COP24: Countries struggle to muster political will to tackle climate crisis

Paris Rulebook adopted but a response to the urgency from the IPCC 1.5C Report requires countries to initiate domestic processes towards stronger climate targets by 2020 and predictable and adequate support to developing countries

15 December 2018, Katowice: World leaders arrived at the UN climate talks in Katowice with a mandate to uphold the Paris Agreement and respond to the emergency of the climate crisis. The IPCC 1.5C Report makes it clear that every tenth of a degree of warming matters and we need to act now to cut emissions in half within the next 12 years.
 

But these past two weeks governments did not respond with the political will to tackle the urgency of the climate crisis, despite growing evidence from the latest science.

The United States and a handful of rogue nations like Saudi Arabia sought to deny science and routinely disrupt the process and far too many countries came unprepared to strengthen the international climate regime. Countries must bear the weight of their decisions and acknowledge their lack of leadership to support the most vulnerable countries, who are leading by example.

In Katowice, governments were expected to craft robust rules for the Paris Agreement that will drive climate action, adopt a COP decision to enhance climate targets by 2020 and deliver adequate and predictable finance and support to fully implement nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Countries agreed to a comprehensive set of rules that will help operationalize the Paris Agreement, despite failing to establish any rules for carbon markets post-2020. On transparency, guidance for NDCs and accounting, a strong basis has been created that ensures parties will be accountable for their commitments. A robust framework has been created for the Global Stocktake, taking into account equity and best available science. The framework for carbon markets proved to be too contentious to land an agreement. Even the most essential accounting requirements could not be agreed upon, such as avoiding double counting of emission reductions, and led to postponing the entire set of rules related to article 6 - dealing with carbon markets- to COP25.

However, developed countries are still largely free to account as they see fit for the finance they provide and must now mobilize to meet the $100 billion goal by 2020. Loss and damage finance must be part of the review of the Warsaw International Mechanism in 2019. While these talks saw much-needed financial pledges to the Green Climate Fund (GCF),  to the Least Developed Countries Fund -- and, for the first time Adaptation Fund pledges crossed the $100 million threshold-- wealthy nations must offer larger and more predictable channels of funding that will instil confidence in developing countries to implement national climate plans. The dearth of adequate finance continues to undermine trust. The replenishment process to the GCF in 2019 must be a race to the top with countries following the example of Germany to at least double their current commitments. 

Outside the isolation tank of the COP is the real world where thousands of children are boycotting school to demand action, people are taking on fossil fuel lobbies, risking arrest and bringing cities to a halt and farmers are marching against escalating impacts. 
Our current collective climate targets set us on a 3C warming pathway but people are refusing to accept a status quo that consigns our future and that of other species to a smouldering pile of ash.

COP24 was a test on climate multilateralism- one that countries have barely passed.

Countries have reaffirmed their decision  to submit national climate commitment by 2020 but now delegates must return to their capitals and begin the serious work of domestic processes to enhance ambition by 2020. Nothing short of this will do. They must bring these commitments to the UN Secretary General’s Summit in 2019 and set a clear direction of travel for 2020 that will spur businesses and cities to accelerate their own actions and infuse momentum into the real economy.

The arrest, detention and deportation of participants entering COP24 by Polish authorities shows how civil society voices are actively stifled and people are prevented from doing their work on climate change. It is the responsibility of the UN to ensure this can never happen again and guidelines are in place in host countries for UN conferences.

The overbearing presence of the fossil fuel industry combined with a weak Polish Presidency also cast a shadow over these talks.

Chile, as the next COP Presidency, needs to show real commitment and immediately ratify and sign the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters, known as the Escazú Agreement.

Members from Climate Action Network react:

Simon Bradshaw, Climate Change Advisor, Oxfam Australia: “The leadership vacuum from those with the responsibility and power to prevent suffering from climate change on a terrifying scale is shameful. We are standing with leaders from the Pacific and other vulnerable regions, communities taking their survival into their own hands,children who will have to inherit this increasingly hostile planet, and all those leading the fight for climate justice.”  

May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org: “Hope now rests on the shoulders of the many people who are rising to take action - the inspiring children who started an unprecedented wave of strikes in schools to support a fossil free future;  the 1,000+ institutions that committed to pull their money out of coal, oil, and gas; the many communities worldwide who keep resisting fossil fuel development and calling for a fast and just transition to 100% renewable energy systems for all.”

