Climate change rulebook ‘breakthrough’

A ‘robust set of guidelines’ for implementing the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement have been agreed on after extended sessions at COP24 in Poland.

Minister of Climate Change James Shaw says that the agreement on a rulebook is ‘a breakthrough’, while National spokesperson Todd Muller describes it as a “solid step forward”.

However agreement could not be reached on how to operationalize market mechanisms. Countries will try to finalise agreement on this at COP25 next year.

United Nations: New Era of Global Climate Action To Begin Under Paris Climate Change Agreement

Governments have adopted a robust set of guidelines for implementing the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

The implementation of the agreement will benefit people from all walks of life, especially the most vulnerable.

The agreed ‘Katowice Climate Package’ is designed to operationalize the climate change regime contained in the Paris Agreement. Under the auspices of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, it will promote international cooperation and encourage greater ambition.

The guidelines will promote trust among nations that all countries are playing their part in addressing the challenge of climate change.

The President of COP24, Mr. Michal Kurtyka of Poland, said: “All nations have worked tirelessly. All nations showed their commitment. All nations can leave Katowice with a sense of pride, knowing that their efforts have paid off. The guidelines contained in the Katowice Climate Package provide the basis for implementing the agreement as of 2020”.

The Katowice package includes guidelines that will operationalize the transparency framework.

It sets out how countries will provide information about their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that describe their domestic climate actions. This information includes mitigation and adaptation measures as well as details of financial support for climate action in developing countries.

The package also includes guidelines that relate to:

  • The process for establishing new targets on finance from 2025 onwards to follow-on from the current target of mobilizing USD 100 billion per year from 2020 to support developing countries
  • How to conduct the Global Stocktake of the effectiveness of climate action in 2023
  • How to assess progress on the development and transfer of technology

The UN’s Climate Chief, Ms. Patricia Espinosa said: “This is an excellent achievement! The multilateral system has delivered a solid result. This is a roadmap for the international community to decisively address climate change”.

These global rules are important to ensure that each tonne of emissions released into the atmosphere is accounted for.

In this way, progress towards the emission limitation goals of the Paris Agreement can be accurately measured.

“From the beginning of the COP, it very quickly became clear that this was one area that still required much work and that the details to operationalize this part of the Paris Agreement had not yet been sufficiently explored”, explained Ms. Espinosa.

“After many rich exchanges and constructive discussions, the greatest majority of countries were willing to agree and include the guidelines to operationalize the market mechanisms in the overall package”, she said.

“Unfortunately, in the end, the differences could not be overcome”.

Because of this, countries have agreed to finalise the details for market mechanisms in the coming year in view of adopting them at the next UN Climate Change Conference (COP25).

Euronews: What is the COP24 climate change rulebook and why do we need it?

The landmark 2015 deal aims to limit global temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius.

The talks hit several stumbling blocks and went into overtime on Saturday.

“It is not easy to find agreement on a deal so specific and technical”, chairman of the talks, Michal Kurtyka, said.

A consensus was finally reached when ministers managed to break a deadlock between Brazil and other countries over the accounting rules for the monitoring of carbon credits, deferring much of the discussion to next year.

So it is a work in progress.

Some countries and environmental groups say the COP24 rulebook does not provide a sufficient response to the impacts of climate change.

“COP24 failed to deliver a clear commitment to strengthen all countries’ climate pledges by 2020,” Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said in a statement.

“Governments have again delayed adequate action to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown. The EU needs to push ahead and lead by example, by providing more support to poor countries and increasing its climate pledge before the UN Secretary-General Summit in September 2019,” the group’s director, Wendel Trio, said.

NZ Herald: Green Party co-leader James Shaw says new climate change rulebook is a ‘breakthrough’

Climate Change Minister James Shaw, who was co-facilitating some of the talks, told reporters this morning that the newly agreed rulebook was “a breakthrough.”

Shaw said the rulebook would help “galvanise action” as it puts every country in the Paris agreement on the same playing field.

“The Paris agreement said what we wanted to do, it didn’t say a great deal about how we wanted to do it.”

The new rules do this and would mean the momentum towards action on climate change should be increased, he said.

The 2015 Paris accord put a 2020 deadline on all countries to increase the commitment they are making towards lowering net emissions.

