Governments Try to Downplay Climate Change

Rising sea levels in Bangladesh. (Image Credit: Spencer Platt)

New leaked documents show that governments have been trying to get the UN to downplay climate change, raising questions about the outcome of the upcoming COP26. COP26 is the 26th annual UN Climate Change Conference, where nations from around the world will get together to make recommendations about climate change.

Every six to seven years, the UN body tasked with evaluating the science of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), meets to write an assessment report. Governments, companies, and other interested parties are able to submit recommendations to the team of scientists who write these reports. The next IPCC report is slated to be finished by 2022. These leaked documents show that multiple countries have been trying to get the UN to change this report on a number of key issues impacting the climate.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, wants the report to delete the 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.” “A Saudi oil ministry adviser also demands that “phrases like ‘the need for urgent and accelerated mitigation actions at all scales…’ should be eliminated from the report.” One stated objective of COP26 is the phasing out of coal, so naturally a senior Australian government official argues in response that closing coal-fired power plants is not necessary. Australia also asks the UN scientists to get rid of a reference to the role played by fossil fuel lobbyists in watering down action against climate change in Australia and the U.S.

Meanwhile, Brazil and Argentina, the biggest producers of animal feed crops and beef products, want to erase evidence that reducing meat consumption helps cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil also disputes that it has had anything to do with an increased rate of deforestation, a blatant lie. And Switzerland and Australia argue against the idea that rich countries should provide financial support to developing countries in order to meet emission reduction targets. And the list goes on.

Given that the world needs to cut its production of coal, oil, and gas by half in the coming decade if it wants to keep global heating from reaching even more dangerous levels, we cannot accept governments that want to water down the climate science. Climate experts agree that there must be no further addition of greenhouse gases by 2050. This can only be done by stopping the burning of fossil fuels as quickly as possible and devoting as many resources as possible to the mitigation of climate change. But most major oil and gas producers are planning to increase production until the end of the decade and beyond.

These leaked documents show that our governments care more about protecting these industries and their profits than saving the planet. Once again, they’re showing whose side they’re really on. We can’t expect them to save us.  We’ll have to save ourselves, with the collective action of millions and by dismantling this political-economic system called capitalism.