Mohamed Adow, International Climate Lead, Christian Aid:  “This was the first opportunity since the IPCC report for countries to prove to the world that they were taking this seriously. They’ve just about scraped a C minus when the scientists of the IPCC showed that they needed to get straight As. 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.”

Bee Moorhead, representing Interfaith Power & Light: “As American faith communities, we are disappointed at our national leaders’ lack of courage and failure to exert moral leadership. We have great confidence in the capacity of the American people to lead morally and technologically, in business and in civil society—our challenge is to build political will and to elect leaders who will act courageously on behalf of vulnerable people and our common destiny.

Christoph Bals, Policy Director, Germanwatch: Germany has played a dynamic role at this COP by providing necessary money for climate and resilience action and as a co-initiator of the high ambition coalition. But now Germany has to show leadership by action. Coal exit, transformation of the mobility system and a carbon price have to be regulated next year in the German Climate Law. Germany should also initiate transformative climate partnerships with developing and emerging countries.  

Sven Harmeling, Global Policy Lead on Climate Change, CARE International: At COP24, a number of powerful countries driven by short-sighted interests pushed to abolish the ambitious 1.5°C limit and throw away the alarming findings on harmful climate impacts of the IPCC Special Report. The most vulnerable countries, civil society and people on the ground have been leading the fight for climate justice. While governments accomplished the task of adopting a rulebook to further the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the world now requires much faster and stronger climate action at the national level, and support for poor countries to build climate resilience.”

“Vulnerable countries can not carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Multilateralism was held hostage at COP24 by a few powerful countries. It is unacceptable for governments to continue to cower behind the inaction of the United States and other big polluters. Countries that have been bystanders in this process must bear the weight of their decisions and acknowledge their failure to follow the lead of the most vulnerable.”

Jennifer Morgan Executive Director, Greenpeace International: A year of climate disasters and a dire warning from the world’s top scientists should have led to so much more. Instead, governments let people down again as they ignored the science and the plight of the vulnerable. Recognising the urgency of raised ambition and adopting a set of rules for climate action is not nearly enough when whole nations face extinction.

“Without immediate action, even the strongest rules will not get us anywhere. People expected action and that is what governments did not deliver. This is morally unacceptable and they must now carry with them the outrage of people and come to the UN Secretary General’s summit in 2019 with higher climate action targets.”

Sriram Madhusoodanan, Deputy Campaigns Director, Corporate Accountability: “While outside of the negotiations, the world is waking up to the stark reality of climate change and the short window we have for action, inside COP Global North government have used COP24 to bury their heads further in the sand and force corporate false solutions like carbon markets to the center of the global response.”

But, despite Global North obstruction, we’ve never seen a more united, organized and energized movement to demand climate justice. Governments are demanding it. People are demanding it. And we will get it.”

Michael BruneExecutive Director, Sierra Club: “There’s simply no debate; fossil fuels have no place in a liveable future. While Donald Trump may seek to further isolate the U.S. on the world stage, leaders from across the globe continue to work together to tackle the climate crisis. At a time when science makes it clear that we have only 12 years to deeply cut carbon pollution to avoid climate chaos, the climate negotiations have continued to bring the world together to move towards a sustainable climate and healthy communities.

“Following yet another year of devastating and historic hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and droughts, it has been the unstoppable power of people that has continued to drive climate progress, from retiring more than half of the U.S. coal fleet to moving cities to 100 percent clean energy.The American people are joined by the rest of the world in signaling that they will not tolerate any more of Trump’s shameful blustering and inaction, and they have taken up the mantle of climate action while Trump abdicates any semblance of global leadership. The Sierra Club is proud to continue to join with allies in the movement driving that progress and ensure the transition to clean energy leaves no one behind.”

Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia: "Following the IPCC Special Report, we came to COP 24 motivated, energised and with hopes of addressing some of the more serious concerns and pressing issues that we at hand. Issues that will not just impact us but for the generations after us. The developing South needs financial aid from the rest of the world to work towards more adaptive and resilient climatic conditions. Despite governments continuing to fail us at Katowice, we believe that change is possible. We see conversations starting and actions stirring among communities and we believe in the hope and change we see in people."
 

