Leaked documents reveal Australia tried to water down urgency of UN’s climate report

Helena BurkeNCA NewsWire
Not Supplied
Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: Supplied

Leaked documents seen by BBC News reveal the Australian government tried to convince the UN to play down the urgent need to move away from fossil fuels in one of its most important climate change reports.

Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Japan were named as some of the “several” countries who tried to change the contents of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in August.

The revelation comes just days before Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to arrive in Glasgow for the COP26 climate conference where he is expected to agree to significant commitments to tackle climate change.

In the leak of more than 32,000 documents, one senior Australian government official allegedly rejected the conclusion that closing coal-fired power plants was necessary to prevent climate change.

Ending coal burning is one of the main objectives of the upcoming COP26 conference.

The Australian government also allegedly asked IPCC scientists to delete mentions of the role played by fossil fuel lobbyists in undermining action on climate change in Australia and the US.

One senior Australian government official allegedly rejected the conclusion that closing coal-fired power plants was necessary to prevent climate change, according to the BBC.
Camera IconOne senior Australian government official allegedly rejected the conclusion that closing coal-fired power plants was necessary to prevent climate change, according to the BBC. Credit: Supplied

Australia was also included in the list of countries who argued in favour of emerging and expensive technologies designed to capture and permanently store carbon dioxide underground.

Saudi Arabia, China, Japan and Australia – all major producers or users of fossil fuels – voiced support for carbon capture and storage (CCS).

While the IPCC report accepts CCS could play a role in a sustainable energy future, there are significant uncertainties about its feasibility.

“There is large ambiguity in the extent to which fossil fuels with CCS would be compatible with the 2C and 1.5C targets,” the IPCC report said.

The leaked documents consist of more than 32,000 submissions made by governments, companies and other relevant stakeholders to the team of scientists who wrote the most recent IPCC report.

The IPCC reports are used by governments to decide what action is needed to address climate change and often inform both domestic and international policy making.

The UN says comments from governments are central to the IPCC's scientific review process, but the authors have no obligation to incorporate a government’s suggestions into their reports.

“Our processes are designed to guard against lobbying – from all quarters,” the IPCC told the BBC.

“The review process is (and always has been) absolutely fundamental to the IPCC‘s work and is a major source of the strength and credibility of our reports.”

Originally published as Leaked documents reveal Australia tried to water down urgency of UN’s climate report

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails