The publication of a major new United Nations report on climate change has been held back by a battle between rich countries and developing countries over emission targets and financial aid to vulnerable countries.
The report from hundreds of the world’s top scientists was due to be approved by government delegations on Friday at the end of a weeklong meeting in the Swiss city of Interlaken.
The deadline was extended repeatedly as officials from major countries such as China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Nations and the European Union spent the weekend negotiating key phrases in the text.
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The report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is intended to conclude a series that has processed massive amounts of global warming research since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2015.
A summary of the report was approved early on Sunday, but three sources close to the talks have said so The associated press that there is a risk that agreement on the main text will have to be postponed to a later meeting. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the confidential nature of the conversations.
The unusual process of getting countries to sign a scientific report is designed to ensure that governments accept its findings as authoritative advice on which to base their actions.
At the start of the meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on delegates to provide “cold, hard facts” to get the message across that there is little time left for the world to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times.
Although the average global temperature has already risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius since the 19th century, Guterrres stressed that the target limit of 1.5 degrees remains possible “with rapid and far-reaching reductions in emissions in all sectors of the global economy.”
Observers said the IPCC meetings have become increasingly politicized as more is at stake to curb global warming, following the annual UN climate talks that usually take place at the end of the year.
One of the thorniest issues at the current meeting is how to define which nations are considered vulnerable developing countries, making them eligible for money from a ‘loss and damage’ fund agreed at the latest UN climate talks in Egypt. Delegates have also battled over numbers that indicate how much greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced in the coming years and how to factor artificial or natural carbon removal efforts into the equations.
As the country that has emitted the largest amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since industrialization, the United States has strongly resisted the idea of historic responsibility for climate change.