Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Nations inch towards climate deal at marathon UN summit

Nations overcome last-minute divisions to forge climate deal Deal on Paris Agreement reached at crucial climate summit
Sandra Phillips | 19 December, 2018, 08:11

Almost 200 countries overcame political divisions late on Saturday to agree rules for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, but critics say it is not ambitious enough to prevent the risky effects of global warming.

At the heart of the matter is how each nation funds action to mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as how those actions are reported.

One potential breakthrough came in the form of tentative consensus over how to treat the latest United Nations scientific report.

Eleventh hour disagreements over carbon markets nearly derailed negotiations and delayed a final agreement by a day.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has recently backed down on anti-pollution fuel tax hikes in the face of country-wide "yellow vest" protests, said France must "show the way" as he welcomed the progress made at the talks. That prompted an uproar from vulnerable countries like small island nations and environmental groups.

The agreed "Katowice Climate Package" is created to operationalise the climate change regime contained in the Paris Agreement. "The fight goes on", he said.

Washington wants countries to contribute to the climate fight based on their current emissions levels, rather than their historic pollution, meaning the USA would be less bound to help developing nations green their economies.

Another contentious issue was the integrity of carbon markets, looking ahead to the day when the patchwork of distinct exchanges - in China, the European Union, parts of the United States - may be joined up in a global system.

Nations overcome last-minute divisions to forge climate deal

The Paris Agreement calls for setting up a mechanism to guard against practices that could undermine such a market, but finding a solution has proved so problematic that the debate has been kicked down the road to next year. "It was hard and daunting, but we pushed it through", said Michal Kurtyka, president of the COP24 and state secretary of Poland's Ministry of Energy.

One of the largest disappointments for countries of all wealths and sizes was the lack of ambition to reduce emissions shown in the final COP24 text.

One of the key components of the "Katowice package" is a detailed transparency framework, meant to promote trust among nations regarding the fact that they are all doing their part in addressing climate change.

A UN-commissioned report by the IPCC in October warned that keeping the Earth's temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C would need "unprecedented changes" in every aspect of society.

"If you have buyers and sellers in a carbon trading scheme, you want to be sure that those emissions reductions don't get counted twice", said David Waskow, director of the World Resources Institute's Climate Change Initiative.

The other guidelines include how to conduct the global stock take of the effectiveness of climate action in 2023 and how to assess progress on the development and transfer of technology by the developed nations.

With the political climate process sputtering on well into its 3rd decade as emissions rise remorselessly, activists have stepped up grassroots campaigns of civil disobedience to speed up action.

Speaking at the official opening of the summit on December 3, Polish President Andrzej Duda said his country was "ready to take its share of responsibility for global security", including in terms of climate policy.

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