COP24 climate talks go into overtime seeking agreement

The final session of the COP24 climate talks in Poland has been postponed several times as more than 100 ministers and more than 1,000 negotiators try to work out their differences on how the ‘Paris Rulebook’, trying to define how pledges frokm the 2015 Paris accord will be put into action.

What is COP24?

COP24 is the informal name for the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The UNFCCC is a “Rio Convention”, one of three adopted at the “Rio Earth Summit” in 1992. The UNFCCC entered into force on 21 March 1994. Today, it has near-universal membership. The countries that have ratified the Convention are called Parties to the Convention. Preventing “dangerous” human interference with the climate system is the ultimate aim of the UNFCCC.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the supreme body of the UNFCCC Convention. It consists of the representatives of the Parties to the Convention. It holds its sessions every year. The COP takes decisions which are necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the provisions of the Convention and regularly reviews the implementation of these provisions.

COP24 negotiations: Why reaching agreement on climate action is so complex

From Tuesday on, close to 100 Government ministers are due be involved in negotiating a final deal on moving forward with climate action here at the United Nations COP24 conference in Poland.

“We cannot fail in Katowice,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in the opening ceremony, on 3 December.

President of COP24, Michał Kurtyka, who stated: “Without success in Katowice, there is no success in Paris.”

In the French capital, three years ago, countries agreed to do everything they could to keep global temperature rises to well under 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and as close as possible to 1.5°C.

Now, in Katowice, Poland – with 2018 chosen by the parties themselves as the deadline for the adoption of implementation guidelines or a “work programme” to move forward with – the 197 parties of the UN Climate Chance Convention (UNFCCC) are gathered to agree on how they will achieve the Paris commitments collectively, build trust among each nation, and bring the 2015 agreement to life.

Historically, multilateral climate negotiations have been difficult, as countries often attempt to protect their national interests, including economic ones.

That is why the commitments made in Paris were hailed as groundbreaking in many ways. In addition to the 2°C/1.5°C target, the deal included commitments to: ramp up financing for climate action, including financial support from industrialised nations to developing countries; develop national climate plans by 2020, with self-determined goals and targets; protect ecosystems, including forests; strengthen adaptation and reduce vulnerability to climate change.

Agreeing on how to make all of the above happen, is a politically and technically complex matter that sometimes conflicts with a variety of local realities, country categorisations, scientific questions, money issues, and ultimately, brings into question the ever-so complicated notion of trust among nations.

1. A common goal, but different parties, different realities

The first point of tension here is that some countries feel the need for global action more acutely than others.

2. Country categories

The Climate Change Convention, adopted in 1992, divides its 197 parties into two main groups: the industrialized group of 43 nations, and the developing group of 154, including 49 “least developed countries”.

The climate action contributions and responsibilities of each group differ with regards to how transparently and regularly they communicate their actions and provision of support; especially in terms of finance or technology-transfer, now, and in the long term.

Because the two groups were established more than 25 years ago, and taking into account that national socio-economic situations have evolved over time, some parties feel that the composition of these groups should be reassessed as we look to implement the Paris commitments. However, there is no process to change this grouping – and none is planned or anticipated – another complex point for this COP.

3. ‘Welcoming’ or ‘noting’ the science?

To facilitate the political discussions and ground them in fact, various scientific reports are being considered at COP24. One of them is last October’s landmark Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5˚C, prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), drawn up by hundreds of scientists from around the world. The report, commissioned as part of the Paris Agreement, states that limiting the rise in temperatures to 1.5°C by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial era, remains possible, but will require an “unprecedented” shift in every aspect of our societies.

While all countries acknowledge the need to tackle climate change, one of the debates here at the COP is whether the IPCC report should be officially “welcomed” or merely “noted.” This seemingly small language technicality raises a critical question: to what degree should policy be based on science?

4. The ever-so thorny question of financing

Climate action – which requires new technology, infrastructure and skills – represents a cost that some nations, especially the least developed and most vulnerable, cannot carry alone. In Paris, donor nations committed to mobilising $100 billion every year to fund climate action in developing countries, starting in 2020. This figure would include public and private contributions, which renders the reporting quite complex… Countries are arguing on how close we are to meeting that target and whether it will be met by 2020.

Another burning issue is the lack of clarity over what constitutes “climate finance”, as many countries report some of their “development aid” as “climate action aid”.

5. Guidelines for true trust among nations

All the countries recognize the need for guidelines to be in place, so they can move on to implementing the Paris Agreement, and they are all mindful of the 2018 deadline. However, if we are to course-correct fast and well, efforts and investments are required – including in economic transition, ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, technology exchange and knowledge-sharing.

