COP24: what is happening and why is it important?
The most important climate summit since Paris 2015 is due to be held in Katowice, Poland, this December. The 24th Conference of the Parties, COP24, will see the setup of a ‘rulebook’ detailing how nation states will collectively realise their Paris Agreement commitments. What issues are at play and how might they be resolved at COP24?
By Cameron Boggon
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the annual summit of the signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). During the summit, officials assess the contributions to climate change made by member states along with progress made in reducing carbon emissions. The first COP was held in 1995 and has since lead to the creation of the Kyoto Protocol, at COP3 in 1997, and the Paris Agreement, at COP21 in 2015.
AT COP24, implementation guidelines known as the Paris Agreement Work Programme are due to be finalised. These guidelines, which some are calling a ‘rulebook’, will contain terms of governance and details on how nations should report their progress. However, during preparatory sessions earlier this year, a number of significant contentions have arisen that have slowed progress and left a lot to be resolved when officials meet in December.
“The Paris Agreement cannot be implemented without climate finance” said Gebru Jember Endalew, chair of the Least Developed Countries group (LDC), a group of 48 members states signed up to UNFCCC. “Developed countries are responsible for the vast majority of historic emissions, and many became remarkably wealthy burning fossil fuels. Small islands, by contrast, have contributed an almost immeasurably small fraction of global emissions. Yet, we face devastating climate impacts”.
Under the Paris Agreement, developed nations have committed to providing $100 billion a year to climate finance by 2020. This is designed to help developing nations reduce their carbon emissions and cope with the damage that climate change is already causing. However, rules for where that money comes from, and particularly whether international loans are deemed acceptable, still have not been agreed on as they are tied up with issues of justice and fairness in the international system.
Carbon Emission Targets
What to include in Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) reports remains to be resolved. In fact, what exactly an NDC constitutes is still up for debate. It will, however, include 5 year emission reduction targets starting from 2025. Ensuring that NDCs include sufficiently detailed information to allow for comparisons between nations is critical for transparent communication.
Defining national emission targets is also difficult. Though in the Paris Agreement, countries have committed to keeping temperatures “well below 2C”, there is growing consensus that targets should aim to keep temperature rise below 1.5C. The recently published IPCC special report on global warming demonstrates that much of the most damaging effects of climate change, thought to occur at 2C, will already have occurred at 1.5C. For example, 70% of all coral reefs are projected (with strong certainty) to be destroyed at 1.5C. It is increasingly clear, then, that nations will have to tighten their emission pledges if there is any hope of meeting the 1.5C target.
At stake here is the entire international progress in curbing climate change. All signatories to the Paris Agreement must sign on to the rulebook if there is to be any meaningful progress in achieving the Paris goals. And if there is anything to be learned from the alarming results of the IPCC special report, it is that action must happen now.
Clear and transparent signalling from major donor countries like EU member states, Canada and Australia will help build confidence and momentum to help ensure a successful summit. For example, the recent vote in the EU parliament to raise climate emission targets from 40% to 55% of 1990 levels by 2030 is a positive sign. Many will be looking at the European Commission long-term emissions strategy, a draft of which is due to be published just before the beginning of COP24, for whether the EU will take a bold leadership stance going into the conference.
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