The Paris Agreement on Climate Change adopted at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in December 2015 is the road map for all countries to tackle climate change by 2030. However, the rule book for the countries to follow will have to be agreed at COP 24, to be held in Katowice, Poland in December this year.
Last year, COP 23 was presided over by Fiji, which has been running the Talanoa Dialogue over this year to enable governments and non-government actors to have a say in developing the rules. Earlier this month governments met in Bonn to agree on the negotiating text for COP 24. Unfortunately, they did not succeed in agreeing to the text, so there will have to be another meeting in Bangkok in September to finalise the text before COP 24 in December.
There are a number of issues which held up the agreement, which I will summarise below.
One of the important parts of the Bonn meeting was the so-called Suva Dialogue on innovative Finance for Loss and Damage, where it was expected that progress would finally be made on finding consensus on raising funds for loss and damage.
Unfortunately, while the developing countries put forward many proposals, including levying a loss and damage tax on polluting industries, developed countries hardly said anything. So the dialogue would have been a monologue if Germany had not stepped up to talk about insurance as a financial tool to tackle loss and damage. While insurance can certainly play a role, it has severe limitations when one takes into consideration the poorest who cannot afford the premiums, and it is certainly not the “magic’ solution as one delegate claimed it to be.
The second controversial element was the consideration of the forthcoming Special Report on 1.5 degrees under preparation by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and due to be out in October. The report should feed into COP 24 in December, which has been the normal practice for all IPCC Assessment Reports over the years. However, this time there was an effort led by Saudi Arabia to not allow the IPCC Special Report to be discussed at COP 24. This was in order to avoid being pressured to raise the target for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
At the current rate of emissions, even if all the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are implemented, the temperature rise will overshoot 2.5 degrees, let alone stay under the 1.5 degrees limit, which is the agreed target under the Paris Agreement. Hence some countries would rather not discuss this topic.
Another issue that is still causing lack of agreement is how to ensure transparency of actions by countries, which is closely related to agreeing on Measuring, Reporting and Verifying (MRV) of both mitigation and adaptation actions as well as financial support from developed to developing countries.
A final issue is the fact that the incoming Presidency of COP 24 will be held in the coal town of Katowice in the pro-coal country of Poland. There is already a very clear difference emerging between the current presidency of Fiji, which is doing its best to ramp up the ambition of actions in line with the 1.5 degrees target, and Poland, which is trying to reduce the ambition.
It is therefore to be hoped that the extra session in Bangkok in September succeeds in getting a good negotiating text for COP 24 as the new Presidency of Poland is likely to be the opposite of Fiji when it comes to pushing for more ambition.
Bangladesh along with all the other vulnerable countries will have to be extra vigilant in ensuring that the negotiating text is not watered down.
Originally this article was published on May 16, 2018 at Daily Star. The author Dr. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).