What was agreed and what was not (yet)
The main goal of COP24 was to adopt the so-called Paris rulebook, a set of common rules and guidelines needed to implement the climate pact agreed in 2015 and turn it into an operational global framework.
The discussions in Katowice and during previous climate summits encompassed very technical and complex issues, with several sticking points including transparency rules, compliance and climate finance arrangements that made the success of COP24 uncertain until the very last hours.
The finally agreed “Katowice Climate Package” sets up a common reporting and accounting system for carbon emissions and for assessing the impacts of national climate plans (NDCs), that apply to all countries. This result was not granted since in the previous sessions most of the tensions were due to the traditional differentiation (in terms of commitments and accountability) between developed and developing countries. The cooperation between EU and China’s climate diplomats was decisive in overcoming the deadlock, according to observers.
In the 133 pages of adopted decisions, the package sets out that countries shall use accounting criteria in accordance with methodologies and common metrics assessed by the IPCC, and common time frames for NDCs to be implemented from 2031 onward. The information on the NDCs will be collected in a public registry to be developed during 2019. In the meantime, the current interim public registry will continue to be used. Updated NDCs shall include information on both mitigation and adaptation measures as well as details of financial support for climate action in developing countries.
The package also includes guidelines on the process for establishing new targets on climate finance from 2025 onwards, and provisions for loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change to be taken into consideration in both the global stocktake (planned in 2023) and in the transparency framework.
A deadlock on post-2020 carbon markets (related to article 6 of the Paris Agreement) put the COP24 outcomes in jeopardy until the final days. The Paris Agreement envisages that countries can meet a part of their domestic mitigation goals through the use of “market mechanisms”, but in Katowice it was impossible to find an agreement on the criteria to avoid double counting, ensure the environmental integrity of credits, and report transparently on transfers of carbon credits. According to media and observers, Brazil had been pushing for weaker rules on carbon markets, despite strong opposition from many other countries. The overall set of rules concerning Article 6 was deferred to the next UNFCCC session, in June 2019, with the objective of delivering the guidelines at COP25.
Words that matter
Besides the tense negotiations on the rulebook, further tensions emerged over how to acknowledge the IPCC’s report on 1.5C. US, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait objected to the COP “welcoming” the report, which calls for unprecedented and urgent changes to limit the global average temperature rise within the safer threshold. In a compromise, the final statement welcomed the “timely completion” of the report and invited countries to make use of it.
COP24: failure or success?
UNFCCC chief Patricia Espinosa welcomed the COP24 outcome as “an excellent achievement”, despite remaining gaps.”The multilateral system has delivered a solid result. This is a roadmap for the international community to decisively address climate change”, Espinosa said. “The guidelines that delegations have been working on day and night are balanced and clearly reflect how responsibilities are distributed amongst the world’s nations. They incorporate the fact that countries have different capabilities and economic and social realities at home while providing the foundation for ever increasing ambition”.
Laurence Tubiana, a key architect of the Paris agreement, and now with the European Climate Foundation, told BBC that the agreement was a big boost for the Paris pact. “The key piece was having a good transparency system because it builds trust between countries and because we can measure what is being done and it is precise enough”.
However, critics pointed out that COP24 fell short of clearly signaling the need for greater ambition and recognizing the urgency of the problem as highlighted by the latest scientific reports.
A growing amount of scientific data and reports, including the 1.5 ° C IPCC report, converge on the fact that the current emissions trajectory and planned climate policies are far from being in line with the goals set by the Paris Agreement. Under the current national commitments, the global average temperature is projected to increase by about 3.2°C by the end of this century.
A clearer political ambition to accelerate emission reductions and address climate change impacts is also a much-needed signal for companies and investors to set up long-term strategies towards a low carbon and resilient economy. During COP24, 415 investors managing over USD30 trillion in assets released a statement urging governments to address the “ambition gap”. “It is vital for our long-term planning and asset allocation decisions that governments work closely with investors to incorporate Paris-aligned climate scenarios into their policy frameworks and energy transition pathways”, the statement says.
The road ahead
U.N. Secretary-general Antonio Guterres will host a climate summit in New York in September 2019 to push countries to accelerate climate action. “The approval of the #ParisAgreement Work Programme at #COP24 in Katowice is the foundation for a new process in #ClimateAction. Ambition will be at the centre of the Climate Summit I am convening in September. It’s time to show strengthened ambition to defeat climate change”, Guterres tweeted on the final day of COP24.
COP25 will be a key summit to finalize the final details of the rulebook, especially on the contentious Article 6 issues. The summit will be convened in Chile after Brazil, the decided host, withdrew its candidacy in November.
COP26 in 2020 is seen as a crucial COP, where countries will be asked to submit their next round of climate pledges for 2030. The UK and Italy have both signalled interest in hosting COP26.
COP24 main page on UNFCCC website
UNFCCC press release about COP24 final outcomes