17 Dec Paris Climate Agreement receives flesh, as 200 nations agree on a single rule book on measuring and reporting emissions
On 15th December 2018 and following two weeks of tense negotiations, in Katowice, Poland, nearly 200 countries that signed Paris climate agreement, agreed on the global rules that will dictate the world’s most ambitious climate pact (https://www.ft.com/content/89a7b338-0138-11e9-99df-6183d3002ee1).
As Jonah Rockstrom, a scientist and co-head of the Potsdam Research Institute stated ““The Paris agreement is alive and kicking, despite a rise in populism and nationalism,” he said. “With the rule book now finally adopted, the Paris agreement can be implemented” (https://www.ft.com/content/89a7b338-0138-11e9-99df-6183d3002ee1).
This single rule book on how countries will measure and report their emissions and their climate targets, was negotiated by China, US and EU, and finally reached a compromise, with the aim to limit global warming to below 2° C (https://www.ft.com/content/51854750-00b0-11e9-9d01-cd4d49afbbe3).
It is important to note that the rules will eliminate an earlier distinction between developed and developing countries over their commitments, although, the final deal failed to include provisions on a global carbon market mechanism.
The significance of addressing climate changes, further elevated by the newly agreed rule book, is depicted by what Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate chief and an architect of the Paris agreement, declared that “Climate change is the greatest challenge of mankind, in front of it no country is spared, and destinies are shared”, and that it is a victory of multilaterism” (https://www.ft.com/content/51854750-00b0-11e9-9d01-cd4d49afbbe3).
However, the frustration of environmental activists and some countries who were urging more ambitious climate goals, negotiators delayed decisions on two key issues until next year in an effort to get a deal on them (https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/12/15/un-climate-talks-end-agreement-rulebook-2015-paris-climate-accord/2324492002/).
Also, the US continues to participate in the annual UN climate talks, as it can not officially pull out of the Paris climate pact until 2020.
The negotiations experienced many hiccups along the way. One of them are the objections from the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait over a recent scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which sparked a heated debate that resulted in watered down language used to describe the study (https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46496967).
In relation to the above, it is not surprising that the deal was “a bit of a mixed bag”, as described by Alden Meyer, policy head at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Other hurdles include the carbon markets, specifically, a provision for a global scheme that would allow countries to trade emissions reductions. The article related to this issue was largely deleted from the final agreement due to opposition from Brazil, as it wanted to keep the piles of carbon credits it had amassed under an old system, that developed countries say wasn’t credible or transparent. As such, the carbon market discussion was delayed to next year (https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/12/15/un-climate-talks-end-agreement-rulebook-2015-paris-climate-accord/2324492002/).
Countries will be able to set their own climate targets, under the terms of the Paris agreement, which takes effect in 2020.
In order to keep track towards keeping global warming within the limits, the rules also include a global “stocktake” every five years, starting in 2023. (https://www.ft.com/content/51854750-00b0-11e9-9d01-cd4d49afbbe3).
Norway’s environment minister, Ola Elvestuen, proclaimed that “now we have a rule book and finally the Paris agreement is complete” and added that “we have the system, but the work starts now.”
As a final note, the leader of the meeting, Polish official Michal Kurtyka, noted in his final speech that even one step forward is an achievement, and stated that “you have made a thousand little steps forward. You can be proud” (https://www.npr.org/2018/12/15/677109487/nations-agree-on-rules-to-put-paris-climate-agreement-into-action).