“I think this [the rulebook] is quite a big breakthrough in terms of ensuring we get the momentum towards that.”

Shaw said one of the single greatest parts of the rulebook was the rules around transparency.

Now, countries would be accountable for doing what they said they would do in terms of policies put in place to cut emissions.

“If you have a robust transparency regime it means the Paris rulebook has a very solid central spine to it,” Shaw said.

Muller, who also attended the conference,  said it was a “solid step forward”.

Muller said the gains around transparency were very important.

“New Zealanders are keen to see that we do our proportional effort… but it’s important we see other countries put their shoulder to the wheel too in terms of genuine change.”

One of the major sticking points in the talks was agreeing on how developed countries would help developing countries meet the goal.

He said it was “challenging” to hammer out rulebook with some many different countries at the table.

“Given how long we have overrun and how difficult it got, the fact that [the rulebook] is as good as it is, is a very pleasant surprise.”

Donald Trump had pulled the US out of the Paris agreement so the US didn’t sign up.

“I know the US has a problematic relationship with the Paris agreement, but pretty much everyone else in the world is just getting on with it,” Shaw told reporters when asked about the US’ absence.

The US is a major emitter so this is a notable absence.

Russel Norman is not happy with the COP24 outcome.

Greenpeace NZ Executive Director, and former Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said although the rulebook was agreed, there was no clear collective commitment to enhance climate action targets.

He is called on the Government to bring agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme – something the Government is in the process of considering.

The rulebook is a step, but each country needs to take tangible action, including New Zealand. Agricultural emissions are a contentious issue here.

 

 

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)

“This is an existential question for us, and our very survival as a culture and as a people is at stake”

Minister of Climate Change James Shaw has been at the COP24 conference in Poland (he is still there, having extended his stay in the hope that something might be decided). Anything agreed on will govern countries’ efforts in adhering to their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

RNZ – Climate talks: ‘The levels of concern are so different’ – Shaw

One of the sticking points is whether efforts under the Kyoto Protocol will count towards Paris. Essentially, countries can’t agree on how they’ll count their greenhouse gas emissions, or their efforts to reduce them.

Mr Shaw told reporters this morning these were technical matters negotiators had been grappling with for three years. “Frankly, they should’ve gotten past that kind of detail before all the ministers showed up for the final three days,” he said.

Broadly speaking, Mr Shaw said a big frustration for him was the differences in countries’ commitments to fighting the effects of climate change.

“On one side you’ve got countries who are saying that they want a set of rules that are quite permissive and lets them do things, because they’re worried about the potential impact on their Gross Domestic Product.

“On the other hand, you’ve got a group of countries who are saying ‘this is an existential question for us, and our very survival as a culture and as a people is at stake’.”

That’s a big statement. perhaps Shaw is right, or maybe he just believes that everyone has to change to his way of thinking and living or they are doomed. It’s a bit like a religious thing – if you don’t believe in Green heaven you will go to hell.

 

 

“Collapse of our civilisations” unless “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”

The climate change debate is ramping up internationally, and there are attempts to get a revolution off the ground here in New Zealand.

Rapid and far reaching changes in all aspects of society? Most people resist even moderate levels of change. And rapid change means high risks of unintended consequences.

Are we facing “the collapse of our civilisations” if we don’t accept rapid change?

Recent world headlines:

Deutsche Welle –  Germany protests call for leadership on climate action

From Berlin to Cologne, protesters have gathered to demand more from the government in the fight against climate change. Greenpeace said Germany must lead, and that means phasing out coal by 2030.

Euronews – COP24: Tens of thousands of climate change protesters march in Brussel

Tens of thousands of climate change protesters marched through Brussels on Sunday as the UN’s COP24 conference began in Poland.

The protest’s organisers estimated a record breaking 75,000 people took part, making it the biggest climate change march to have taken place in Belgium.

“We demand more ambition from our Belgian decision makers on the European and international level,” Climate Coalition Nicolas Van Nuffel said. “But this ambition also needs to be realised at the Belgian level. Since 2012, we have been waiting for a national plan for the climate which implies a strategy, in the short and long term.”

RNZ:  David Attenborough tells UN climate talks ‘time is running out’

The naturalist Sir David Attenborough has said climate change is humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years.

