The first week of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) has come to an end.
Now, the governmental delegations will have to solve the thorniest questions which the technicians have left open. Sadly, they are not few. As the president of the UN Conference, Michal Kurtyka, has underlined talking about the process to define the operational rules of the Paris Agreement, “there is still a huge work to do to reach a balanced result”.
The COP24 aims in fact at approving the so-called Paris Rulebook, which is the set of rules and mechanisms needed to make the Paris Agreement operational from 2020. Not all details must be clarified in Katowice, but it is fundamental to trace the guidelines on how the signatories must implement and reinforce their environmental programs – the Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs – from 2020. It is also crucial to define the necessary criteria for the creation of the institutional structure which will support and safeguard the Paris Agreement’s goals.
The only decision taken so far concerns the duration of the NDCs that need to be shared by all countries from 2031. In the past, each State adopted a different timeline, planning to reach the target in 2030 or in 2050. Other important problems remain unsolved. Which information should the national environmental plan contain to make them suitable to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal? How should States communicate their results? How will the Global Stocktake work? Despite the few steps forward, the consensus around a single answer to these questions is still far away. The President of the COP24 has invited the negotiators to reach an agreement on technical matters by today, Tuesday 11th December, taking the responsibility of personally granting improvements in the discussion on the most controversial topics, such the climate finance.
The stress and the dissatisfaction felt by many at the end of the week dedicated to the technical negotiations is highlighted by the preoccupying positions that some countries, and especially the US, have taken on the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The 1.5°C IPCC research on the consequences of global warming has been one of the most discussed during the conferences and the side events of the last week. For one reason or another, everybody here at the COP24 has mentioned the catastrophic effects that we will experience if the global temperature rises more than 1.5°C.
Even the Polish Presidency has referred to the report in the controversial Silesia Declaration released at the beginning of the UN Conference. The Declaration clearly states the necessity to undertake a de-carbonification process, but at the same time recognised how difficult it will be to grant a decent future to the workers affected by the transition to a greener economy.
With general surprise, on Saturday night Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the US and Russia (the greatest oil producers of the world) challenged the validity of the 1.5°C IPCC report. And they played with words: the four countries insisted that the conclusive statement said that the IPCC research will be “noted” instead of “welcomed” in future binding documents about climate change. “Noting” means considering the research as partially important, thus reducing or even cancelling the meaning of its data. On the contrary, “welcoming” means integrating the research results into the negotiation processes and feeling stronger than ever the need to dump the economic model based on fossil fuels to limit global warming. The next days will be decisive. We will see whether the rest of the countries will weaken the Saudi-Arabian, Kuwaiti, American and Russian position, called “ridiculous” by the Saint Kitts and Nevis delegate.