Monday, December 17, 2018

The Achievements and Shortcomings of COP24

"We will all have to give in order to gain. We will all have to be courageous to look into the future and make yet another step for the sake of humanity."

Michal Kurtyka, senior Polish official

After 12 days of intense negotiations in Katowice Poland almost two hundred countries signed an agreement that keeps the Paris Agreement alive.  As has become habitual at the annual UN climate meetings known as the Conference of the Parties, officials had to work overtime to come to an agreement.

The crowning achievement of COP24 is the rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. This detailed set of rules includes a uniform approach to transparency that standardizes both carbon tracking and the reporting process.

Poorer nations received assurances that they would receive climate financing to help them reduce emissions and countries agreed to consider the issue of increasing emissions reduction ambitions next year in New York. Norway, Chile, and Vietnam have already started a review process to ratchet-up their ambitions.

As quoted in the the New York Times.Canada’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, stressed the importance of the subnational governments and the private sector to solve the climate crisis.

"Of course it’s important to have these rules, but a lot of the real action is happening by entrepreneurs; it’s happening by business people; it’s happening by the finance sector; by the money flowing; it’s happening at the city and state level," McKenna said. 

At this year's conference of the parties we saw initiatives from business groups and international organizations including global development banks.  More than a dozen international organizations * have committed to climate neutrality. Many of these organizations are already tracking and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. This one project alone stands to eliminate two million tons of carbon emissions each year. Perhaps most importantly they can inspire other organizations to do the same.

The United Nations has been working on making itself carbon neutral for eleven years and they expect to achieve their target by 2020. Over half of the UN system entities are currently climate neutral including UN headquarters in New York. 

Although there are some notable achievements, there were many ways in which the final agreement signed at COP24 fell short.  Delegates could not agree on the details to ratchet up ambitions nor could they agree on how to structure a carbon trading market. Brazil's resistance forced negotiators to punt the issue.  

Officials were not even able to agree on the scientific basis for action. Rather than endorse the the UN report prepared for the summit, the US, Russia and Saudi Arabia demanded changes to the wording in the final agreement to belittle the report. Now that the session is over we are forced to concede that COP24 was manipulated by fraudulent economic arguments from a handful of nations who are intent on protecting their fossil fuel interests.

Reports consistently indicate that we need to radically reduce the amount of fossil fuels we burn. The benefits of renewables are driving countries like China to move ahead with clean energy independent of geopolitical trends.

The omissions in the final COP24 document must be understood in the context of Brexit woes in the UK, and the gilets jaunes that are tormenting France. The fact that the United States signed on to the agreement is somewhat astonishing given the proclivities of the current president.  

"Particularly given the broader geopolitical context, this is a pretty solid outcome," said Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. "It delivers what we need to get the Paris Agreement off the ground."

In the context of our increasingly polarized societies, the outcome of COP24 gives us cause to hope.

What are Businesses are Doing at COP24
COP24 Goals and Objectives
Resistance from Oil Producing States is Killing Climate Talks
Economic Arguments as a Pretext to Torpedo Climate Action
Fashion Industry's Leadership at COP24
*Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Secretariat, Common Markets for Eastern and Southern Africa Secretariat (COMESA), Eastern Africa Development Bank (EADB), Western Africa Development Bank (BOAD), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Pacific Community, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, European Investment Bank (EIB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)

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