AFTER two weeks of fraught negotiations and discussion, world governments reached a new agreement on Saturday aimed at progressing global climate action. But activists and, crucially, the scientists behind the research have slammed it for not going far enough.
Just in the nick of time, as the 24th annual Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland came to a close, leaders announced the so-called ‘Paris Rulebook’ intended to cement the ideas behind the 2015 Paris Agreement and provide a how-to pathway to ensuring targets are met.
While the new agreement promises more transparency by ensuring governments measure and report on their emissions-cutting, scientists have criticised the deal, saying it does not go far enough.
In the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate scientists warned the planet had only 12 years before reaching the critical 1.5-degree Celsius rise limit set out in the Paris Agreement. After this point, the science points to catastrophic and irreversible climate damage.
Scientists have shown the planet is hurtling towards the point of no return at alarming speed, with carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry projected to reach record levels in 2018.
Those in the know have repeatedly reiterated that the time to act is now. So it was with great frustration that concerned onlookers viewed the governments’ lackadaisical response at COP24.
The delegates may have given themselves a standing ovation for their efforts on Saturday, but there are reasons why many are less than happy with the outcome:
Gripes over the IPCC report
Surprisingly, there was significant kick-back over the IPCC report and its findings. Unsurprisingly, it came from an alliance of fossil fuel-producing countries.
The United States, Kuwait, Russia, and Saudi Arabia all rejected the findings of the report, refusing to state in the agreement that they “welcome” the results.
“Welcoming”, rather than “noting”, the findings is a stronger acknowledgment that the report is correct. The acceptance that carbon emissions must drop 45 percent by 2030, as found by the IPCC, would obviously be bad for business for those countries.
As a compromise, negotiators agreed to welcoming the completion of the report but fell short of welcoming the findings themselves.
The agreement covers some important points, namely that countries will reduce their carbon emissions. But it leaves out specific 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
It also doesn’t lay out exactly how countries are going to curb their emissions.
The heavy presence of the coal industry – including a US delegate that led a pro-fossil fuel event – along with the oil-producing allies, marred talks and successfully blocked an attempt to include language about weaning the world off fossil fuels in the agreement.
The needs of developing countries
The agreement calls on wealthier countries to clarify how they will provide aid to less developing nations to combat the worst impacts of climate change.
It is the low-lying developing countries that stand to suffer the most if nothing is done. They are on the frontline of the climate fight and, in some cases, stand to completely disappear under rising sea levels.
Simon Stiell, Grenada’s minister for climate resilience and environment, told CNN: “For small island developing states we have achieved our minimum – minimum – asks with regard to key issues.”
More in-depth talks about developing countries needs were put off until next year.
“Once again, developed countries failed to provide assurances that they would make sufficient, predictable funding available for least developed nations to help them cope with climate impacts, including the loss and damage they already face, as well as ramp up low-carbon technologies,” said Rachel Cleetus, an economist at Union of Concerned Scientists, as reported by Common Dreams.
No agreement on carbon credit
There were contentious discussions about carbon credits, awarded to countries for their emission cutting and their carbon sinks, such as forests that absorb carbon.
Many countries differed sharply in their views of how to make a functioning carbon credit market, the aim of which would be to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions while raising money to help limit global warming.
Brazil, hoping to cash in on their Amazon rainforest cover, took issue with the wording of the scheme. Delegates failed to solve the problem and talks on how to create an emissions trading system have been kicked down the road to the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Chile.