COP24 – Paris 2.0?! Well, no.

by Manuel Kreutle

“The Conference of the Parties,
Recalling the Paris Agreement, adopted under the Convention, 
Also recalling decisions 1/CP.21, 1/CP.22, 1/CP.23, 1/CMA.1 and 3/CMA.1, 
Further recalling decisions 6/CP.1, 6/CP.2, 25/CP.7, 5/..." [1]

This is how ‘good’ stories start these days… if we consider ‘good’ to be the mere existence of a final document. In this light, on December 15th 2018, the 196 member states (parties) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), following negotiations at the 24. Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, agreed on a compromise. Prior to the meeting, some – including UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa – held high expectations of the conference becoming a “Paris 2.0” [2], others (e.g. evironmental NGOs like) – thinking of ever-rising carbon emissions, omnipresent coal mining and the USA’s withdrawal from the international treaty – saw themselves forced to keep their feet on the ground [3]. But what was finally agreed on?

After two weeks of negotiations, the member states pledged to publish standardized reports on their national emissions and climate goals based on the “transparency framework for action and support”. The states agreed on submitting such reports starting in 2020, mentioning their country’s current emission status and its future plans (targets), biennially. This means that the first reports have to be submitted by the end of 2022. Countries will have to give specific information on some occasions (like target year(s), reference point(s), base year(s), etc.), but still have quite some space for individual layout on others (e.g. in selections of indicators to validate its targets). Following these rules will definitely be better compared to the chaos of different national targets we have now. However, we will have to wait four more years to see if we can get proper, comparable results from this.

Beyond that, nothing concrete was agreed upon in the big plenary. Regarding climate finances, “commitment of developed country Parties… to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020” was “recalled”, but not futher concretized. In comparison to current international efforts (in 2016, UNFCCC funds and multilateral climate funds raised USD 2.4 billion), the 100 billion mark seems astronomically far away. Furthermore, the (itself questionable) market for international carbon emissions trading ‘rages on’ without any international regulations.
Facing the IPCC’s alarming Special Report on 1.5°C of Global Warming, the member states did not go beyond welcoming its “timely completion” without even referring to the specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 which the report called for.

So, if we consider the 2015 Paris Agreement a great step in international climate politics, this year’s results are unfortunately no big advance. If policy makers maintain their current course, the only thing getting more “transparent” due to the new “rulebook” will be our incapacity in dealing with climate change, including rising carbon levels and missed targets. Instead of hoping for the next COP25 in Chile to come up with good climate regulations, we should remind policy makers of the urgency of this issue whenever we can. In Germany, the 1st of February 2019 will probably offer such an occasion. The “Kohlekommission” (a committee composed by representatives from politics, economy and civil society) will publish its final report giving a recommendation for a coal fade-out date. And since this will most likely not be 2020, as Earth’s climate would need it to be, we have to take action.

 

References:
[1] (Final) Proposal by President, 15 December 2018 19:27, https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/Informal%20Compilation_proposal%20by%20the%20President_rev.pdf.
[2] UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, December 2017, “COP24 will be Paris 2.0” https://unfccc.int/news/cop24-will-be-paris-20.
[3] Maciej Martewicz and Jeremy Hodges, December 2018, “A Climate Summit in the Heart of Coal Country”, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-02/the-cop24-climate-summit-comes-to-poland-s-coal-capital-katowice.

First results of our new survey

by Fenja De Silva-Schmidt

During the first week of the recent COP 24 in Katowice/Poland, we reran our survey from 2015 and questioned a sample of German nationals about their climate change knowledge and attitudes. The German newspaper DIE ZEIT published an article about our first results – here is a summary for our English speaking readers:

In short, the Germans’ interest in climate change has risen: Compared to 2015, they talked about the topic more often, did more online research and more people said it was a relevant topic for them. 30 percent of the respondents named climate change as one of the two biggest problems Germany is facing at the moment (in 2015: 15%). Almost half of the Germans called themselves rather interested or very interested in climate politics (2015: 36%).

Concerning international climate politics, people have become more pessimistic than in our first survey. Only one in five Germans believes that a global agreement can help prevent dangerous climate change, when it was previously more than one in four. Only 36 percent think that the 2-degree-goal is still achievable (2015: 45%).

