At the climate conference in Katowice, Poland, the world community actually wants to adopt a set of rules for climate treaty, a difficult project – after all, at least the kick-off seemed easy.
What a mistake.
It was about a simple appraisal: The climate report, which had been published by the UN Climate Council in October, should be recognized, it was on the agenda. The results of the climate report should serve as the basis of the negotiations.
That should not be a problem, it seemed, after all, the UN Climate Change Conference itself had commissioned the report three years ago to better understand the consequences of global warming of 1.5 degrees. The result: Even such a low level of warming poses serious risks, the climate experts said .
„Climate change should now be noted“ according to the minutes of the conference. But the wording was too weak for many countries. The report should instead be „welcomed“ by the world community, they demanded. It was the beginning of an escalation.
Objection from Saudi Arabia
On the basis of records of non-public negotiations, the SPIEGEL was able to reconstruct what happened in the plenary session of the climate conference on the weekend.
Representatives of the Caribbean state of St. Kitts first officially put the issue on the agenda. In plenary session of the Climate Change Conference in Katowice, numerous states spoke in favor of expressly „welcoming“ the climate report.
Then Saudi Arabia spoke up.
We welcome the achievement of science, said the country’s representative with diplomatic acumen. So he did not want to „greet the report,“ just to „greet the scientists.“
Three other states joined: the US, Russia and Kuwait. „We appreciate the hard work of climate researchers,“ said the US representative.
„Which signal do we send?“
Horror in the hall. If you could not even welcome the self-procured climate report on which you wanted to build policy – then how could you move forward on difficult topics of the conference, delegates wondered.
A representative of the Maldives, whose islands are threatened by sea-level rise, asked excitedly in plenary: „What signal do we send to the world if we do not welcome the best science whose message is of the utmost importance?“
Colombia threatened: Without an express welcome, there could be no agreement. „We can not accept that we just take note of the climate report,“ added Costa Rica.
„The plenary is there to show opposites,“ Saudi Arabia replied. You will not give in. „But we have to show the world that we understand the signals of science,“ the Maldives protested.
„Disappointed“ is one, the EU said in plenary. The topic was postponed.
Harbinger of a crisis?
The escalation seems to show that the US and its allies openly oppose the progress of climate negotiations. US President Donald Trump had already announced his country’s exit from the climate treaty , but he must keep the notice period of three years.
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as oil states have always hoped for a lax CO2 policy. Russia was also always skeptical of the climate treaty. Observers of the negotiations fear that the dispute over the word „welcoming“ is only the prelude to a major crisis in the world climate agreement.
At the same time, a thank-you to science is the least, says Christoph Bals, who has long been fighting for a strict climate agreement for the environmental organization „Germanwatch“. Overdue, on the other hand, is the commitment of the climate conference to orientate itself on the findings of the climate report – the risks of a progressive climate change outlined therein.