With the Paris Climate Deal set to come into effect in 2020, nearly 200 countries gathered at Katowice in Poland to adopt a set of rules to limit global warming.
- The global fight against climate change reached another milestone when negotiators from 196 countries finalized a rulebook for the 2015 Paris Agreement.
- The finalization paves the way for implementation of the Paris Agreement, which is supposed to replace the existing Kyoto Protocol in 2020.
What were the key issues at the conference?
- After the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, the conference was mandated to finalize the modalities, procedures, and guidelines, called the “Paris Rulebook”.
- The Paris Agreement called for keeping a global average temperature rise this century to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels while pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.
- The other two key issues at the conference were the conclusion of the 2018 Facilitative Talanoa Dialogue and the stock-taking exercise on pre-2020 implementation and ambition.
#What is the Paris Agreement?
It is an agreement within the UNFCCC dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance starting in the year 2020. The Paris Accord is considered as a turning point for global climate policy.
- The central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
- It further aims at pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
- The agreement aims to increase the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
- It also aims at making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.
#What are INDCs?
- INDCs are a declaration of individual countries which indicate what post-2020 climate actions they intend to take under a new international agreement, known as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
- The INDCs combine the top-down system of a United Nations climate agreement with bottom-up system-in elements through which countries put forward their agreements in the context of their own national circumstances, capabilities and priorities, within the ambition to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.
- The INDCs will not only contain steps taken towards emission reductions, but also aim to address steps taken to adapt to climate change impacts, and what support the country needs-or will provide to address climate change.
India’s INDC :
What was the main outcome?
- After two weeks of negotiations, the Katowice conference finalized a 133-page rulebook for implementation of the Paris Agreement, which was unanimously adopted by all member countries.
- The guidelines set out how countries will provide information about their Nationally Determined Contributions describing their domestic climate actions, mitigation and adaptation measures.
- The global stock-take also takes into consideration loss and damage due to adverse effects of climate change. However, the conference could not reach consensus on voluntary market mechanisms.
What was agreed at COP24?
- Countries settled on most of the tricky elements of the “rulebook” for putting the 2015 Paris agreement into practice.
- This includes how governments will measure, report on and verify their emissions-cutting efforts, a key element because it ensures all countries are held to proper standards and will find it harder to wriggle out of their commitments.
- This global deal is meant for climate actions by all the countries across the globe post-2020.
What it contains?
- The Katowice package includes guidelines that will operationalize the transparency framework. It sets out how countries will provide information about their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that describe their domestic climate actions.
- This information includes mitigation and adaptation measures as well as details of financial support for climate action in developing countries.
- Besides transparency framework, the Katowice package also includes guidelines that relate to the process for establishing new targets on finance from 2025 onwards to follow-on from the current target of mobilizing $100 billion per year from 2020 to support developing countries.
- It also includes how to conduct the Global Stocktake (GST) of the effectiveness of climate action in 2023 and how to assess progress on the development and transfer of technology.
The significance of the rulebook:
- The global rules are important to ensure that each tonne of emissions released into the atmosphere is accounted for.
- In this way, progress towards the emission limitation goals of the Paris Agreement can be accurately measured.
- Currently, the climate actions of rich nations for the pre-2020 period are being guided by the Kyoto Protocol.
Has the rulebook addressed all issues it was meant to look at?
One important element could not be agreed upon and had to be deferred for until next year. This relates to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement which talks about setting up a market mechanism for trading of carbon emissions.
An emissions trading system already exists under the Kyoto Protocol, though it has become ineffective over the last few years and is meant to end with the end of Kyoto Protocol in 2020.
Why did it take so long?
- There was a row over carbon credits, which are awarded to countries for their emissions-cutting efforts and their carbon sinks, such as forests, which absorb carbon.
- These credits count towards countries’ emissions-cutting targets. Brazil, which hopes to benefit from its large rainforest cover, insisted on a new form of wording that critics said would allow double counting of credits, undermining the integrity of the system. This issue has been put off until next year.
Any other highlights?
