“We’ve seen in Poland reveals a fundamental lack of understanding by some countries of our current crisis.”
The 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP24, which is also known as the Katowice Climate Change Conference wrapped up last Saturday in Poland, and now is the time to reflect on its outcomes.
The global climate summit gathered around 23,000 delegates to work out clearer mechanisms for implementing the Paris Agreement once it enters into force in 2020. And so it did, at last partly, but not without reservations.
The “rulebook” finalized during the last day of the summit now provides common guidelines for climate action by signatories. It covers issues like setting and revision of climate goals, emissions tracking, and climate finance, among others. This wasn’t an easy deal to reach and took some extra time. Still, the final text left many questions about what counts as climate finance, whether we can use CO2-equivalent as common emissions metrics, and a number of other issues.
And while the unified set of rules for all countries with flexible options for developing ones might be an achievement, commentator opinions diverge on whether the new setup can get us through in time.
The recent IPCC special report that emphasizes the rising climate risks of inaction already made things feel tense from the start. Meanwhile, the new Emissions Gap Report by the UN Environment presented during the meeting showed that our current commitments are falling five-fold behind the relevant scope and speed of action.
And our troubles keep on growing as we are currently heading straight for a warming of 3°C to 4°C within a few decades. Adding fuel to the fire came the announcement that a new coal mine was opened in the Polish region just before the talks. Sponsorship of the event by coal companies and multiple cases of climate activists being banned from entering Poland during the event also indicated that coal is here to stay in the country.
A staggering 80% of Poland’s energy comes from coal, while the region is the country’s coal capital. On top of that, interruptions of the process by the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait largely diminished the breakthrough potential of an otherwise historical meeting.
More encouragingly, some of the participants expressed their willingness to raise their commitments; the World Bank pledged to provide an additional U$200 billion for climate finance; and such leading lights as British television presenter David Attenborough and Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke at the event, urging decisionmakers to get their acts together on climate change mitigation efforts.
“They’ve made important progress, but what we’ve seen in Poland reveals a fundamental lack of understanding by some countries of our current crisis. Luckily, the Paris Agreement is proving to be resilient to the storms of global geopolitics,” Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF’s Climate and Energy Practice and COP20 president, observed about the conference’s outcomes.