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Climate change: COP24 fails to adopt key scientific report

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Attempts to incorporate a key scientific study into global climate talks in Poland have failed.

The IPCC report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C, had a significant impact when it was launched last October.

Scientists and many delegates in Poland were shocked and disappointed as the US, Saudi Arabia and Russia objected to this meeting “welcoming” the report.

It was the 2015 climate conference that had commissioned the landmark study.

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The report said that the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3C this century rather than 1.5C.

Keeping to the preferred target would need “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. If warming was to be kept to 1.5C this century, then emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be reduced by 45% by 2030.

The report, launched in Incheon in South Korea, had an immediate impact winning praise from politicians all over the world.

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Climate protestors marching in Katowice outside COP24

But negotiators here ran into serious trouble when Saudi Arabia, the US and Russia objected to the conference “welcoming” the document.

Instead they wanted to support a much more lukewarm phrase, that the conference would “take note” of the report.

Saudi Arabia had fought until the last minute in Korea to limit the conclusions of the document. Eventually they gave in. But it now seems that they have brought their objections to Poland.

The dispute dragged on as huddles of negotiators met in corners of the plenary session here, trying to agree a compromise wording.

None was forthcoming.

With no consensus, under UN rules the passage of text had to be dropped.

Many countries expressed frustration and disappointment at the outcome.

“It’s not about one word or another, it is us being in a position to welcome a report we commissioned in the first place,” said Ruenna Haynes from St Kitts and Nevis.

“If there is anything ludicrous about the discussion its that we can’t welcome the report,” she said to spontaneous applause.

Scientists and campaigners were also extremely disappointed by the outcome.

“We are really angry and find it atrocious that some countries dismiss the messages and the consequences that we are facing, by not accepting what is unequivocal and not acting upon it,” said Yamide Dagnet from the World Resources Institute, and a former climate negotiator for the UK.

Others noted that Saudi Arabia and the US had supported the report when it was launched in October. It appears that the Saudis and the US baulked at the political implications of the UN body putting the IPCC report at its heart.

“Climate science is not a political football,” said Camilla Born, from climate think tank E3G.

“All the worlds governments – Saudi included – agreed the 1.5C report and we deserve the truth. Saudi can’t argue with physics, the climate will keep on changing.”

Many delegates are now hoping that ministers, who arrive on Monday, will try and revive efforts to put this key report at the heart of the conference.

“We hope that the rest of the world will rally and we get a decisive response to the report,” said Yamide Dagnet.

“I sincerely hope that all countries will fight that we don’t leave COP24 having missed a moment of history.”

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