed that tackling the climate issue has many paths. It said there was a need to explore all solutions and use all available energies including the clean ones to make sure no one was getting left behind.
Final Report Includes Government Concerns
The IPCC reportedly said that government comments were essential to its processes but it was strongly against the lobbying of any kind.
Professor Corinne le Quéré of the University of East Anglia is a leading climate scientist, who has helped compile 3 major climate reports for the IPCC. She also said that all comments are judged only through scientific evidence regardless of who was making them. She told the media that scientists had no pressure to accept the remarks but if any of them exhibited lobbying or were not justified by science then they would not be entertained in the IPCC report. The professor welcomed the governments for having a chance to review the science.
The UN body claimed that its processes were designed to protect against lobbying, especially the review process, which was a major reason for the strength and credibility of its reports. Professor said that the more the reports are scrutinized, the more solid the evidence would be in the end. It is because all arguments are articulated and brought forward depending on the best science available.
Due to IPCC’s work on climate science, the UN has received a Nobel Prize in 2007. Two months ago, it released its 6th assessment report which indicated how human development was guilty of causing climate change.