World’s nations agree on rules to implement Paris climate deal

Source: By Paola Tamma, Politico • Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Janek Skarzynski/AFP via Getty Images

 KATOWICE, Poland — It’s a wrap.

After two weeks of tense negotiations, nearly 200 governments agreed late Saturday on a rulebook to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The final deal is a careful balance between the interests of rich nations keen on robust transparency and reporting rules to track emissions, emerging countries aiming to protect their economic interests, and poor and vulnerable nations depending on greater financial support to address climate impacts.

“This deal hangs in fragile balance. We will all have to give in order to gain,” said Michał Kurtyka, the Polish COP24 president.

But it falls short of the radical action that many climate scientists say needs to happen to prevent global warming from wreaking havoc on the planet. Decades of climate talks have run into the same problem — the measures needed to rein in climate change are politically unpalatable. The summit held in Poland’s coal capital of Katowice was no different.

Despite a recent report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning that a world in which warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius is vastly preferable to one where warming goes to 2 degrees, the summit, under pressure from oil exporters such as the U.S., failed to clearly welcome the report’s findings.

“The majority of the rulebook for the Paris Agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for. But the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line shows that some nations have not woken up to the urgent call of the IPCC report,” said Mohamed Adow, international climate lead for Christian Aid, a U.K. charity.

Ministers and negotiators pulled all-nighters over the past week to tie together a text more than 100 pages long that sets out how the world will hit the climate accord’s long-term goals of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and ideally 1.5 degrees.

The deadlock was broken by all sides giving way. Rich nations agreed to put more money on the table to help poorer countries deal with the impact of global warming, and to give developing countries some leeway in meeting the rules on cutting their emissions. In return, developing nations agreed on common reporting requirements to track countries’ emissions reduction efforts — something that will apply to all countries.

What’s in the deal

Under the deal, developed countries agreed to give more information on their past and future financial contributions for developing countries. They also agreed to start discussions in November 2020 on setting a new collective climate finance goal going beyond the earlier target of $100 billion a year by 2020 that rich nations pledged to meet in 2010.

Significantly, that’s after the next U.S. presidential election, which may see a less climate-skeptic president than Donald Trump in the White House. They also agreed — for the first time — on a broad assessment of developing countries’ financial needs.

The final deal also saw wealthy nations agreeing to give greater recognition to the loss and damage caused by climate change in a global review on how countries are doing in meeting the Paris deal goals.

And it includes a common set of rules to report on countries’ emissions reduction efforts applying from 2024. In a compromise that recognizes different national capabilities, developing and emerging economies can choose to get leeway on the detail of reporting, but have to explain how they plan to improve their reporting over time. The system also carves out a special status for highly vulnerable and developing countries such as small island states, which can choose whether to report at all.

That’s been a priority for the EU and rich nations such as the U.S. which have long said a new climate regime must apply to all countries — especially emerging powerhouses (and economic rivals) such as China. The agreement was made possible when China broke ranks with other emerging economies earlier this week, and said it could support uniform standards.

In a gesture to climate-vulnerable and island nations, European nations, Canada, and some Latin American countries agreed to require greater climate efforts by 2020 and clearly recognize the findings of the IPCC report — an issue that became highly politicized in the talks.

Last week, four oil and gas exporting countries — the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait — rejected formally welcoming the report, wary of being tied to its implications.

“Two degrees is something that we need to have, 1.5 degrees is something that we need to aspire to,” said a Saudi delegate.

That caused a major outcry. In the end, the compromise text “welcomes the timely completion” of the report, and invites countries to “demonstrate … their enhanced ambition” during a September summit convened by the U.N. secretary-general. However, it falls short of calling for global climate efforts to be aligned with the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, something small island states and vulnerable countries had pushed for.

“Countries such as the USA, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Australia and Brazil have clearly not shown up prepared to do what they said they would. Without more homework nations are not going to solve the climate crisis,” said Adow.

One highly contentious issue that threatened to upset the Katowice summit — highly technical rules over setting up a market mechanism that allows countries to buy carbon credits to offset their emissions — was postponed to next year’s climate talks, due to take place in Chile.