Monday 21 January 2019

UN climate change summit agrees details to implement the Paris deal

'A UN-commissioned report by the IPCC in October warned that keeping the Earth's temperature rise to 1.5°C would need
'A UN-commissioned report by the IPCC in October warned that keeping the Earth's temperature rise to 1.5°C would need "unprecedented changes" in every aspect of society' Stock image

Nina Chestney

Nearly 200 nations overcame political divisions late yesterday to agree on rules for implementing a landmark global climate deal - but critics say it is not ambitious enough to prevent the dangerous effects of global warming.

After two weeks of talks in the Polish city of Katowice, nations finally reached consensus on a more detailed framework for the 2015 Paris Agreement which aims to limit a rise in average world temperatures to "well below" 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

"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," Polish president of the talks Michal Kurtyka told delegates.

After he struck the gavel to signal agreement had been reached, ministers joined him on the stage, hugging and laughing in signs of relief after the marathon talks.

Before the talks started, many expected that the deal would not be as robust as is needed. The unity which underpinned the Paris talks has fragmented and US President Donald Trump intends to pull his country - one of the world's biggest emitters - out of the pact.

Still, exhausted ministers managed to bridge a series of divides to produce a 156-page rulebook - which is broken down into themes such as how countries will report and monitor their national pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions, how they will update their emissions plans, and detail their efforts to reduce them.

However, an eight-page decision framework text was criticised by some countries and green groups for failing to urge increased ambitions on emissions cuts sufficiently to curb rising temperatures.

"The majority of the rulebook for the Paris Agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for," said Mohamed Adow, international climate lead at Christian Aid. "But the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line shows that some nations have not woken up to the urgent call of the IPCC report," he added.

A UN-commissioned report by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) in October warned that keeping the Earth's temperature rise to 1.5°C would need "unprecedented changes" in every aspect of society.

Last week, Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia and Kuwait refused to use the word "welcome" in association with the findings of the report.

The decision text now merely expresses "gratitude" for the work on the report, welcomes its timely completion and invites parties to use the information in it.

For many low-lying states and islands who are at risk of being deluged by rising sea levels, this is not strong enough - but it had to be accepted grudgingly in exchange for other trade-offs.

"There should be a direct link between the findings of the report and the specific actions that would underpin ambition both in terms of action and finance," Simon Stiell, Grenada's environment minister, said.

"The challenges will be with some of the bigger players in terms of stepping up to their responsibilities and what is required to truly operationalise the Paris Agreement," he added.

At the eleventh hour, ministers managed to break a deadlock between Brazil and other countries over the accounting rules for the monitoring of carbon credits, deferring a bulk of that discussion to next year.

©Reuters

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