Failure or success? Maybe “avoiding failure” or “half-success”? Evaluation of the achievements of the climate summit in Katowice depends on the evaluator, and the polarization of views on climate change is a fact. It is also certain that the importance of COP24 goes far beyond formal arrangements.
This year, the centre of discussions on climate problems was Katowice. All this was due to the UN climate summit (COP24), which brought together about 21.500 participants from 196 countries.
In accordance with the plan, delegations from different countries were supposed to agree on a roadmap for implementation of the Paris Agreement, i.e. the first global climate agreement, which will take effect from 2020.
Let us remind you that in 2015, the states, within the framework of the Paris Agreement, committed themselves to take action to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (or even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius) above the average temperature before the industrial revolution. This was, however, a general obligation, without any details
A thousand steps
On Saturday evening, December 15, the parties of the UN climate conference in Katowice adopted the final COP24 document, the so-called Katowice Package. The document is a "road map" for implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The package was presented at the COP plenary session, which began around 9.30 PM. During the session, the President of COP24, Michal Kurtyka, asked for objections with regard to particular points of the document. Considering that there were no objections, he announced the adoption of the final document. UN decisions are taken unanimously, by consensus.
The Paris Agreement equates all UN member states with climate commitments. This is the success of implementation rules that are uniform for all countries.
The agreement does not talk about reduction in CO2 emissions as the only way to counteract climate change. It also mentions the importance of carbon sequestration by living natural resources, such as forests.
The package creates the rules of world climate policy for the coming years; it is undisputed and spectacular success - said representatives of the summit's Polish presidency on Sunday in Katowice.
The things that were not completed in Katowice, will be refined during the next summit in Chile or during subsequent meetings.
The general nature of the document, which must be accepted by the delegations of 200 countries with diverse interests and levels of development, forces the countries to present an overview of the actions they have taken to protect the climate every five years.
- Approval of the work programme for the Paris Agreement will be the basis for a transformative process that requires higher ambitions from communities around the world, because scientific evidence clearly shows that we must be more ambitious in the fight against climate change - emphasized United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
- The Katowice Package takes into account the interests of all parties. But - more importantly - its impact on the world will be positive. Thanks to it, we will make a big step towards realizing the ambitions of the Paris Agreement - said the president of COP24, Michal Kurtyka.
The Katowice summit sends a positive signal regarding the universal will to strengthen actions for climate protection. It is impossible to turn back from the road to the low-carbon economic model.
The final document misses some “ambitious” points. The entire chapter on the implementation of the so-called Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which envisages the establishment of an international market mechanism for emissions trading after 2020, was removed from the final version.
In Katowice, it was determined, inter alia, how to refer to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report on global warming of 1.5 degrees. Even though no state has denied the findings of the report, they differ in their readiness to communicate its results.
In conclusion, it is worth recalling that at the beginning of COP24, there were over 2 thousand points of disagreement in the material implementing the Paris Agreement. After the negotiations, their number was limited to around 600, and the work on consensus lasted a day longer than it was originally planned.
Taking a short perspective, the metaphor of many small steps that lead to the goal seems to be fair for the Katowice summit, its participants and organizers.
The road to understanding was definitely difficult, a spectacular defeat was being prophesied to the summit; the satisfaction at achieving what has been agreed together is remarkable.
The first week of COP24 took place at a technical level. The events were mainly attended by negotiators and experts. Then the most important ministers came to Katowice, but the presence of politicians of the highest rank did not satisfy anyone...
- Three years ago when the chance for agreement on the climate appeared, we had many leaders of world countries. Now, when we discuss the implementation of these assumptions and difficult negotiations are underway, there are significantly less faces of prime ministers and presidents. This work is mainly technical - emphasized Jerzy Kwiecinski, Minister of Investment and Development.
During the summit, the largest producers of fossil fuels formed an informal group. The voice of representatives of the American government and the energy sector, presenting their own vision of climate policy and promoting “realistic viewpoints on energy and climate” could be clearly heard.
