Katowice, Poland (CNN)Hidden in the 133-page document agreed upon at the UN climate change talks was a compromise that many consider an infuriating distraction. The countries of the world agreed to welcome the fact that a scientific report on the state of global warming had been produced. But they failed to welcome its findings.
That seemingly small difference is massive in the hyper-subtle, hyper-polite world of climate diplomacy. So massive, in fact, that the bickering over the wording hung like a cloud over these negotiations. Almost 200 countries agreed — barely — to a “rulebook” governing the Paris Agreement on climate change, which is meant to help limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Debate over whether to “welcome” the findings or simply “note” their existence flared up a week ago. The United States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia — among the leading producers of fossil fuels, which cause climate change — stated publicly that they did not want to “welcome” the findings of a report the UN head had called an “ear-splitting wake-up call.”