Norms help check climate action goals

COP24 President Michal Kurtyka speaks during a final session of the COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, December 15, 2018. REUTERS

Considering the muted expectations about the outcome of the UN climate change ministerial at Katovice in Poland, the 24th Conference of Parties (CoP) made some progress. The two-week-long gathering struggled for decisions and was extended by a day. But it finally managed to frame a rule book to operationalise the 2015 Paris treaty from the year 2020. The rule book will lay down guidelines to account for the greenhouse gases (GHG) released by individual countries. It is the GHG emissions that cause global warming and climate change. Controlling them has been the theme of all negotiations. The guidelines will help to monitor the progress made by countries to achieve their nationally set climate action goals. The Paris agreement had accepted the idea of voluntary emission reduction targets called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The rule book will make these efforts transparent, provide a common standard for them and help to ensure that nations do not renege on their promises. 

The meeting also promised to revise and enhance the NDC commitments and agreed to undertake a ‘’global stocktake’’ of the effectiveness of climate action in 2023. Climate finance, which involves the financial commitments of developed countries to help poor and developing countries to cope with the impact of climate change and to take adaptation and mitigation measures, has been at the centre of all negotiations. A process for establishing new targets after the expiry in 2025 of contributions for the present $100 billion Green Climate Fund was agreed. But developing countries are not happy about the lack of any firm commitment on this score. There are doubts whether even the existing commitments will be met. There was also no agreement on creating a market-based mechanism to speed up the efforts to reduce emissions. 

After the agreement in Paris, which was itself a big compromise, a small step has been taken at Katovice to take it forward. There have been disagreements and disappointments in the last three years, including the withdrawal of the US from the pact. The world has experienced aggravated climate change impact in the form of unprecedented natural calamities in these years. The target on a 2 °Celsius rise in temperatures over pre-industrial levels is considered inadequate now. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has proposed that the aim should be to restrict the rise to 1.5 °C. The proposal has not been taken seriously at all. The least the world should do is to sustain the slow progress in the efforts to achieve the targets which have already been set. The major responsibility for this rests on the developed world. 

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