Saudi row over 1.5C science raises frustration with UN consensus model

(Climate Change News, 5 Jul 2019) Diplomats are losing patience with players like Saudi Arabia blocking progress at international climate talks, instead looking to other forums for action.


A row over a major scientific report on 1.5C has exposed the limits of the consensus-based approach of the UN climate negotiations.

Diplomats privately express growing frustration at tactics used by Saudi Arabia, after the petrostate refused to engage in substantive debate on how best to use the report’s findings to inform climate policies.

The obstruction, supported by a handful of other large oil producers, led to the report being excluded from formal negotiation in UN Climate Change’s science stream. That was despite an overwhelming majority of countries calling for a thorough discussion of the topic.

One European diplomat described “a toxic political atmosphere” during technical climate talks in Bonn last week, when the row occurred.

“We need to be smart about how we use the UN space for political gains to drive ambition,” said the official, who was not authorised to speak on the record, “and not that [a] lack of consensus halts the whole system”.

Yvo de Boer, former head of UN Climate Change between 2006 and 2010, vented his outrage on Twitter that “a totalitarian, murderous, sexist regime can exploit consensus rules to block the consideration of science”.

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Climate Change News, 5 Jul 2019: Saudi row over 1.5C science raises frustration with UN consensus model