Why COP24 was just as important as COP21 – prelude

Copenhagen. Paris.  COP15.  COP21.

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 10.09.47 PMThese are the most recent international climate change  meetings that everyone knows.  COP15 in Copenhagen marked a low point in multilateral environmental cooperation, with the “back room” deal by the top global emitters not accepted by the 197 Parties who must agree on its actions by consensus at its closing plenary.  Hence the Copenhagen Accords were seen as a political document, not a legal one.

Six years later, after annual negotiation sessions, these same Parties adopted the Paris Agreement, a new treaty under the UNFCCC that was ratified so quickly – only 11 months – that the Parties were caught unprepared with the specific rules on how to implement it. A definite political high point.  Knowing that, the Parties created a work programme to put the necessary pieces of the Paris Agreement puzzle in place.  The deadline for completing it was last December, at COP24 in Katowice, Poland.

In2018-10-24 the run up to COP24, Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa described the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP) as “more than a set of rules, it will unleash the power of the Agreement itself.”

How is that?

It’s because 185 Parties – 184 individual countries and the EU – agreed to design the Paris Agreement around three legal obligations intended to harness “bottom up” participation and ambition. These are:

  1. pledging nationally determined contributions or NDCs,
  2. transparently and regularly reporting their progress on them, and
  3. collectively taking stock on how current NDCs are achieving the goal of keeping global temperature rise “well below” 2C.

Through the NDCs, individual countries commit in writing what they will do to mitigate their GHG emissions and adapt to locked-in climate change impacts.  Developed countries – the ones whose industrialization caused this warming – also say in their NDCs how they will help other, less developed countries to mitigate and adapt through financial, technology, and capacity-building support. The range of NDC pledges reflects the range of countries’ development status.The good news is that so many countries filed them.  The task for COP24 was agreeing on implementation guidelines that promote a uniform understanding of them.

Then, through an “enhanced transparency framework,” countries file reports via a publicly available UNFCCC portal on specific actions taken.  For mitigation, this means totaling up how many GHG emissions have been reduced or sequestered, by gas and sector.  These kinds of calculations have been required of developed country parties to the Kyoto Protocol for over a decade.  Given the learning curve for other countries, the precise contents of these reports and whether all countries will make them every two year were the key facets of these Paris Agreement guidelines.

Finally, the global stocktake or GST serves as the linchpin for these individual country efforts.  Every five years all the Paris Agreement parties will collectively assess whether their individual contributions, when added up, have been enough to meet the Paris Agreements goals of staying well below 2C, and mid 21st century carbon neutrality.  The October IPCC special report on 1.5C underscored the existential importance of meeting the more ambitious goal expressed in Article 2 of the Agreement. So agreeing on what information should inform the GST and how to conduct it were the core implementation guidelines negotiated at COP24.

So how did it come out?  See my next post for my view on it.


Before you do, consider Espinosa’s comments about the IPCC 1.5C report at the pre-COP.

patricia krakowWhen opening the meeting, she underscored how warming poses risks to all of humanity and why action at COP24 in response is critical.

“Let us never forget that climate change, if left unadressed, will take almost every single challenge humanity faces and make it worse.

It will destabilize the global economy, which will affect all nations. By 2030, the loss of productivity caused by a hotter world could cost the global economy 2 trillion dollars.

It will create conflict over resources and impact migration. It’s estimated that climate change could displace between 50 million and 200 million people by 2050.

Worse, it will result in incredible suffering and hardship for people and societies throughout the world.

But addressing climate change, and committing to a low-emissions future—one that is more resilient and sustainable—offers incredible opportunity.

It’s not just an opportunity to do the right thing—it’s an opportunity to completely transform the way we produce and consume, and the way we live.

And that means new markets, new businesses, and, for so many people throughout the world, new jobs…quality jobs…a just transition to a future that is just for all people.

As Secretary-General Guterres so clearly put it, the idea that tackling climate change is expensive and could harm economic growth is nonsense. In fact, the opposite is true.

The International Labour Organization reports that the green economy could create 24 million new jobs globally by 2030.

Ladies and gentlemen, incredible opportunity exists if we embrace a low-carbon future and unleash the power of the Paris Agreement.

But we must first achieve our very specific goals at COP24.

I ask all of you to take one message back to your countries: that people of the world want us to achieve results at COP24 and we intend to reach those goals.”