A tedious COP24 conference

COP 24At COP24 negotiations continued uneasily, with the United States and Saudi Arabia slowing it down as much as they can, while the Europeans were not very present.

During December 2018 negotiations and bargaining turned to full. Many were convinced that an agreement would be reached, but no one could predict when and with what ambitions.

Some said this COP was only a transition conference, but all in Katowice do not stop repeating the enormous challenge it represents for the future of climate action. Throughout the conference the most vulnerable countries – island states and poorest countries – but also the NGOs have multiplied declarations to make rich countries understand, especially the United States, that denial is no longer of setting.

As a reminder, this COP had three issues:

  • the publication of the rulebook, a kind of notice of the Paris Agreement which specifies its rules of application and finally allows its implementation,
  • the commitment of states to raise their greenhouse gas emission reduction targets,
  • and the promise by developed countries of new funding to help the poorest countries adapt to the new climate.

Malaysian Meena Raman, from the NGO Friends of the Earth, uses different words but she does not say anything else. The little ones, the poor must count, while the rich must help them. At the heart of the negotiations, as at each COP for 24 years, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities was used: if all states are responsible for global warming, their efforts must be modulated according to their historical responsibility – the countries most formerly industrialized countries must do more – and they have the means to do that.

Meena Raman regrets that the richest countries are slow to transfer their innovative technologies to less well-endowed countries and do not provide them with more funding. In 2018 however, states have promised 129 million euros for the adaptation fund, a record figure. Unfortunately, this is still a drop in the water given the needs that can be counted in billions. The United States are erasing in the negotiating texts all references to equity and the historical responsibility of states.

In the rulebook, three points are subject to more intense skirmishes:

  • loss and damage: the developing countries absolutely want to see this point, to ensure that irreversible losses caused by extreme events are taken into account in the future. But in the draft, this question appeared only in a footnote.
  • transparency: to ensure that states do their NDCs correctly, the Paris Agreement provides for monitoring rules; while the United States advocates for strict and identical rules for all, the least developed countries, but also China, demand greater flexibility, arguing that they do not yet have the means for such monitoring.
  • article 6: quite incomprehensible for most people, it concerns mechanisms of compensation and non-market values. These are the rules that will have to be applied in the global market for carbon emissions, a market where those who pollute the least have the opportunity to resell quotas to those who pollute the most.

In addition to the rulebook, which should be about 100 pages long, the ministers and their delegates are fighting over another difficulty, perhaps the most difficult: under which term will be referred in the final decision – which will accompany the rulebook – the IPCC special report on the impacts of a 1.5°C warming?

Logic would like this report to figure prominently since it is on these scientific results that the climate action undertaken by the states is based. Unfortunately four countries – the United States, Russia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia – objected to the decision welcoming this report, preferring to take note of it, insufficient expression in the eyes of the island countries and the European Union.

A lukewarm, even a scientific denial, that irritates the group of 47 least developed countries, as well as that of the 48 most vulnerable countries, led by the former president of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed. “If we do not find an appropriate arrangement,” he warned, “that will make the Paris Agreement useless. Corals will die, we will lose our biodiversity … We have a window of opportunity of 12 years, the science is very clear. We cannot negotiate with the laws of physics.”

But what will they do if the United States or other countries, do not recognize the work of the IPCC, or if the agreement is not ambitious enough for them? We have to improve waste management, protect our oceans and our landfills, and stop making junk. As the CEO of Your Modesto Dumpster Rental reported, pollution and overconsumption go hand in hand. Let’s all contribute in making our planet green and clean again.

In recent days, alliances have multiplied to enhance ambition. Thus the Coalition for a High Ambition, with some 70 countries including France and Germany, or that of the Emergency composed of 90 vulnerable or underdeveloped countries. While disagreements seemed insurmountable, the regulars remained confident on the conclusion of a deal.


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