Wikileaks Cables Show US Pressured Saudi Arabia to Back Copenhagen Accord, and More

saudi arabia photo

photo: Al Jazeera English/Creative Commons

So far the classified US cables released by Wikileaks have mostly dealt with issues of only tangental environmental concern, but now the New York Times (which, along with The Guardian is the only news outlet to already have the entire batch of 200,000+ documents) reports that, in the weeks after COP15 last year, the US exerted considerable pressure on Saudi Arabia to back the Copenhagen Accord. Attempt to Head Off Climate Change Clash With Saudis
NYT says the US "put climate change at the center of it foreign policy relationship with the oil-producing giant."

"You have the opportunity to head off a serious clash over climate change," James Smith, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she prepared for a February visit to the kingdom.

"Saudi officials are very concerned that a climate change treaty would significantly reduce their income just as they face significant costs to diversify their economy," Smith wrote. "The King is particularly sensitive to avoid Saudi Arabia being singled out as the bad actor, particularly on environmental issues."

And in a memo summarizing the trip of Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman to Saudi Arabia in January, Smith wrote that Feltman urged the country to send a formal notice to the United Nations indicating its acceptance of the climate pact.

All of which is historically interesting, but nothing revelatory. It was public knowledge at the time that Saudi Arabia was very much concerned (and no doubt still is) about efforts to get off fossil fuels reducing their national income. And we also know that the US exerted pressure on other nations as well, with US envoy Todd Stern saying in effect that nations which opposed the Accord would be cut off from any climate mitigation and adaptation aid.

Climate Was Front-Burner Issue for Obama Administration
Other interesting (if not revelatory, then or now) info coming to light:

  • According to NYT analysis "the handful of time that climate change is raised, it appears to be a front-burner Obama administration issue."

  • France was divided on how to respond to the climate bill then being worked on in Congress, which offered emission reductions viewed as being "pitifully low".

  • Germany wanted strong US leadership going into COP15, but nearly a month ahead of time was already had "lowered their expectations for the possibility of reaching a legally-binding agreement...they have begun to describe the summit as one step in a larger process--a politically binding framework--and may be preparing the German public for a less ambitious outcome.

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More on the Copenhagen Accord:
Copenhagen Accord Commitments Mean 4.2°C Temperature Rise & No More Coral Reefs by 2100
India Backs Copenhagen Accord - Last Major Emitter To Do So
What's Missing From the Copenhagen Accord?
RAN Names the Copenhagen Accord Its Greenwash of the Week (Video)

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