What it all comes down to, is the ephemeral trust among nations, an important element that can only be realized if tangible transparency measures are in place.

“We have no time for limitless negotiations,” said UN Secretary General António Guterres. “A completed work programme will unleash the potential of the Paris Agreement. It will build trust and make clear that countries are serious about addressing climate change,” he stressed.

“Many political divisions remain. Many issues still must be overcome,” said the head of the UNFCCC secretariat, Patricia Espinosa, as she launched the high-level segment on Tuesday.

It’s not surprising there are many divisions and differences on how to minimise the effects of climate change.

Reuters – Climate Conference Notebook: Climate talks go into overtime

Climate change talks billed as the most important U.N. conference since the 2015 Paris global warming deal are in their last week in Katowice, capital of Poland’s coal mining district.

The irony of the location of the talks has prompted comments.

The United Nations climate conference in the Polish city of Katowice went into overtime on Saturday after intensive shuttle diplomacy overnight by ministers, negotiators and delegates from nearly 200 countries trying to find common ground on rules to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Initially scheduled to end on Friday, the Polish presidency of the talks has several times postponed the final plenary session after it released a draft of the deal, as it holds last minute talks with various parties to smooth out differences.

A plenary has been scheduled for 1100 GMT on Saturday, while the time of a final joint closing session has been changed a few times in the last two hours.

One sticking point that has held up the negotiations is the issue of emissions counting cited in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement regarding market-based mechanisms to combat climate change.

Bits and pieces of the draft agreement were published early on Saturday, but the main body of the text is still to be released.

Haggard activists, observers and reporters try to catch a quick sleep on their desks, chairs and wherever they can. Some hope the talks will not drag on until Sunday, fearing potential complications in their families’ plans for Christmas.

I think that sorting out the climate and saving the world might take some precedence over Christmas plans for one year.

Haggard activists, observers and reporters try to catch a quick sleep on their desks, chairs and wherever they can. Some hope the talks will not drag on until Sunday, fearing potential complications in their families’ plans for Christmas.

New Zealand Climate Change Minister James has extended his stay at the conference – see “This is an existential question for us, and our very survival as a culture and as a people is at stake”.

Other coverage:

COP24 is the first time since Paris that countries are actually talking with each other about going beyond their initial commitments. That’s why this meeting is so important. That’s also why scientists and activists are pushing for even more ambitious commitments to reduce emissions in the final days of the negotiations.

The outcome of the negotiations became increasingly uncertain after President Trump in 2017 announced he would withdraw the United States from the accord.

Though the United States has managed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions while growing its economy, largely by switching from coal to natural gas, other countries have yet to satiate their appetites for dirty energy. China, for examples, emits more greenhouse gases than the United States and Europe combined, and its emissions are still growing.

As Vox’s David Roberts has explained, the United States is undermining the success of the Paris agreement. It’s not just that Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the accord. The Trump administration has gone as far as to gleefully taunt delegates at COP24 with a panel promoting the use of more coal.

So when the world’s second-largest carbon dioxide emitter decides not to play ball, it drastically weakens how much other countries can be shamed or prodded into limiting their emissions.

That in turn makes it more difficult to secure investments in clean energy, since the regulatory environment has become more volatile.

The US’s actions have given some cover to other countries who are less than enthralled with the prospect of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

This issue has bedevilled climate negotiations for many years as developing countries seek recognition and compensation for the damages caused by rising temperatures.

The idea of being legally liable for causing climate change has long been rejected by richer nations, who fear huge bills well into the future.

At these talks, the question of loss and damage only features as a footnote in the text at present, something that has irritated developing countries.

In the thick of it all has been the Australian delegation, which has been walking a tightrope between the Paris obligations and support for fossil fuels.

In a defining moment at COP24, protesters disrupted a pro-fossil fuel event on Monday that had been organised by the Trump administration.

On stage, the only non-American panellist at the event was Australia’s Ambassador for the Environment, Patrick Suckling.

“Fossil fuels are projected to be a source of energy for a significant time to come,” Mr Suckling said.

While that may be an economic reality, and a practical reality, it is something that wil dismay those seeking radical and rapid transition away from fossil fuels.

People hold three identical signs, with pictures of a clock ticking towards 12, and "Our goal: End coal!"

Climate activists attend the March for Climate in a protest against global warming in Katowice, Poland. (AP: Alik Keplicz)

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41 Comments

  1. COP24 Must Put Health First in Climate Negotiations

    The Global Climate and Health Alliance today called for countries to follow through on their commitment to protect the “right to health” under the Paris Agreement, ensuring that COP24 negotiators explicitly include “health” in implementation requirements as they race to finish rules for the agreement, in order to address climate change – the greatest health threat of the 21st century.

