New push to fi­nalise rule­book on im­ple­ment­ing Paris agree­ment

Stand-off be­tween US and China threat­ens to slow global ac­tion on cli­mate change

The Irish Times - - World News - KEVIN O’SUL­LI­VAN En­vi­ron­ment & Sci­ence Ed­i­tor

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.

Big­gest threats

“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.

Rule­book

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

PHO­TO­GRAPH: KACPER PEMPEL/REUTERS

Par­tic­i­pants in a ple­nary ses­sion dur­ing COP24 in Ka­tow­ice, Poland.

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