Documents appear to show department official trying to water down IPCC report, advocates say

By Jackson Graham

Friday October 22, 2021

Greenpeace Asia Pacific CEO David Ritter said the documents showed the government’s ‘consistently obstructive approach’ to a report on fossil fuels.
Greenpeace Asia Pacific CEO David Ritter said the documents showed the government’s ‘consistently obstructive approach’ to a report on fossil fuels. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

An Australian department official tried to persuade the world’s leading climate change authority to delete analysis of fossil fuel industry lobbying and rephrase remarks about retiring coal-fired power in an upcoming report, according to Greenpeace. 

The global advocacy group published parts of the documents through its Unearthed investigations project, which appears to show an Australian Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources official requesting changes to a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report yet to be published. 

But energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor says the leaked sections of the report misrepresent Australia’s position and government feedback is a formal part of the IPCC process.

The report says phasing out fossil fuel power in the near term should be accompanied by efforts to improve and test options that will be important later on, including using carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS). 

But Greenpeace says the documents show Australia rejects this notion, instead suggesting carbon capture can be deployed in the near term to avoid phasing out coal and gas power.

An Australian official is quoted as telling the IPCC: “these remarks confuse the objective (eliminating emissions) with the means ‘retiring existing coal-fired power’. CCUS remains relevant to zero emissions”. 

The official also requests “deleting [a] political viewpoint made to seem factual” when the IPCC report refers to lobbying in Australia and the US making action on climate change weaker, despite the report citing a number of academic references. 

According to Greenpeace, the official also suggests Australia be removed from a list of the world’s major producers and consumers of coal – despite being the fifth-largest coal producer in the world between 2018-21. 

Greenpeace Asia Pacific chief executive David Ritter said the documents showed the government’s “consistently obstructive approach” in trying to “water down” the upcoming report.

But a spokesperson for Taylor told the ABC that the leaked sections misrepresented Australia’s commentary and position.  

“All governments are invited to comment on draft IPCC reports as a matter of process,” the spokesperson said. 

“All comments received by the IPCC are published with their reports as they are finalised.

“This ensures complete transparency.

 “The assertion that commenting on a draft is somehow ‘interference’ is categorically false.”

Prime minister Scott Morrison is due to attend the United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow in November.

The government is preparing an updated climate policy ahead of the summit but is locked in negotiations with the Nationals about a net-zero target by 2050 and the policy’s consequences for regional Australia. 

The Nationals are due to meet again to discuss their position on the policy on Sunday. 


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