A woman holds up a globe demanding action on climate change during a demonstration in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Saturday, 8 December 2018. Photo: Graham Hughes / The Canadian Press / AP

By Frank Jordans
9 December 2018

KATOWICE, Poland (AP) – A diplomatic standoff over a single word could set the stage for a bigger showdown during the second half of this year’s U.N. climate summit.

Negotiators took time out Sunday to rest after the first week of talks ended on a sour note the previous night, when the United States sided with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in blocking endorsement of a landmark study on global warming.

“I think it was a key moment,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The fact that a group of four countries were trying to diminish the value and importance of a scientific report they themselves, with all other countries, requested three years ago in Paris is pretty remarkable.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on what would happen if average global temperatures rise by 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), and how to ensure they don’t go higher, was widely regarded as a wake-up call for policy-makers when it was released in October.

As diplomats wrapped up a week of technical talks Saturday, almost all 200 countries present in Katowice, Poland, had wanted to “welcome” the IPCC report, making it the benchmark for future action.

A climate conference participant looks at a police officer during the March for Climate, a protest against global warming in Katowice, Poland, Saturday, 8 December 2018, as the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference takes place in the city. Photo: Alik Keplicz / AP Photo

But the U.S. and three other delegations objected.

“The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “As we have made clear in the IPCC and other bodies, the United States has not endorsed the findings of the report.”

Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait also called for the study to be “noted” but not “welcomed.”

While none of the four-oil exporting countries spelled it out, their objection to the report likely included its suggestion that fossil-fuel use needs to be phased out by 2050. Oil, gas and coal are major sources of carbon dioxide, which traps heat in the atmosphere. [more]

Climate talks pause as battle over key science report looms

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