The question to ask—did COP24 in Katowice, Poland, advance climate justice? Yes and no! Negotiators from over 190 counties agreed to keep the Paris agreement alive and completed most of the rules that countries would follow in reporting their pledges, but they were not able to heed scientists’ warning to step up efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions lower than the UNFCCC 2015 guidelines. The main work of these delegates was to codify the rules for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, especially how pledges would be reported. This task left little time to address how countries will move toward the lower global warming target of 1.5˚Celsius in our century. Analysis of current pledges from COP21 (Paris) show that these efforts are not even sufficient to reach the Paris goal of 2.0˚C. Scientists tell us our world is already a bit above 1˚C from pre-industrial global levels.
Part of what hindered such bold action in Katowice, Poland, and kept the negotiators tied to “consensus- building” over word changes that could be acceptable to all delegates was the “rising right-wing nationalism” led by our own government. President Trump’s officials unveiled two schemes promoting fossil fuels. This action encouraged a few other countries to “behave badly” with attempts to wreck the summit’s welcoming of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) October report. Their efforts minimized IPCC’s warning that humankind has a smaller window of opportunity to keep global warming below 1.5˚C, namely just under 12 years.
Delegates did agree that all nations would follow the same pledge reporting rules allowing for some flexibility for countries needing that if they gave an explanation. Reports on progress to meet national commitments, or pledges, must begin in 2024 and every two years thereafter. During some sharing sessions, countries who are already making significant progress to cut emissions shared their information.
As for climate funding by developed countries to provide aid to developing countries to assist with climate change adaptation and mitigation and jump start use of renewables, the rules agreed to in Katowice seemed to undermine the urgency of this monetary aid.
Market mechanisms for voluntary trading of carbon offsets did not get settled at COP24. Instead this was shifted to further work at the next UN climate change conference to be held in Chile in 2019.
But the Katowice conference did affirm the global “stocktake” action agreed upon in Paris. Every five years nations will come together at these Climate Change Conferences to “take stock” of progress toward the long- term goal of avoiding dangerous global warming and to encourage additional efforts to reduce emissions drastically. The rules spelled out at COP24 allow for “loss and damage” to be reported in the global “stocktake.” This was an important win for developing countries since they are expected to feel the impact of climate change first and be less-prepared to deal with such impacts.
A significant discussion was led by Poland regarding the importance of a just transition for workers currently employed in fossil-fuel related jobs. The final document emphasized the need for emission-reducing policies to ensure a just transition of the workforce to create decent work and quality jobs.
These are highlights of outcomes at COP24. To get full detail, google “COP24 Outcomes” and choose from the entries. Probably more interesting would be information about NGO’s and other organizations holding events at COP24. Next month I will report on these events and climate actions.
Claire Whalen, osf