Inter-Govt. Climate Action Overview

U.S. pressured Saudis to accept Copenhagen Accord

The Obama administration leaned heavily on Saudi Arabia to associate itself with the Copenhagen Accord climate change agreement, confidential State Department memos show.

The handful of climate-related cables -- among the hundreds of thousands of secret and unclassified messages released by the whistle-blower organization Wikileaks -- show the United States put climate change at the center of its foreign policy relationship with the oil-producing giant in the months after last year's blowout U.N. climate summit in Denmark.

"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."

The memos come as international climate talks kick off in Cancun, Mexico. This year, the focus of the United States is to nail down the agreements that President Obama and other world leaders made in Copenhagen and to devise a set of formal decisions setting in motion emission cuts and the mobilization of funding for poor countries that so far has been agreed to in principle.

Analysts said the Saudi memos show the lengths the Obama administration went to in order to sway a fierce opponent of international climate action. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, has a long tradition of blocking movement in the U.N. climate talks. It and other oil-producing nations have, among other things, claimed a need for adaptation funding -- normally reserved for the poor nations that have done little to cause climate change but are bearing the brunt of weather disasters and other problems -- because of rising sea levels that threaten offshore oil rigs.

After the Copenhagen summit, Saudi officials expressed "satisfaction" with the political agreement. But so far, the country has not formally associated itself with the agreement.

Glossary

Citation

Walker, E. (2011). U.S. pressured Saudis to accept Copenhagen Accord . Retrieved from http://climate.uu-uno.org/view/article/51cbf0247896bb431f6a06de

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