Thursday, October 21, 2021

Dissension at COP26


Countries are trying to change a crucial scientific report on how to tackle climate change.

 Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia are among countries asking the UN to play down the need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels.

It also shows some wealthy nations are questioning paying more to poorer states to move to greener technologies.

There are a number of countries and organisations arguing that the world does not need to reduce the use of fossil fuels as quickly as the current draft of the report recommends.

An adviser to the Saudi oil ministry demands "phrases like 'the need for urgent and accelerated mitigation actions at all scales…' should be eliminated from the report".

One senior Australian government official rejects the conclusion that closing coal-fired power plants is necessary, even though ending the use of coal is one of the stated objectives of the COP26 conference.

Saudi Arabia is the one of the largest oil producers in the world and Australia is a major coal exporter.

A senior scientist from India's Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research, which has strong links to the Indian government, warns coal is likely to remain the mainstay of energy production for decades because of what they describe as the "tremendous challenges" of providing affordable electricity. India is already the world's second-biggest consumer of coal.

A number of countries argue in favour of emerging and currently expensive technologies designed to capture and permanently store carbon dioxide underground. Saudi Arabia, China, Australia and Japan - all big producers or users of fossil fuels - as well as the organisation of oil producing nations, Opec, all support carbon capture and storage (CCS).

It is claimed these CCS technologies could dramatically cut fossil fuel emissions from power plants and some industrial sectors.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, requests the UN scientists delete their conclusion that "the focus of decarbonisation efforts in the energy systems sector needs to be on rapidly shifting to zero-carbon sources and actively phasing out fossil fuels".

Argentina, Norway and Opec also take issue with the statement. Norway argues the UN scientists should allow the possibility of CCS as a potential tool for reducing emissions from fossil fuels.

The draft report accepts CCS could play a role in the future but says there are uncertainties about its feasibility.

Australia asks IPCC scientists to delete a reference to analysis of the role played by fossil fuel lobbyists in watering down action on climate in Australia and the US. Opec also asks the IPCC to "delete 'lobby activism, protecting rent extracting business models, prevent political action'."

Brazil and Argentina, two of the biggest producers of beef products and animal feed crops in the world, argue strongly against evidence in the draft report that reducing meat consumption is necessary to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The draft report states "plant-based diets can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50% compared to the average emission intensive Western diet". Brazil says this is incorrect.

Both countries call on the authors to delete or change some passages in the text referring to "plant-based diets" playing a role in tackling climate change, or which describe beef as a "high carbon" food. Argentina also asked that references to taxes on red meat and to the international "Meatless Monday" campaign, which urges people to forgo meat for a day, be removed from the report.

The South American nation recommends "avoiding generalisation on the impacts of meat-based diets on low carbon options", arguing there is evidence that meat-based diets can also reduce carbon emissions.

Brazil says "plant-based diets do not for themselves guarantee the reduction or control of related emissions" and maintains the focus of debate should be on the levels of emissions from different production systems, rather than types of food.

Brazil, which has seen significant increases in the rate of deforestation in the Amazon and some other forest areas, also disputes a reference to this being a result of changes in government regulations, claiming this is incorrect.

It was agreed at the climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009 that developed nations would provide $100bn a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, a target that has yet to be met.

A significant number of Switzerland's comments are directed at amending parts of the report that argue developing countries will need support, particularly financial support, from rich countries in order to meet emission reduction targets.

Australia makes a similar case to Switzerland. It says developing countries' climate pledges do not all depend on receiving outside financial support. It also describes a mention in the draft report of the lack of credible public commitments on finance as "subjective commentary".

A number of mostly Eastern European countries argue the draft report should be more positive about the role nuclear power can play in meeting the UN's climate targets. India goes even further, arguing "almost all the chapters contain a bias against nuclear energy". It argues it is an "established technology" with "good political backing except in a few countries".

The Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia criticise a table in the report which finds nuclear power only has a positive role in delivering one of 17 UN Sustainable Development goals. They argue it can play a positive role in delivering most of the UN's development agenda.

COP26: Document leak reveals nations lobbying to change key climate report - BBC News

The disagreements over climate policy reveal the conflict between national interests and reaching the solutions to the climate crisis. COP26 will not be a meeting of minds.

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