Author: Ilaria Urbani 2/12/2018
Today, 2nd December, has started the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Katowice (Poland) and it will last until the 14th.
The first controversies already came out. Indeed, UNFCCC explained they chose Katowice because it is an eco-responsible city which has made strong improvements in air quality, condition of environment and standard of inhabitants´s life. However, it may be questioned how is it possible considering that 150 km far from Katowice, there is the Europe´s largest climate polluter and one of the largest coal fuelled power plants in the world, Belchatow, operated by the State-owned facility PGE. On the 27th of November, some Greenpeace activists climbed a 180 metre-high chimney at Belchatow power plant to demand the company to cease the development of new fossil fuel projects and to implement a strategy that will lead to a phase out of carbon dioxide emissions from all their power plants by 2030, if they won´t Green Peace will bring the case to court.
A further hot issue COP24 will have to deal with is related to the so called emission gap, or in other words the difference between “where we are likely to be and where we need to be”. Just one week before the beginning of the COP24, UNEP released the Emission Gap Report. Its core message is that the current commitments expressed in the NDCs are inadequate to bridge the emissions gap in 2030. Technically, it is still possible to bridge the gap to ensure global warming stays well below 2°C and 1.5°C, but if NDC ambitions are not increased before 2030, exceeding the 1.5° C goal can no longer be avoided. Urgent actions are required, now more than ever; in fact, global CO2 emissions from energy and industry increased in 2017 after three years of stagnation.
The report also features ways to bridge the 2030 emissions gap and ensure long term decarbonization consistent with the Paris Agreements goals:
1. strengthening the ambition of NDCs, improving mitigation domestic policies;
2. enhancing non-state and subnational action which plays an important role in delivering national pledges;
3. reforming the fiscal policy implementing strong incentives for low-carbon investments and the reduction of GHG emissions. However, the use of carbon pricing to reduce GHG emissions is still only emerging in many countries and generally not applied at a sufficient level to facilitate a real shift towards low-carbon societies;
4. combining innovation in the use of existing technologies and in behaviour with the promotion of investment in new technologies has the potential to radically transform societies and reduce their GHG emissions.
The UN Climate Summit in Katowice is a pivotal point for countries to agree on the rules for turning the vision of the Paris Agreement into a reality. Countries can demonstrate their commitment to achieving the vision of the Paris Agreement by delivering three things:
1) The “Paris Rulebook”, a set of guidelines for all countries to implement their Paris commitments. It is essential to mobilize action on the ground and to spell out how countries will communicate their climate plans and how they will track and assess progress. The tricky point of the rulebook is finding the right balance between a common approach for all countries and the need for flexibility for developing countries with limited capacity.
2) A clear signal that nations will strengthen their climate commitments by 2020. Indeed, the final decision agreed by countries at COP24, the “COP Decision,” should reaffirm the importance of the 2020 timeline for communicating new national climate commitments.
3) Confidence that enough finance will be available to support a zero-carbon and climate-resilient transition, especially for developing countries. One of the most significant mechanisms is the Green Climate Fund (GCL), a financial mechanism to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change. As of May 2018, the Green Climate Fund has raised USD 10.3 billion equivalent in pledges from 43 state governments. The objective is for all pledges to be converted into contribution agreements within one year from the time at which they are made. During the COP24, Developed Countries should confirm their support participating at the replenishment process of GCF,
According to the latest New Climate Economy report by The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, climate action can generate $26 trillion in economic benefits globally by 2030. This result shows it is no more a matter of choice between environment and economic growth; COP24 should be a pivotal moment to accelerate global climate action thus promoting both environmental and economic development.