20 December 2018    

COP24- Key outcomes

Achievements

Last week the high-level UN climate change conference COP24 in Katowice closed after two weeks of intensive discussion. COP24 focused mainly on setting the 2015 (COP21) Paris Agreement into practice, this was achieved by agreeing on a common “rulebook” for all member countries. The rulebook includes how governments will measure, report and verify their emissions-cutting efforts, which is a fundamental component since it ensures all countries are held to appropriate standards and will find it harder to twist their way out of their commitments. The rulebook will support countries on how to apply, implement and operationalize the agreement signed three years ago. These rules will come into effect in 2020.

One additional achievement the member states managed to negotiate about is the decision on how to jointly measure the effectiveness of climate actions in 2023, and how to monitor and report progress on the development and transfer of technology. Additionally, the question of financing from developed countries in support of climate action in developing countries was agreed on, the document sets a way to agree on new, additional ambitious targets from 2025 onwards, from the current commitment to mobilize US$100 billion per year as of 2020. 

“The guidelines that delegations have been working on day and night are balanced and clearly reflect how responsibilities are distributed amongst the world’s nations,” stated Patricia Espinosa, who heads the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and who was speaking on behalf of Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General. “They incorporate the fact that countries have different capabilities and economic and social realities at home, while providing the foundation for ever increasing ambition.”

Failures

However, the conference failed to agree on certain issues. This includes questions such as ways to scale up existing commitments on emission reduction, wording that prevents double counting and whether member nations are doing enough to cut their respective emissions. Several countries believe that the emissions trading system is difficult to monitor and contains too many loopholes, while Brazil wanted to see less restrictive regulatory framework. Conclusively, the solution was to postpone the decisions to the UN’s next climate conference which will be held in Chile next year.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, which was released two months ago, describes the alarming effects that allowing warming to reach 1.5 Celsius degrees above pre-industrial levels would have, including the die-off of coral reefs and eradication of several species. Moreover, the report reveals that the world has little more than ten years to lower the emissions to half in order to bring them under control, which would benefit the stabilization of the climate and avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The report was however not “welcomed” by all members. Major oil producers Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait together refused the conference to fully embrace the IPCC’s conclusions. In the end the report was only “noted”. The EU and a coalition of small islands states together with developing countries spoke in favor of the report, stating that more ambitious effort is needed in order to cut fossil fuels.

Next up

In 2020 during COP26 countries must meet the deadline for their present emissions commitments and create new objectives for 2030 and beyond that go further towards meeting scientific advice.

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