The latest round of UN global climate talks wound up on Saturday at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. Here are the key points from the event and where we go next.
1. We can all agree on the rules for implementing climate action
Delegates agreed on a ‘rulebook’ that defines exactly how nations will turn ambition into policy and practice. The 2015 Paris Accord was about defining the target to limit global temperature rise to below 2C and is set to come into force in 2020. The 156-page rulebook sets out how we will fulfil those ambitions – how we monitor and report emissions around the world and how each country must be transparent and accountable, and how we will finance and support new capacity in poorer nations.
The challenge was to find a set of rules governing climate policy that worked for all countries, regardless of the economics that separates the developed from the developing world. Despite the US withdrawal from the Paris agreement, the consensus is still intact and the rulebook underscores that the UN process itself can still be effective in uniting the global effort to curtail climate change.
2. There is still resistance
The issue of carbon credits was not resolved and was pushed back into 2019 following Brazil’s resistance to the monitoring and reporting of carbon markets (Brazil also withdrew its offer to host next year’s meeting). There was further pushback from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia, and the USA. The cohort of countries refuted the significance of the IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scientific report that concluded that the world is already falling short of our goals by heading towards 3C this century, and that a 1.5C will be more catastrophic than we had predicted. The resistance wanted to ‘take note’ of the report instead of ‘welcoming’ it and the text was dropped over the semantic standoff.
3. There is hope in the next generation
Greta Thunberg spoke candidly about world’s failure to fully embrace the state of climate change and our failure so far to prioritise climate over economics.
We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again.
We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time.
We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.”
It’s a powerful speech but the challenge remains – the community needs to act urgently and cohesively to transform these words into action. It’s not enough to retweet and share Greta’s voice on social media, because she’s a 15-year-old inspiration. We need to act on her words.
4. What’s next for global climate change action?
Chile will host the COP25 meeting in 2019 and countries will begin reporting their emissions as the Paris Accord is implemented through the new rulebook in 2020. The question is whether countries will opt for (and fulfil) stringent measures to increase their pledges to reduced carbon and aim for limiting temperature rise to 1.5C. October’s IPCC report resets the target and gives us until 2030 to get within 1.5C emission levels.