COP24: Paris agreement remained alive but fragile while the EU attempts to slow down CO2 emissions for new cars

COP24, Katowice 03-14/12/2018
Date: 12/12/2018 Location: Poland,Katowice
© European Union , 2018 . Photo: Irek Dorozanski

The 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) concluded last Saturday in Katowice, Poland where all parties agreed on the rulebook to implement the Paris Agreement which will help governments measure and report their emissions cutting efforts. With this decision, the climate change battle is still ongoing but not to the extent and speed that will avoid devastating consequences.

The agreement made didn’t include sufficient government targets regarding the reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions and didn’t take into consideration the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which shows that only 12 years are left for global warming to be kept at below 1.5 C.

Paris agreement rulebook

It is very important that the bruising negotiations that took place during the first half of December did have a positive outcome despite that the completion of the summit was postponed 30 hours till the parties managed to come up with a final agreement. The latter consists of a 156-page book of rules which indicate how countries should measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions and evaluate their progress relative to their goals. Also, developed nations should be able to demonstrate how they will aid poor countries financially to meet the global and national climate targets in an attempt to promote international cooperation and encourage greater ambition.

Michal Kurtyka, Polish president of COP24, told the delegates during the meeting: “It is not easy to find agreement on a deal so specific and technical. Through this package you have made a thousand little steps forward together. You can feel proud”. Furthermore, Miguel Arias Cañete mentioned that more should be done to tackle climate change. European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy specifically said: “This is a good agreement. We have more to do but we can move forward now.”

What was left outside the COP24 accord?

The final deal did not include though provisions on global carbon market mechanism because of disagreements from Brazil and other countries. What was basically intended to be included was the fact that countries will not double count their emissions cuts when they contribute financially to another’s nation emission reduction but count only their own emissions cut goals.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa pointed out that this part of the agreement needs greater efforts to succeed. More in detail, the UN Climate Chief stated: “From the beginning of the COP, it very quickly became clear that this was one area that still required much work and that the details to operationalize this part of the Paris Agreement had not yet been sufficiently explored. Unfortunately, in the end, the differences could not be overcome”.

Another point worth mentioning is the fact that the IPCC report, which was recently published, was not considered in the guidelines of the decision. That clearly reveals that the rules are not following the climate change needs which require temperature to be to be kept below 1.5 C by 2030 in order to revert the ongoing situation, which currently leads temperature increase to 3.0C and will cause catastrophic extreme weather. If the scientific assessment had been taken into account in the COP24 agreement, it is quite certain that almost every country would have taken further climate actions and consider all possible means to reduce gas emissions dramatically in the next decade and aim for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe, outlined the need to further support developing nations. His exact words were:  “Governments have again delayed adequate action to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown. The EU needs to push ahead and lead by example, by providing more support to poor countries and increasing its climate pledge before the UN Secretary-General Summit in September 2019”.

EU cuts on car emissions

The EU decided to reduce CO2 emissions from new cars by 37,5% by 2030 last Monday. This action, just two days post the completion of COP24, shows that the Old Continent is determined to take the lead in this fight. This target is meant to be applied to all the vehicles that car producers manufacture which means that cars with high-emissions will have to be balanced with sales of low or zero-emissions.

European Parliament’s initial suggestion was 40% but was compromised after important car making Germany’s pressure which insisted to cut emissions by only 30%. Nevertheless, it is a good starting point but it should be evaluated soon to be able to decide if this figure is sufficient to be in line with EU’s and global climate pledges.

What comes next?

It is important that the Paris agreement stayed alive but more must be done. All nations should elevate their climate ambitions and pledges in order to avoid damaging consequences to the whole planet at a moment when global carbon dioxide emissions are expected to rise to historic levels in 2018 according to Global Carbon Project. The final agreement is promising but concrete actions are needed as time is running out and future generations will be left with empty promises if each and every country is not going to contribute its fair share.

All in all, once more the “hot” issues of Paris agreement pact were left to be negotiated and answered in the next two years when the special UN summit and the next two COP conferences will take place. However, most people are already frustrated and desperately request from their leaders to act sustainably and responsibly before it is too late.

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