In consequence, more Germans are willing to participate in climate protection in their everyday lives: Almost half of them want to factor climate protection into their future food and mobility choices; many claim to do so already. One in three wants to participate in online actions for climate protection such as petitions, while one in five even wants to engage politically in an organisation to protect the climate.

 

 

Während der ersten Woche der vergangenen Klimakonferenz in Katowice/Polen haben wir unsere Befragung aus 2015 wiederholt und erneut ein Deutschland-Sample nach den Einstellungen zum und dem Wissen über den Klimawandel befragt. Eine erste Zusammenfassung der Ergebnisse gibt es bereits auf ZEIT online zu lesen.

Coal vs. goals: unfortunate choice of decoration undermines credibility of negotiations at COP24

by Joana Kollert

Efforts of the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) taking place in Katowice, Poland, between December 2nd and 14th are being overshadowed, quite literally, by a cloud of coal enveloping the conference center, which is located just 3 miles from the Wujek coal mine. Following a year of devastating climate catastrophes around the globe, and the highest global carbon dioxide levels in the past seven years, the main goal of COP24 is to finalize the implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement concluded in 2015.

With near-universal membership, the UNFCCC boasts 184 ratifications, and its parties have met annually since 1995. Its supporters collectively follow the aim of preventing “dangerous” human interference with the climate system. The threshold of danger is anticipated at 2°C – and more recently even 1.5°C – global average temperature increase compared to Pre-Industrial Times. If all Parties were to reach their current, voluntary, national emissions reduction targets, global average temperatures are still predicted to increase by over 3°C by the end of the century. Moreover, only 17 of the 184 ratified Parties are meeting even these insufficient goals. Thus, six months after the Paris Agreement, guideline negotiations to put forward practical measures in line with the 2°C (better yet 1.5°C) target of the international treaty were initiated, and COP24 was set as the deadline. Thus, expectations are high.

As if the cloud of coal surrounding the conference center weren’t controversial enough, cages of coal “decorate” the conference facilities, and the booth for the town of Katowice proudly presents different coal souvenirs: soap made of coal, earrings made of coal. The reality remains that Poland meets 80% of its energy demand from burning the contested fossil fuel, and that three Polish coal companies sponsored COP24. Whilst the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report released in October argued that coal must be almost entirely phased-out by the middle of the century to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts, the Polish President Duda declared that coal is Poland’s greatest treasure, with deposits that will last 200 years. This problem exemplifies one of the largest hurdles of reducing greenhouse gas emissions: the need for a large-scale transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and the largely lacking economic and political will to do so.

A further testimony to the controversy surrounding climate change regulations is the French protest movement by “Les Gilets Jaunes”, which has been causing havoc in Paris for several weeks now. Protests are directed mainly at Macron’s planned (and meanwhile retracted) tax raises on diesel and fuel. Supporters of the “Gilets Jaunes” stem mainly from sub-urban, economically weaker areas. They are short of spendable income, yet they need their cars every day, such that even a small price increase in fuel and gas will significantly impact their livelihood. The economically stronger population, that often lives closer to city centers with access to public transportation and aren’t as affected by the price increases, have less incentive to complain. This divide between wealthy and less wealthy illustrates a core issue of international climate change policymaking: common but differentiated responsibilities. Why should developing countries, that are suffering more from climate change impacts than developed countries and have contributed comparatively little to present carbon dioxide levels, endure financial losses that impede their economic development?

Last, but certainly not least, with a heavy heart we must recall Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement, as well as the election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. The new president not only wants to follow Trump’s (mis)leadership and withdraw from the Paris Agreement, but also boost deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

Hopefully these rather dismal circumstances will not cause all 184 signatory Parties to lose hope, and the end of COP24 will see an effective implementation plan of the Paris Agreement.

Links:

https://unfccc.int/katowice

http://www.cop24.katowice.eu/

https://thinkprogress.org/un-climate-talks-cop24-greenwashing-coal-trump-poland-dfe0579704e7/

https://www.wired.com/story/a-global-climate-summit-is-surrounded-by-all-things-coal/

http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/natur/katowice-worum-es-bei-der-uno-klimakonferenz-geht-a-1241125.html

https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-fossil-fuel-emissions-in-2018-increasing-at-fastest-rate-for-seven-years