The biggest drama developed during the last night over the deletion of some figures. The draft SPM presented to the delegates contained figures that showed emissions of greenhouse gas from countries classified by their “income group.” They showed that the emissions of the “upper medium income” countries soared in the last decade. This is obviously important information for policy makers. It helps to explain why, despite all the anxiety about climate change, emissions have grown recently at an accelerating rate. Nevertheless, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia insisted that all figures where countries were classified by income group should be deleted from the SPM. Other countries strongly opposed the deletion, but could not prevent it because a consensus is required for everything in the SPM.
The figures nevertheless remain in the Technical Summary and the underlying main report. The authors proposed to the Plenary that references to those figures should be included in the SPM, at the point where the figures themselves were deleted. Saudi Arabia objected, and indeed wanted to delete all references to any part of the main report that mentioned income groups. In response, the Netherlands proposed that, if the reference to the figures were deleted, a footnote should be added to say “The Netherlands objects to the deletion of references to the following figures: . . .,” followed by a list of the figures. (Footnotes noting objections from individual countries are permitted.) I thought this a lovely idea, and it definitely added to the entertainment, but it got nowhere. The question of what to do with the references remained unsettled. Many countries opposed their deletion and many supported it.
The time by now was 4:15 am. A break was called, and delegates gathered in a huddle to sort out what to do. I hung around the fringes watching. Generally there were smiles, but I witnessed a decided lapse of diplomatic language just before Brazil presented a new proposal to the Plenary. This proposal was that a note should be attached to each chapter in the main report that mentioned income groupings of countries. The note would say that, although income groupings are relevant from the scientific perspective, they are not necessarily relevant from the policy-making perspective. This proposal could not possibly have been approved, since the IPCC’s raison d’être is to provide information relevant for policy-making. It could not accept a suggestion that it was not doing so. Moreover, the underlying main report needed to be protected from political interference.
Compromises ran out, and in the end Saudi Arabia got its way completely over the references. All references from the SPM to any part of the main report that mentions income groupings were deleted.
By 7:30 am on Saturday green highlighting had spread across all the surviving text, and the meeting ended. The last session had started at 9:00 am on Friday, and had been interrupted only twice for meal breaks amounting to one and a half hours together.