    In October, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that 100 million premature deaths could be avoided from reduced air pollution by the end of the current century, if countries limit warming to 1.5 degrees, versus 2.0 degrees.

    Dr. Maria Neira, Director of Public Health and Environment, at the World Health Organization questioned the lack of focus on health impacts, “How many lives are country negotiators willing to sacrifice? Each year of delay can be tallied in lives.”

    “World leaders are just not getting it,” explained Miller. “People’s health is at risk now from climate change. Just last month in California nearly 100 people were killed by wildfires. Heatwaves in Japan this year sent 70,000 people to the hospital. Over 40 million people were affected by hurricanes, storms and floods last year, which are increasing in severity due to climate change. And it is going to get worse. And yet, some countries are still talking about the need to go slowly when it comes to phasing out coal and other fossil fuels.”

    There may be greater health risks from rapidly phasing out fossil fuels.

    Reply
    • Trevors_Elbow

       /  16th December 2018

      And there is another example of why people are skeptical about the whole climate change industry… ‘people die in wildfires’… and therefore health needs to be part of a climate change agreement, doubtless seeking more taxes on the West to be spent on what and spent where… I see some 3rd World tyrants Swiss accounts swelling as money is siphoned off…

      Socialist agendas disguised by a scare over climate warming… if it gets a couple of degrees warm, so what?

      If CO2 emissions are such a big deal then get the tech to suck it out of the air…. biomass does that pretty effectively, so biotechnology is an answer if climate change (as trademarked by the Greens) is a serious question and its way more an answer than asking John/Hone/Fisi from South Auckland to pay more petrol tax so JAG can then build cycleways that slow the roading system down leading ironically to more fuel being burnt as cars get stuck in traffic jams…

      Reply
  2. robertguyton

     /  16th December 2018

    “New Zealand Climate Change Minister James has extended his stay at the conference – see “This is an existential question for us, and our very survival as a culture and as a people is at stake”.”
    Wasn’t it great when Paula Bennett was Minister for Climate Change! How well-served and represented we felt, knowing that Paula held our future in her hands, speaking with real passion on behalf of all New Zealanders at conferences such as the one James Shaw is extending his stay at. How responsible National was, how deeply caring, to appoint Paula to that vital role. Gosh, we miss those times, when John was making such calls, appointing such caring, appropriate people from his own caucus, to roles like that!

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  16th December 2018

      Hmm. Yep, I certainly never felt that Paula was a particularly credible Minister for Climate Change Issues. Never struck anyone as one of your deeper thinkers or more thorough researchers. Wiki has a nice pic of her:

      Paula Bennett in 2018

      The main thing is, I hope James is getting around seeing the sights while he’s over there.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  16th December 2018

        It’s odd how Wikipedia has a url that should display an image but it doesn’t. I blame the Russians.

        Reply
      • Ray

         /  16th December 2018

        As he is also the Minister in charge of statistics maybe he should come home and sort up the complete stuff up of the last census, something that is going to have a more direct effect on the people he claims he represents.
        Very hard to lift education and lower poverty levels if you don’t have good figures
        Though that suits the present Governments “feel the vibe” ignore the figures way of governing!

        Reply
        • robertguyton

           /  16th December 2018

          The census that National presided over?

          Reply
          • Ray

             /  16th December 2018

            Wrong Robert, the last census was this year (do keep up ) but yes it was set in action by the last government and thanks to a Department that insisted on an online version has proved to be a disaster. You can not improve the figures on poverty if you don’t have any.
            Time for the Minister to take charge but I doubt he has the work ethic to do that, judging by his first year’s efforts!

            Reply
    • Snarky as usual Robert?

      This Paula Bennett:

      22 Apr 2016 – Remarks by Her Excellency Paula Bennett Minister for Climate Change Issues of New Zealand at the national statements of the High-level Signature Ceremony for the Paris Agreement.

      http://webtv.un.org/watch/paula-bennett-new-zealand-high-level-signature-ceremony-for-the-paris-agreement-national-statements/4858092515001/

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  16th December 2018

        ‘Her Excellency Paula Bennett Minister for Climate Change Issues of New Zealand ‘

        reporter -‘what do you know about climate change’?
        Bennett-..’nothing’!

