In Brief

Russia, US and Saudi Arabia ally to water down key climate pledge

Major oil producers condemned as landmark climate change summit is thrown into chaos

The US and Russia have allied with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to water down a major climate change pledge, in a shock move that has thrown UN-led talks into disarray.

Two months ago, representatives from the world’s governments agreed on a landmark report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the need to keep global warming below 1.5C.

However, after a heated two-and-a-half-hour debate at the UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland, the four oil major oil producers rejected a motion to “welcome” the study. Instead, they said it should merely be “noted”, which would make it much easier for governments to ignore.

The Guardian says the “backwards step” has “opened up a rift at the talks that will be hard to close in the coming five days”.

More than 15,000 attendees from 190 nations are expected to participate at the COP 24 summit as ministers look to agree a rule book to implement the targets set out at the Paris climate change summit in 2015.

The EU, a bloc of the 47 least developed countries, as well as African and Latin and South American nations, all spoke in favour of the IPCC report with some denouncing the watered down motion.

Climate campaigners say fossil-fuel interests in the US and Russia were trying to sideline the study.

Alden Meyer, the director of strategy and policy in the Union of Concerned Scientists said: “It is troubling. Saudi Arabia has always had bad behaviour in climate talks, but it could be overruled when it was alone or just with Kuwait. That it has now been joined by the US and Russia is much more dangerous.”

The move “has also raised fears among scientists that the US president, Donald Trump, is going from passively withdrawing from climate talks to actively undermining them alongside a coalition of climate deniers”, says the Guardian.

Three years after nearly 200 countries signed a landmark climate agreement in Paris, “they are still far off-track from preventing severe global warming in the decades ahead”, says the New York Times.

Under the Paris deal, every nation volunteered a plan to curtail its greenhouse gas emissions between then and 2030. But many large emitters aren’t even on track to meet their self-imposed targets, according to new data from Climate Action Tracker.

Efforts to cut emissions in the US have been scaled back under Trump. The president has disavowed the Paris agreement altogether and is now moving to dismantle Obama-era climate regulations like efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.

“Global climate efforts are crumbling” says The Daily Caller. Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly declared his intention to follow the US and Australia and pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.

In France, Emmanuel Macron’s fuel tax rises aimed at cutting emissions have sparked the worst unrest seen in the country in half a century, and led to an embarrassing climbdown by the government.

Most important for global emissions, while China appears on track to meet its promise to get 20% of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030, analysts at Climate Action Tracker say this is “highly insufficient” and suggest that the country would have to step up its efforts considerably to help keep the world well below 2C of warming.


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