Erika Lennon, Senior Attorney, Center, International Environmental Law (CIEL): Simply put, the outcome of COP24 is not compatible with the Paris Agreement, which promised to protect, respect, and consider human rights in climate action. The rulebook gavelled in at the Spodek Center in Katowice offers too little people-centered, rights-based guidance for countries to jointly deliver on the Paris promises, conditions that the IPCC recognizes as necessary to keep global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius. As delegates return home and countries work toward increasing ambition and enhancing national climate commitments, they must also remember that they are already bound by international agreements to respect human rights, and that these must drive how they implement necessary climate action and ensure equity.

Karin Lexén, Secretary General, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation: Two months ago, the scientific community sent an emergency message on the state of the climate crisis. Coming to Katowice, we demanded no less than an emergency response. This was not delivered. Now all countries must urgently pick up the baton, do their homework and get ready to radically scale up climate action at home. In Sweden, we demand a ban on fossil fuels by 2030.  

Hanna Aho, Climate Policy Adviser, Finnish Development NGOs – Fingo: The science is clear and we need bolder climate action now. Each country must go home and prepare a 1,5 degrees compatible plan where ambition is increased by 2020. Finland wants to show leadership by banning the energy use of coal by 2029. We demand this happens together with a ban on peat energy use by 2025. The change is in the hands of the Finnish people as we prepare for parliamentary elections in 2019.

Otto Bruun, Climate Policy Officer, Finnish Association for Nature Conservation: "This autumn climate scientists highlighted a safe option to avert climate chaos. Early  retirement of fossil fuels should go hand in hand with the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems. While the governments at the Katowice conference did not produce the rulebook to match the ambition of the Paris treaty, governments must now mind the gap in ambition and increase their efforts at once. The April 2019 general election in Finland looks set be a climate election. Our collective ambition in civil society is to drive through an unforeseen and just policy shift to immediately protect and restore forest and peatland carbon sinks and stocks while retiring fossil fuels altogether within two decades."

Gilles Dufrasne, Policy Officer, Carbon Pricing, Carbon Market Watch: “The last minute article 6 standoff showed that financial interests still trump environmental integrity in some countries, despite the indisputable evidence of the climate crisis. A few countries prevented the most essential accounting requirements to be adopted, while in parallel defending the future of the flawed Clean Development Mechanism. This could blow a hole in the Paris Agreement by allowing NDCs to be met through credits with little environmental integrity, and double counting them.”

Alden Meyer, Directory of Strategy & Policy, Union of Concerned Scientists: “The recent IPCC Special Report on 1.5 Degrees represents a wake-up call from the world’s top scientists, making clear that we face a planetary emergency unless we take profound and rapid action to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases. While the United States and three other major oil-producing countries prevented the urgency of action from being fully reflected in the final decision, the vast majority of countries indicated they have heard the dire warning from scientists.

“World leaders must come to next September’s climate summit in New York being organized by UN Secretary-General António Guterres with a clear indication of how they intend to substantially raise their climate ambition by 2020. This will be the acid test of how serious they are in their professed commitment to averting a climate catastrophe.”

Rachel Cleetus, Policy Director in the Climate & Energy Program and lead economist, Union of Concerned Scientists: “In Katowice, world leaders failed to adequately address the needs of people suffering from climate change right now, including small island nations and even some U.S. communities who face existential threats. The latest IPCC report confirms that climate change is here and now, impacts are only going to get worse, and current national commitments are nowhere near what is needed to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees, as countries agreed to in Paris. The barely adequate outcome in Katowice means there’s much work ahead to ensure countries live up to their responsibilities to put more ambitious action on the table by 2020. Every fraction of a degree avoided matters. Children around the world, including those who inspired us by their climate strikes this week, will hold countries accountable to do their homework and come prepared to ace the exam on robust climate action.”

Wendel Trio, Director, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe: “The weak outcome of this COP runs contrary to stark warnings of the IPCC report and growing demand for action from citizens. 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. It must be a significant increase, even beyond the 55% reduction some Member States and the European Parliament are calling for.”