- Under the rule of President Trump, the US is noting record levels of economic growth, securing jobs and opening new plants. The USA also maintains its leading position on the energy market. That is why we want to promote the energy independence of the US and our partners - said one of the panellists.
An area that was particularly controversial and difficult in negotiations were the so-called contributions (climate commitments) based on, for example, the reduction of greenhouse gases. Their cost to the economy was and will remain difficult to accept, especially for poorer, less developed countries, because the cost of change is shifting to citizens. This is a difficult aspect that Katowice is handing over to the next Chilean presidency.
The Paris Agreement also speaks about the voluntary of climate commitments, it does not impose any actions on the states.
- Here in Katowice we are working on formulating specific rules, according to which we will act in global climate policy for the coming years, and perhaps for decades. This can act as an operating manual for global climate policy - said Michal Kurtyka about the negotiation struggle.
An important moment of the summit was the acceptance of the Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration by the representatives of 45 states. The declaration assumes implementation of objectives related to climate protection while maintaining economic development and jobs in the spirit of the “Solidarnosc” movement.
However, there were also lots of differing views.
- The Polish government finally admits that we need a just transformation. In practice, this means moving away from coal. For now, the declaration remains solely on paper, and the actual government actions taken recently, as well as those announced, seem to confirm the old saying that “you can say what you like on paper” - commented Anna Ogniewska from Greenpeace.
The words of some politicians, including the organizers’ declarations about the defence of Polish coal and its future, heated up the atmosphere.
The role of coal companies that have been partners of the summit, mining orchestra welcoming guests or even elements of scenography showing the evolution from "black" to "green" were adopted - to put it lightly - without any understanding of the global media and a large part of participants.
Two days before the COP24 climate summit, the energy minister Krzysztof Tchórzewski, during the ceremony of initiation into the mining profession in Katowice, said: - Miners, we need more coal! Let's think about where to build a new mine in Silesia.
The statement of Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, that most countries and governments in the world do not fulfil their obligations under the Paris Agreement, coincided with these words, creating an awkward context.
Poland, as the first organizer in the history of COP, received Fossil of the Day, a shameful award granted by the Climate Action Network.
Commentators underlined the differences of views and opinions coming from the Polish political scene. Does Poland want to decarbonise, and if so, what decarbonisation does it seek - the lack of clarity was an important disadvantage of the Polish message, weakening the positive aspects associated primarily with the efficiency of event preparation.
There were also some declarations, important from the perspective of the Polish economy and - more broadly - Polish development.
- The EU budget will strongly support the energy transformation, including post-mining regions - assured Maros Sefcovic, the European Commissioner for the Energy Union, stressing that “the world expects the EU to continue the global leadership on the fight against climate change”.
The proposal of a strategy which envisages that in the second half of the century the Union will be climate neutral, will mean a radical change for some regions. Especially those that rely on coal, like Silesia. The Commissioner emphasized that 25 percent of the next EU budget, estimated at EUR 1.2 trillion, is supposed to be used to support projects related to climate policy, including EUR 45 billion - for research on new technologies and “innovations that we need”.
The issue of new technologies aimed at supporting climate action has been mentioned multiple times throughout the summit. During the Innovation Day at the COP24 European Pavilion, the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology Jadwiga Emilewicz announced work on legislative solutions implementing the assumptions of the circular economy. They are to concern, for example, waste management policy or producer's liability for the whole product life cycle. She added that innovation will play a key role in this process.
The pressure is growing
The importance of the summit goes far beyond what has been included in the final agreement. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of such an event for building awareness of the gravity of the situation, but also the complexity of the problem and the need to act together despite obvious differences.
Climate change is quickly becoming a widely discussed matter indifferent to both - people of the economy and those who considered the topic as reserved for experts and “ecologists”. This is evidenced by, among others, the number of declarations, commitments and recommendations from companies, and above all from the opinionating organizations, think tanks and institutions present at the summit.
The influence of consumers has forced the companies and their employees to treat climate and - more broadly - the issues of responsibility and respecting sustainable development as an element of economic functioning, factor of competitiveness and condition for economic development.
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