        Reply
    • Trevors_Elbow

       /  16th December 2018

      Yawn… you threatened by woman being successful Robert, woman taking charge of their own lives – is that why you hate Paula so very much? Sad wee man – at least your trees love you Robert

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  16th December 2018

        If that photo’s airbrushed, so must the news footage be. It’s obviously a posed photo, but she really does look like that now meeeeowwww hisssss hissss scratch scratch

        Reply
  3. Reply
    • robertguyton

       /  16th December 2018

      Watched this earlier, Pete. What was your reaction and what are your thoughts about what she did and said?

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  16th December 2018

        15 year olds aren’t exactly noted for their knowledge, experience & wisdom. They are noted though for being idealistic, romantic, easily influenced by their peers & adults who act like them, & naïve.

        Reply
        • robertguyton

           /  16th December 2018

          Wonder why Pete posted the video?
          I wonder if he thinks that 15 year olds aren’t exactly noted for their knowledge, experience & wisdom. They are noted though for being idealistic, romantic, easily influenced by their peers & adults who act like them, & naïve??
          Pete?

          Reply
        • robertguyton

           /  16th December 2018

          She’s not “15 year-olds”, Gezza. She’s a 15 year-old.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  16th December 2018

            I wonder about you sometimes, but then I just

            Reply
            • robertguyton

               /  16th December 2018

              I get your on-going struggle with nuance, Gezza, I really do.

            • Gezza

               /  16th December 2018

              Yes I can see that. Except I don’t have one. But we have had many discussions now about your reading for comprehension difficulty and it now it appears you might need some assistance with your expressing yourself too obliquely also.

              Anyway, whatever, that uses up my allocated time for today, robert. It’s another gorgeous day at Pookden Manor and I’ve just managed to feed both Granville Shortfin AND Elvira Longfin although it involved considerable careful manoeuvring underwater because Elvira never forgets or forgives a biter.

              Hope your day is just as nice outside down there towards Antarctica. And that if so you get out into and enjoy being alive, like I do.

            • robertguyton

               /  16th December 2018

              I’ve been up since 6 o’clock and already helped erect the huge Christmas tree down in the village, video-chatted with my daughter in Portland and now, I’ve a forest garden tour to lead. Enjoy it? Yes. I do.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  16th December 2018

            What were the tree and whatever the video was done on made of ? I hope not any form of plastic.

            Reply
    • Pink David

       /  16th December 2018

      Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  16th December 2018

      Yes, that little girl will make a difference – I don’t think.

      Reply
  4. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  16th December 2018

    Doesn’t appear that organic farming is going to be the solution to our CO2 “problem”
    https://www.sciencealert.com/new-study-shows-how-organic-farming-takes-its-toll-on-the-environment

    Reply
    • robertguyton

       /  16th December 2018

      All farming takes its toll on the environment. The. best possible option should be supported. Permaculture’s getting there. I favour forest gardening, coppiced woodlands using the best, most up-to-date knowledge and the incredible range of plants. from around the world now available to us.

      Reply
  5. The Consultant

     /  16th December 2018

    One of the things about all these AGW talks and agreements and treaties and studies over the last quarter century is that if you knew nothing of them and just saw the following chart you’d be amazed to learn about all that activity. You’d probably also then ask what the point of them was?

    In fact if you wanted to be a smartarse you could probably draw on the same chart the increasing numbers of such things since 1990 and conclude that there was an inverse relationship between the two.

    Reply
    • Ray

       /  16th December 2018

      And doesn’t that hammer home the point that these talkfest are just a waste of time especially when you realise the numbers who attend, almost always in places that involve air travel!

      Reply
      • robertguyton

         /  16th December 2018

        Yeah, Ray – representatives of the governments from countries across the globe should never meet for talks.
        Sheeeeesh!

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  16th December 2018

          That depends upon the subject of the talks. It’s rather hypocritical to travel by plane and limousine (I find it hard to believe that they use bikes) and then whinge about carbon emissions and fuel use.

          I wonder if people in the future will be laughing their heads off at the idea that people now imagined that they could change the weather.

          Reply
          • robertguyton

             /  16th December 2018

            They are not “whinging”.
            They are seeking solutions to a critical problem.
            Grow up, Kitty.

            Reply
          • Griff.

             /  16th December 2018

            I wonder if people in the future will be laughing their heads off at the idea that people now imagined that they could change the weather.

            It is more than 95% certain* the people in the future will view comments such as yours abhorrent as they suffer the consequence of our inaction.

            *IPCC more than 95 % certain we are changing the climate outside of anything the human species has seen .
            With out rapid change we are heading towards warming at a level similar to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permian%E2%80%93Triassic_extinction_event

            Reply

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