Saudi Arabia Blocks Islands' Climate Study Request at UN Climate Talks

Saudi Arabia blocked a request by island nations led by Barbados for the United Nations to produce a study outlining the potential effects of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) of warming on their countries and people.

The request was rejected after talks overran late yesterday and resumed today at a UN meeting in Bonn. The islands’ request was backed by Australia and the European Union’s 27 members before Saudi Arabia said it couldn’t accept the demand. It received backing from Kuwait and other oil producers.

The rejection of the request “is on the border of alarming,” Grenada’s envoy, Dessima Williams, told delegates today, speaking on behalf of the bloc of 43 island and low-lying nations. She said the group will propose the request again at year-end talks in Cancun, Mexico.

The islands pleaded for the study to be carried out to give them access to information they can’t easily get hold of. The island bloc has pushed for climate envoys to adopt a target of limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees, saying rising sea levels may swamp their nations if no action is taken.

“We see no reason why any party would seek to deny us access to this critical information,” Selwin Hart, a delegate form Barbados, said yesterday. “We want a paper that will inform decision-making and provide countries with limited and in some cases no access to this kind of information.”

Saudi Position

The Saudi Arabian delegation yesterday said it could accept the proposal so long as language was inserted to examine the socio-economic effects of different temperature gains and an analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to achieve them.

When that language was inserted, the delegation continued to object, saying the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change doesn’t have the resources to carry out such an extensive study, according to Greenpeace, which followed the discussions.

“The Saudi Arabian delegation was coming up with the arguments and excuses as the debate went along,” Greenpeace campaigner Tove Ryding said today in a press conference. “This is an attempt to derail this process by the big oil industries and interests.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in Bonn at amorales2@bloomberg.net.

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