FOCUS: COP-24 – Preview to Katowice talks

International agreements are failing – will Katowice be any different?

Outcome of the Paris Agreement. COP-24 is expected to finalize the rules for implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change under the Paris Agreement work programme. However, the commitments made by governments on climate change will lead to dangerous levels of global warming because they are incommensurate with the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report. The United Nations Environment Programme said pledges put forward to cut emissions would see temperatures rise by 3C above pre-industrial levels, far above the 2C of the Paris climate agreement. At least a quarter must be cut from emissions by the end of the next decade, compared with current trends: the report found that emissions by 2030 were likely to reach about 54 to 56 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent a year, a long way astray of the 42 gigatonnes a year likely to be the level at which warming exceeds 2C.  Following the Paris Agreement in 2015, talks continued up through Bonn earlier this year. Having failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion, more talks were added for September to be held in Bangkok. These talks again failed to satisfy the required rulebook to allow Katowice to be successful. The question now becomes, will Katowice follow Copenhagen and Paris into a pattern of COP failures?

Climate talks in Bonn limp over the finish line.  There was much left to do before the critical Katowice summit in December. The old firewall between rich and poor countries refuses to be extinguished, to the EU’s dismay. That and a lack of progress on climate finance have put a drag on the writing of a rule book for the Paris climate deal.  As usual, finance flows from rich to poorer countries look to be a key sticking point – specifically, talks on making climate aid more predictable. “The issue of finance underpins so many different parts of climate negotiations, because poor countries simply can’t cover the triple costs of loss and damage, adaptation and mitigation on their own,” said Harjeet Singh of Action Aid. Developed country intransigence on the issue, he added, was “holding up the whole package”.“The risk of gridlock at Cop24 is high,” agreed Tracy Carty, of Oxfam. “Developed countries need to get serious about the need to improve predictability of climate finance, and put new commitments to real money on the table by COP-24.”  source

Hence to Bangkok and limited progress:  A week of climate negotiations in Bangkok proceeded unevenly, as old fights about the firewall between rich and poor countries resurfaced. The US blocked a Chinese bid to insert two-tier standards for rich and poor countries, leading to deadlock on guidelines for the national climate plans that underpin the global pact. Parts of the climate finance debate also stalled, prompting calls for political intervention ahead of the December deadline for completing the rule book in Katowice. source

Getting the rich world – the prime culprits of greenhouse gas emissions and the climate catastrophes that have resulted – and the less developed world – those that suffer the consequences while not being responsible – to agree is the chief stumbling block to serious action. It has always been that way since day one of COP talks going back to COP-1 in Berlin in 1995.

Where hope began – the Kyoto Protocol. The first major climate pact, the Kyoto Protocol, signed in December 1997 and becoming effective in February 2005, sought to hammer out a nation-to-nation agreement imposing global standards. Although 37 industrialized nations signed on (the US signed, but never ratified), the pact was not a resounding success, and subsequent diplomatic attempts to tighten emissions have often floundered. In the intervening years, negotiators have accepted that the purely top-down process is not working. Today’s targets are now voluntary, collective and formulated by each nation to reach a common goal. That was instrumental in pushing the Paris Agreement over the finish line in 2015. Signed by 195 countries responsible for 97% of global emissions, the agreement did not force everyone to adopt uniform targets, but set an overall goal (a temperature rise of no more than 2°C) allowing nations to haggle over how to reach it collectively. read

George Monbiot – Paris talks failed. In fairness, the failure does not belong to the Paris talks, but to the whole process. A maximum of 1.5C, now an aspirational and unlikely target, was eminently achievable when the first UN climate change conference took place in Berlin in 1995. Two decades of procrastination, caused by lobbying – overt, covert and often downright sinister – by the fossil fuel lobby, coupled with the reluctance of governments to explain to their electorates that short-term thinking has long-term costs, ensure that the window of opportunity is now three-quarters shut. The talks in Paris are the best there have ever been. And that is a terrible indictment.

See also TGG page on IPCC yearly meetings

Despite all the mine closures in Silesia, Poland still overwhelmingly relies on coalread