Cop26 document leak shows the countries lobbying to alter crucial UN climate report

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An official of the Saudi oil company Aramco watches progress at a rig at the al-Howta oil field near Howta, Saudi Arabia - JOHN MOORE
An official of the Saudi oil company Aramco watches progress at a rig at the al-Howta oil field near Howta, Saudi Arabia - JOHN MOORE

Countries including Saudi Arabia and Australia are lobbying to change a crucial climate report, a leak ahead of the Cop26 climate summit has shown.

The trove of documents, seen by the BBC, reveals major powers are petitioning against fossil fuel reduction, cutting meat consumption and offering developing nations support to go green.

It has raised questions around whether governments are commited to tackle climate change as pressure to do so intensifies.

The documents include more than 32,000 submissions made by governments and other global stakeholders to a team of climate experts. The group is putting together a UN report intended to collate the best scientific evidence on how to get to grips with global warming.

Such reports are produced every six to seven years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN body tracking climate change. The report will be a critical component underpinning the negotiations in Glasgow this November.

The world’s largest oil exporter Saudi Arabia requested the report remove its 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 official in the oil ministry said: "Phrases like ‘the need for urgent and accelerated mitigation actions at all scales’ should be eliminated."

Argentina, Norway and the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) also raised objections.

A senior Australian government official repudiated the judgement arguing for the closure of coal-fired power plants - despite reducing coal dependency being a key objective of the Cop26 meeting. Australia is a major coal producer.

Another conclusion of the draft provided evidence that reducing meat consumption is necessary to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Two of the world’s largest producers of beef and animal fed crops, Brazil and Argentina, argued strongly against it.

Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, causing about 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil is the world's 4th largest contributor to global warming, mainly due to deforestation and land clearing in the Amazon - Gustavo Jononovich
Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, causing about 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil is the world's 4th largest contributor to global warming, mainly due to deforestation and land clearing in the Amazon - Gustavo Jononovich

"Plant-based diets can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50 per cent compared to the average emission intensive Western diet,” the report said. Brazil argued that the findings are false.

Argentina said “generalisation on the impacts of meat-based diets on low carbon options” should be avoided.

Switzerland suggested altering aspects of the report that claim developing nations will need the financial backing of wealthier countries in order to meet emission reduction goals.

At the 2009 Copenhagen conference it was agreed that developed nations would provide $100bn a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020. This target has not yet been met.

The Swiss Federal Office for the Environment told the BBC: "While climate finance is a critical tool to increase climate ambition, it is not the only relevant tool.

"Switzerland takes the view that all Parties to the Paris Agreement with the capacity to do so should provide support to those who need such support."

The release comes days before countries are expected to pledge to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees at the Cop climate summit.

Greenpeace UK's team of investigative journalists, Unearthed, provided the BBC with the most recent draft of the report and comments.

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