The broadcaster said it could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of “much of the natural world”.

He was speaking at the opening ceremony of United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Katowice, Poland.

Sir David said: “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change.

“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

Once force behind this rise in activism: Extinction Rebellion

FIGHT FOR LIFE

We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. The government has failed to protect us. To survive, it’s going to take everything we’ve got.

Extinction Rebellion is a campaign by the  network. We aim to promote a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm.

Here in New Zealand last year Jacinda Ardern said that climate change was our new ‘nuclear free moment’, and also talked our climate change stance up at the United nations, but has since been criticised for not matching her words with appropriate action.

(The Spinoff) – What’s behind the surge of new energy in the climate movement?

Tired of the procrastination and timidity of government-led change, climate rage is now ripe for rebellion. Cordelia Lockett explains why. 

All mouth and no trousers. That pretty much sums up New Zealand’s response to climate change. A lot of words but little demonstrable action.

Our new government is promising large but delivering light.

However, that may all be about to change. In the last month, there’s been a sudden surge of new energy in the climate movement. In the United States, several cities (sensibly circumventing any hope of leadership at a federal level) have declared a state of climate emergency. The dynamic new congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is championing a visionary Green New Deal: a mobilisation plan to rapidly reduce carbon while simultaneously addressing associated social problems.

Australian kids are skipping school to protest about the climate. And in Britain a new people’s movement has emerged – Extinction Rebellion – which is disrupting the streets and spreading like wildfire.

In early October this year, the IPCC released a special report highlighting the catastrophic consequences of allowing global temperature increase to exceed 1.5 degrees. The tone was stronger and scarier than previous reports, and the wording unequivocal.

To have any hope of getting climate change under control we need to halve emissions by about 2030 and then drive them steadily down to zero by 2050.

And to do so, it says, would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. That sounds to me like systemic change: a social, political and economic transformation, no less.

Our Prime Minister regularly mentions the issue in her speeches, even saying climate change is her generation’s nuclear-free moment. I agree. But where’s the bold programme of policy initiatives to match the strong words and size of the problem? We need leaders who act, not just talk about acting. Let’s do this.

The government needs first to acknowledge the scale and urgency of the problem by declaring a climate emergency and develop a credible plan to decarbonise the economy as quickly and as justly as possible. To do this will require a decent-sized tax on carbon and methane. Cars and cows: a scary agenda for many Kiwis, admittedly.

A massive education and social marketing campaign would help communicate the need for widespread change. This should focus on the financial and other costs of inaction, as well as the multiple benefits of a comprehensive, transition to a fossil-free, climate-protecting society.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a mass movement emerging from the long-standing UK social justice network Rising Up. It’s a response to climate inaction and incrementalism by governments, and instead advocates non-violent direct action and civil disobedience. XR’s radical campaign is sweeping through Europe and beyond. Local groups have cropped up all over the UK, and the spark has already caught fire in Canada, Germany, Sweden, the United States, Australia, Denmark, Czech Republic, France, Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland, Scotland, Spain, Norway, India, Italy, Solomon Islands.

And Aotearoa. Here, there are groups springing up in short order: Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Thames, Waihi, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Nelson and Tauranga.

But why now?  Was it that latest IPCC report? Or the WWF announcing that we’ve wiped out 60% of the world’s vertebrate animals? Or the wildfires in California killing 88 people – with 200 still missing – and demolishing a whole township? Or the record-smashing Northern Hemisphere summer temperatures? Or just an idea whose time has come?

The speed of the XR pile-on shows a thirst for something big, a grand project. And collective direct action is a great vessel in which to pour one’s climate-related anger, fear and despair. It’s collegial and energising. Tired of the procrastination and timidity of government-led change and frightened by what is being called a direct existential threat, climate rage finally has a home.

It’s something of a cliche, but New Zealand really could be world-leading in its climate response. We have a vibrant indigenous culture of kaitiakitanga, practical virtues of courage and hard work, moral values of equality and harmony with the environment, and a legacy of taking radical political initiatives which have global impact. We can do it again with the climate crisis. It’s not only necessary: it may just be possible.

Are we heading towards “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”, or, as Attenboriugh claims, we face “the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”