Stephan Singer, Interim Focal Lead, Climate Action Network: “In order to bring governments on track to a development that does not violate serious climate thresholds like the 1.5 C guardrail, CAN supports the plethora of actions and commitments by non-state actors. From health providers, youth, faith communities, indigenous peoples and farmers that are rising up to stop coal, fight forest destruction, going on school strikes, from clean businesses that purchase all energy from renewable power to trade unions that embark on a Just Transition process, from cities that are declaring climate emergencies and pursuing full decarbonisation efforts to progressive financial actors that ban fossil fuels from their portfolios.  All these actions and many more have to magnify and multiply in next years. CAN members will stand with the vulnerable people to hold all governments to account."

Sebastian Scholz, Head of Climate Policy, NABU/BirdLife Germany: “Again at this COP civil society made their demand clear to those decide to stay within the limit of 1.5 degrees of global warming. None the less several issues weren't solved by the delegations. Even the alarming findings of the IPCC Special Report weren't properly integrated into the outcome. Germany did well in ramping up finance pledges at this COP, but this cannot be a buyout of actual mitigation measures. The coal phase can not be postponed any longer.”

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Leader of WWF’s Climate and Energy Practice: “World leaders arrived in Katowice with the task of responding to the latest climate science which made clear that we only have 12 years to cut emissions in half and prevent catastrophic global warming. They’ve made important progress, but what we’ve seen in Poland reveals a fundamental lack of understanding by some countries of our current crisis. Luckily, the Paris Agreement is proving to be resilient to the storms of global geopolitics. Now we need all countries to commit to raising climate ambition before 2020, because everyone’s future is at stake.”

Farhana Yamin, Extinction Rebellion, UK: Governments here had a simple task: accept the findings of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5 and use it to bring forward new NDCs that truly respond to the planetary emergency. A handful of countries stopped that from happening. We pay tribute to activists, students, civil society and the leaders of vulnerable countries who are rising up all over the world demanding more. We need now to work together to build an emergency coalition focused squarely on tackling climate devastation and providing support to those already suffering loss and damage.

Harjeet Singh, Global Lead on Climate Change, ActionAid International: “Our governments have failed us. Some of the most powerful countries in the world are led by reactionary climate deniers and their views have been allowed to water down the ambition and cooperation needed to avert catastrophic climate change.
“Rich countries have a moral and a legal responsibility to provide money and technology to developing countries to make their economies greener and tackle the impacts of climate change. Instead of taking this seriously, they pushed through a rulebook riddled with loopholes allowing them to avoid this responsibility.
“The climate crisis simply cannot be fixed without financing. It’s hugely frustrating to see a Paris Rulebook that goes backwards on delivering real finance and real action.
“The worst affected communities have shouted from the rafters about the loss and damage they’re experiencing right now. More than 20 million people a year are being forcibly displaced by sudden, extreme weather events. The agreement to now officially monitor losses shows that, although these communities are finally being heard, the world is still standing back and watching climate change like it’s a slow-motion car crash. Citizens and young people around the world recognise the urgency of action on climate change.

“High level talks have disappointed us over and over, but we know that the real solutions lie in local movements and communities that use their votes and voices to hold their governments accountable for solving the climate crisis. Change is possible.”

Catherine Abreu, Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada: “What really matters is what everyone does when they leave Katowice and go home. The last two weeks have seen plenty of lovely declarations of countries’ commitments to ambition, but precious few specifics on how individual governments plan to respond to the devastating climate chaos of 2018 and deliver the climate action that science demands. Countries like Canada need to follow the leadership of braver, poorer nations who, even in the face of floods and fires, have told the world exactly how they plan to get to a 1.5 degree compatible climate pledge.
The world’s scientists tell us we have 12 years to cut climate pollution in half and give human civilization a shot at thriving. Knowing this, some countries - particularly the world’s most vulnerable - came to COP24 ready to work. It is thanks to them we made some progress here. Others - particularly Saudi Arabia and Brazil - nearly derailed the process. The world has no time for such self-interested games.”

 

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About Climate Action Network:

Climate Action Network (CAN) is a global network of over 1200 NGOs working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels. www.climatenetwork.org . For more information, contact Dharini Parthasarathy, Senior Communications Coordinator, CAN International; email: dparthasarathy@climatenetwork.org, or whatsapp/call on +918826107830