After two weeks of heated discussions in Katowice, Poland, negotiators from about 200 countries on Saturday agreed on universal and transparent rules that will govern future efforts to tackle climate change.
While the differences between the South and the North have been, to some extent, narrowed, more ambitious plans have yet to be made despite recent reports that stressed the hazards of global warming.
The 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP24, was tasked with finalizing the implementation guidelines for the 2015 Paris climate change agreement. It was scheduled to run from Dec 2 to Friday, but was prolonged due to intensive talks among delegates.
“This was not an easy task. It was hard and daunting, but we pushed it through,” said Michal Kurtyka, COP24 president, adding, “Through this package, you have made a thousand little steps forward together.”
Kurtyka, who is also state secretary of Poland’s Ministry of Energy, said, “We will all have to give in order to gain.”
Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative on climate change affairs, said the comprehensive, balanced and strong package of guidelines laid a policy foundation for implementing the Paris agreement.
With a consensus on the principal of common but differentiated responsibilities, as included in the Paris agreement, North and South countries, however, disagreed on how to embody principles in the implementation text.
While some developed countries argued that the South should increase transparency in fulfilling their Nationally Determined Contributions, or pledges each country made for post-2020 emission reduction targets, delegates from the developing world said they lack the capability and should be offered more financial assistance.
The Katowice package includes guidelines that will put into operation a more transparent framework. It sets out how countries will provide information about their NDCs. This information includes mitigation and adaptation measures as well as details of financial support for climate action in developing countries, according to the UN framework.
The package also includes guidelines related to the process of establishing new financing targets from 2025 onward to follow from the current target of mobilizing $100 billion per year from 2020 to support developing countries, it added.
“The guidelines that delegations have been working on day and night are balanced and clearly reflect how responsibilities are distributed among the world’s nations,” Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s climate chief, was quoted as saying in a UNFCCC media release.
“This is an excellent achievement. The multilateral system has delivered a solid result. This is a road map for the international community to decisively address climate change,” she added.
With regard to a recent UN report that warns of the risk of global warming, oil-exporting countries differed in their opinions with small island states — ones that are most vulnerable to the climatological phenomena.
In October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a special report that highlighted a number of outcomes that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5 C, instead of the 2 C goal set in the Paris agreement.
The report concluded that it requires a dramatic overhaul of the global economy, including a shift away from fossil fuels, to maintain global warming below 1.5 C by the end of the century.
Alarmed by efforts to include this in the final text of COP24, some oil-exporting nations, including the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, blocked an endorsement of the IPCC report midway through negotiations, which triggered uproar from small island nations and environmental groups.
As a compromise, the final COP24 text merely welcomes the “timely completion” of the report rather than its conclusions. Negotiators, however, agreed to discuss more ambitious plans at a UN summit in New York in September.
Parties also failed to reach consensus on the use of cooperative approaches so that countries could meet a part of their domestic mitigation goals through the use of so-called “market mechanisms”, according to the UN framwork.
“From the beginning of the COP, it very quickly became clear that this was one area that still required much work and that details to operationalize this part of the Paris agreement had not yet been sufficiently explored,” said Espinosa.
“After many rich exchanges and constructive discussions, a great majority of countries were willing to agree and include the guidelines to operationalize market mechanisms in the overall package”, she said.
“Unfortunately, in the end, the differences could not be overcome,” she added.
Countries have agreed to finalize details for market mechanisms at next year’s UN climate change conference, which is scheduled to take place in Chile.