New push to finalise rulebook on implementing Paris agreement
Stand-off between US and China threatens to slow global action on climate change
The pace of negotiations at the UN climate talks has quickened in advance of politicians returning to Katowice in Poland this weekend. An attempt to finalise a deal on a rulebook for full implementation of the Paris agreement from 2020 will be made in the coming days.
As new draft negotiating texts were circulated this week, finance elements were the most difficult to get across the line. “We are not there yet,” said Jo Tyndall, one of the co-chairs, at a plenary session late on Thursday.
A final push was in progress overnight into yesterday, in advance of ministers and lead negotiators arriving today. Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton is due to return to the summit on Tuesday.
With developed countries having so far failed to deliver on their promise of $100 billion per year by 2020, trust has evaporated from the perspective of developing countries. Meanwhile, a stand-off between the US and China threatens to slow global action on climate change when the risks of catastrophe are accelerating.
“The biggest threats to the planet are the lack of US climate leadership at home and the unwillingness of the US to engage with China,” said Joanna Lewis, a China specialist at Georgetown University. “The rest of the world looks to the US and China for leadership, and it has become clear that, as the alliance has waned, global momentum to address climate change has slowed.”
Taken together, the emissions produced by the US and China account for more than 40 per cent of the global total. In both countries emissions went up this year, according to analysis issued this week by the Global Carbon Project.
While China’s emissions have grown in the past two years, mainly because of continued use of coal, it is on track to meet its modest, self-imposed Paris target to reach peak emissions by 2030.
COP24 opened amid concerns that a rulebook might prove impossible to negotiate, according to Jennifer Higgins, policy and advocacy adviser at Christian Aid Ireland.
Other fears, she said, “included a roll back on ambition, a lack of strong leadership, and an inadequate response to the finding of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] special report which clearly demonstrated that if we continue on our current path we’ll breach the goal of limiting global warming of 1.5 degrees in just 12 years”.
There was, however, optimism in the air, “and instead we are looking to some better-case scenarios, a pulling together, with a proactive effort to ensure a complete rulebook by the end of the COP”. Whether this was well founded would emerge only when finalised documents emerge next week.
The message from civil society organisations attending the summit was the need for urgency. This was echoed, she believed, by the renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough who, in occupying the “people’s seat” at the beginning of the COP, said people wanted decision-makers to act now.
An Taisce advocacy officer Ian Lumley highlighted a disconnect between reality and genuine climate action. “The display at the entry to the national exhibition pavilions featured the wonders of coal as a base ingredient in soap and cosmetic beauty treatments, and managed to ignore climate and air pollution impact,” Mr Lumley said. Additional reporting: New York Times
Participants in a plenary session during COP24 in Katowice, Poland.