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Saudi Arabia denies ‘fabrications’ that it is trying to derail COP26 negotiations

Written by on 10/11/2021

“This is where the game begins.”

These are the words of a very senior national representative heading into a tense round of negotiations on the recently released COP26 cover agreement – the document that will determine the success or failure of the summit.

“The game” they were referring to means the increasingly acrimonious battles between countries who are either trying to strengthen or weaken bits of the text depending on national circumstances and political pressures.

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Saudi Green Initiative Forum in Riyadh
Saudi Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud speaks during the Saudi Green Initiative Forum to discuss efforts by the world's top oil exporter to tackle climate change in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 23, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
Image: Prince Abdulazizbin Salman Al Saud told Sky News that allegations his country is trying to derail negotiations are ‘fabrications’

Things are off to a difficult start.

In an unusual unscripted encounter, the Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulazizbin Salman Al Saud told Sky News that allegations his country is trying to derail negotiations are “fabrications” and lies.

Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest producers of oil, has been accused of stalling and obstructing progress by exploiting procedural rules that allow them to talk for extended periods of time and raise objections.

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Big polluters are vehemently opposed to one key part in the working agreement: paragraph 30.

It urges all nations to revisit and strengthen their 2030 carbon emissions targets by the end of 2022.

The view among senior negotiators is that if this bit of the text survives the next three bruising days of negotiations, then COP26 can say it has kept 1.5C of warming within reach.

It will be a success.

But if it dies, and Saudi Arabia, China and others are pushing for it to disappear, then COP26 will have fallen short.

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Mary Robinson issues emotional plea to world leaders to up their game on climate change.

There are other rows too – some think that paragraph 37, which calls for the acceleration of the phasing out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies, is too weak because it doesn’t explicitly mention setting a date for getting rid of oil, coal and gas.

Others are fighting to have it removed altogether.

Paragraph 16 is contentious as well.

It calls on rich nations to double their contributions to adaptation finance, which is the money available to poor nations to cope with the changes already locked in as a result of global warming.

A number of wealthy nations are resisting this, having already upped their funding.

But the chair of the African nations negotiating group, Tanguy Gahouma-Bekale, has told me that this is a “red line” for his members.

The games have indeed begun.

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