Negotiators from around the world on Saturday agreed on a rulebook to curb global warming, seeking to bolster the 2015 Paris accord amid concerns that countries would fail to deliver on their commitments despite what many scientists call a rising threat from climate change. Discussions in Poland pushed past the summit’s Friday close for a deal on issues including transparency, financing and reporting for emissions. Meanwhile, participants postponed efforts to create an international carbon market, which many see as a major element of the Paris agreement. In October, a United Nations report said failure to limit global warming within 12 years could risk irreversible changes to the earth’s climate and ecosystems. Saturday’s compromise marked an effort to bridge longstanding gaps between rich and developing countries on curbing greenhouse-gas emissions, a global issue leader led by President Obama and China’s Xi Jinping delayed addressing to clinch the 2015 Paris accord. “Climate change is running faster than we are,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres during the summit in Katowice, in Poland’s coal country. “This will allow us to have a regime that is fair and effective for all.” Paris agreement signatories—every country except Syria—failed to reach consensus, however, on more-ambitious targets to curb emissions, putting off the discussion until a summit Mr Guterres will convene in September on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
The rulebook is intended to help achieve the goal set out in Paris with transparent reporting requirements for greenhouse-gas emissions and progress toward curbing such releases. Major economies also raised financing levels to combat global warming in developing countries, with Germany and Norway pledging to double contributions to a climate fund that so far has raised more than $10 billion. The money is earmarked to help less-developed nations devise policies and enact projects such as low-emission power generation to reduce their carbon releases. There is a broad scientific consensus that warming is occurring, and the majority of climate scientists say man-made emissions are at least a significant factor.
Negotiators, however, failed to reach a deal on what has been called the “unsung hero” of the Paris pact: a global carbon market. That threatens to fragmentise some business-driven efforts to curb rising temperatures and highlights the difficulty in aligning financial interests, even as major entities including China, the European Union and California look to link their carbon markets with the world. Talks will resume at the next annual climate gathering in Chile next November. “We have reached a balanced deal on the rules to turn the Paris agreement into action,” Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU’s climate chief, said at the end of the summit.
The Katowice gathering was a far cry from the Paris summit and characterised by an increasing number of countries following President Trump in questioning the climate accord. On the first day, Turkey held up proceedings, requesting a change of status from developed country to developing to tap billions in climate financing pledged by advanced economies. Last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey wouldn’t ratify the accord until it secured funds. Brazil introduced language to the draft rulebook that effectively derailed an agreement on creating an international carbon market, officials and environmental organisations at the talks said. The Environmental Defense Fund, a large non-profit organisation, said the proposal amounted to a “poison pill” that would render the Paris pact obsolete by double-counting emissions. The U.S. shift, following Mr Trump’s June 2017 decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, was evident. A lead architect of the Paris deal under the Obama administration, the U.S. in Katowice hosted an event on the sidelines to promote fossil fuels, including coal. Washington also joined Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait in weakening a motion to welcome the U.N. climate report. “We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability,” Mr Trump’s senior adviser on energy and climate affairs, Wells Griffith, said in Katowice. Protesters disrupted Mr Griffith’s speech, unfurling a banner depicting oil- and gas-drilling wells and chanting “keep it in the ground.” Despite the top-level pushback against the Paris accord, U.S. negotiators have been instrumental in driving efforts toward completing a rulebook to govern the pact, other participants said. They said they believe Washington’s behind-the-scenes engagement highlights a U.S. willingness to shape global rules even as the Trump administration walks away from international deals. “The U.S. is half-in, half-out,” said Bas Eickhout, a Dutch lawmaker with the European Green Party in the European Parliament and former U.N. climate report contributor. “On the political level, they will be obstructive. On the technical-negotiations level, they will usually be good in drafting compromise language.”
China, Canada and the European Union have been working to fill the leadership vacuum since Mr Trump’s decision to leave the Paris accord. Americans “would be paying trillions of dollars…for nothing” if the U.S. stayed in the Paris agreement, Mr Trump told Fox News on Thursday, days after he tied the violent protests in France to the climate agreement. “The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France,” he tweeted Dec. 8, adding, “Maybe it’s time to end the ridiculous and extremely expensive Paris Agreement.” Financing has always been a flashpoint of climate negotiations, which Washington’s exit would exacerbate, contributors and beneficiaries say. Developed countries are already struggling to meet their commitment to providing $100 billion in annual climate financing by 2020. The EU’s 28 countries have pledged more money and resources than any other party to the climate pact, providing €20.4 billion ($23.1 billion) in 2017 alone. China doesn’t contribute financing, and Mr Trump said the U.S. would cease the “draconian financial and economic burdens” of the Paris accord.
While climate talks stripped of U.S. leadership have been underwhelming, political backers of the Paris agreement have nevertheless dialled up activities and rhetoric. The High Ambition Coalition, including the EU and two dozen Paris-agreement signatories, pledged to raise their emission-reduction targets by the end of 2020. That means exceeding the pact’s commitment to keeping global warming “well below” two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, to cap post-industrial temperature increases at 1.5 degrees Celsius. The difference of a half degree Celsius, or 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit, will determine whether some ecosystems live and major cities avoid flooding, among other drastic geo-climactic changes, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The U.N. scientific body, known as IPCC, doesn’t conduct its research, deriving its overview on climate change by assessing thousands of research papers published worldwide annually. “Every extra bit of warming matters,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the IPCC working group that drafted the October report. “Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes.”
Credit: Emre Peker for The Wall Street Journal, 15 December 2018.
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