- The US continued to obstruct the climate action talks on coal. The US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected to “welcoming” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming.
What wasn’t agreed?
- Largely absent from these talks, which had a technical focus, was the key question of how countries will step up their targets on cutting emissions.
- On current targets, the world is set for 3C of warming from pre-industrial levels, which scientists say would be disastrous, resulting in droughts, floods, sea level rises and the decline of agricultural productivity.
When will that be agreed?
The key deadline is 2020, when countries must show they have met targets set a decade ago for cutting their emissions, and when they must affirm new, much tougher targets.
What does the science say?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global body of the world’s leading climate scientists, warned two months ago that allowing warming to reach 1.5C above pre-industrial levels would have grave consequences, including the die-off of coral reefs and devastation of many species.
How long have we got?
If we extrapolate from the IPCC’s findings, the world has little more than a decade to bring emissions under control and halve them, which would help to stabilize the climate.
Are we getting there?
After years in which the world’s carbon emissions appeared to be stabilising, they are on the rise again. Coal use continues and oil is still the engine of much of the world’s economy. Clean energy is coming on-stream at a faster rate than many predicted, and the costs of it have come down rapidly, but its adoption needs to be speeded up.
Infrastructure, such as energy generation plants, transport networks and buildings, is a central issue: infrastructure built now to rely on high-carbon energy effectively locks in high emissions for decades to come. Some people are also saying we need to invest in projects to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
What happens next?
- The UN will meet again next year in Chile to thrash out the final elements of the Paris rulebook and begin work on future emissions targets. But the crunch conference will come in 2020, when countries must meet the deadline for their current emissions commitments and produce new targets for 2030 and beyond that go further towards meeting scientific advice.
- That conference may be held in the UK or Italy, both of which have bid to be hosts. The UK’s intention in offering to host is to signal it will retain its role on the world stage after Brexit. The event may also provide a welcome change from wranglings over Brexit and intractable trade deals.
What was India’s response?
- India reaffirmed its commitment to meeting the goals under the Paris Agreement and engaged in all the negotiations while protecting its key interests, including climate justice.
- But it expressed strong reservation over the lack of equity in the global stock-take decision, a proposed five-yearly review of the impact of countries’ climate change actions.
- India had expected that decisions would be in consonance with the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris pact.
What were the negotiations on climate finance?
- The guidelines on finance provisions operationalized the obligation of developed countries to provide the means of implementation to developing countries, while recognizing the need for separate and additional finance for climate action.
- This includes guidelines for establishing new climate finance targets from 2025 onwards to follow on from the target of mobilizing $100 billion a year from 2020 to support developing countries.
- The rulebook spells out what kinds of financial flows can be classified as climate finance, how they should be accounted for, and the kind of information about them needed to be submitted.
- Katowice seems to have succeeded in instilling a modicum of strictness, establishing a tough apparatus for countries to share detailed information on their respective climate actions.
- There has been, the delegates argue, some improvement on the prickly issues of transparency and climate finance: the rule book has ensured that a compliance commission would step in to address breaches committed by tardy nation states.
- This is not to suggest that the talks were an unequivocal success. Before the conference came to an end, India’s lead negotiator had stated that the principle of equity had not been adhered to in the case of the ‘global stock-take’ in 2023, an exercise that is meant to assess whether the sum total of interventions implemented by all nations is enough to keep the global average temperature near or, hopefully, below two degree Celsius at pre-industrial levels.
- Finances remain asymmetrical. There is no provision yet to extend the commitment by richer countries to finance the Green Climate Fund beyond 2025 — the year their pledge expires.
- Ominously, the global solidarity that had been achieved to act against climate change is fraying, with the United States of America leading the pack of climate-change sceptics. Katowice has not achieved enough to stem this tide.
- The key objective of the meeting is to adopt the implementation guidelines of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
This is crucial because it ensures the true potential of the Paris Agreement can be unleashed, including ramping up climate action so that the central goal of the agreement can be achieved, namely to hold the global average temperature to as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius.