UN climate report talks go into overtime as governments oppose firm language

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) three-part report is published once every six or seven years. Dozens of climate scientists from around the world, who are experts in their fields, had expected to finalize a summary of the third and final section on Friday and publish it Monday morning. Instead they negotiated all weekend amid a slew of objections from governments to its contents.

The report is based on thousands of studies by hundreds of scientists, and the summary is a document of dozens of pages intended to guide policymakers. It is now scheduled to be published seven hours later than expected on Monday.

“One issue is the fundamental, underlying declaration that the world has to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. (These objections are) coming from countries with economic interests, from countries that are prioritizing that above what is clearly a global imperative,” the source told CNN, declining to name particular nations.

“Scientists want to send the extra-clear message that what needs to happen next is to get off fossil fuels to cut emissions as quickly as possible in this decade.”

It is typical for governments to intervene and raise objections at this point in the process, but this report marks the longest talks in the history of the IPCC’s reporting process, which spans more than three decades, tweeted Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a Belgian climate scientist who vice-chaired the previous rounds of reports.

Another sticking point was raised by some developing countries, which demanded that rich nations take more responsibility for their greater historical role in climate change, and that they pay more money to developing nations to help them cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the crisis.

“They want to see clear responsibility taken by richer nations for the heat-trapping emissions they have put into the atmosphere … and to see greater financial flows for developing countries,” the source said.

The outstanding issues were so divisive that negotiators were placed in breakout groups to try to address them late Sunday.

The source told CNN that the enormous pressure to meet the moment of the mounting climate crisis had made talks tense and was the reason for the delay.

Where the previous installments of the report laid out the latest climate science and its impacts, this one is expected to set out a list of solutions to help the world reduce emissions. It comes at a time when many countries are rethinking policies around energy security.

Calls for a faster transition from fossil fuels to renewables have grown louder in recent months in response to a global energy crisis that is pushing up the cost of living in many parts of the world.

Coal, oil and natural gas demand — and prices — have soared since the world began to emerge from repeated Covid-19 lockdowns. Russia’s war in Ukraine is also putting enormous pressure on many countries, particularly those in Europe, to wean themselves off Russian oil and gas. Fossil fuel sales are a major contributor to the Russian state’s finances, which have been used to fund the war in Ukraine.

European nations are also trying to rely less on Russia to improve their own energy security.

The human-made climate crisis is driven primarily by the burning of coal, oil and gas. The International Energy Agency has argued that the world does not need to approve any new fossil fuel projects after 2021, and that it should not if it wants to reach to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Net zero will be achieved when the world emits as little greenhouse gas as possible, and offsets any remaining by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, whether through tree-planting or using technology or geo-engineering, which is where humans intervene in the Earth’s ecosystems.

The cost of renewable sources, such as wind and solar, has dropped dramatically in recent years and become competitive with coal and gas for power, according to the IEA.

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