After a typical North-South divide, governments around the world have given their approval to a major new UN report on climate change.
The Sunday (March 19) decision came after approval was held up by a battle between rich and developing countries over emissions targets and financial aid to vulnerable nations.
The report, prepared by hundreds of the world’s top scientists, was to be approved by governments on Friday at the end of a weeklong meeting in the Swiss town of Interlaken.
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But it was repeatedly pushed back as officials from major countries including China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, the United States and the European Union haggled through the weekend over the wording of key phrases.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report caps a series that digests vast amounts of research on global warming compiled since the Paris climate accord was agreed in 2015.
Differences over report
A summary of the report was approved early on Sunday but agreement on the main text dragged on for several hours, with some observers fearing it might need to be postponed.
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The unusual process of having countries sign off on a scientific report is intended 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 António Guterres called on delegates to provide cold, hard facts to drive home the message that there is little time left for the world to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial times.
While average global temperatures have already increased by 1.1 Celsius since the 19th century, Guterres insisted that the 1.5-degree target limit remains possible “with rapid and deep emissions reductions across all sectors of the global economy”.
The IPCC meetings have increasingly become politicised as the stakes for curbing global warming increase, mirroring the annual UN climate talks that usually take place at the end of the year.
Among the thorniest issues at the current meeting was how to define which countries count as vulnerable developing countries, making them eligible for cash from a loss and damage fund agreed on at the last UN climate talks in Egypt.
Delegates have also battled over figures stating how much greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by over the coming years, and how to include artificial or natural carbon removal efforts in the equations.
(With agency inputs)