THE 21st Conference of the Parties, hailed as a landmark agreement on climate change and forged in the spirit of international cooperation, was put to test at COP24 in the city of Katowice in Poland. Held under the presidency of Poland, it was regarded as the most important post-Paris COP because it is here three years later that the modalities giving shape to the Paris Agreement were negotiated for completing the ‘rule book’.
Some serious fault lines have developed since the agenda of solutions was adopted in Paris, creating stark divisions between climate champions and those who reject climate science and its ominous predictions. With President Donald Trump’s administration rolling back climate change regulations restricting new coal plants and Brazil’s new president Jair Bolsonaro vowing to open the Amazon to mining and agricultural development, fractures in the coalition are widening and pose new challenges to negotiators.
The role of coal in the energy mix is another sticky issue, with the host country accepting the corporate sponsorship of COP24 by the majority Polish state-owned corporation Jastrzebska Spoka Weglowa, the European Union’s largest producer of coking coal. The stance taken by Poland for the transition of the coal industry from dirty to clean by embracing innovative solutions to maintain coal power in the global energy future resonates with the views of the Trump administration. The Global Carbon Budget produced by 76 scientists from 57 research institutions in 15 countries found that the major drivers of the 2018 increases were more coal-burning in China and India.
The Pakistani delegation at COP24 was small but motivated, and played a proactive role.
In the three years since the Paris Agreement was signed, financial institutions have invested more than $478 billion in the world’s top 120 coal plant developers, according to a report by the NGOs Urgewald, BankTrack and partners. Chinese banks led the underwriting, while Japanese banks provided the loans, says the report.
In the backdrop of the special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that warns of climate calamities if the global temperature increase is not limited within the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius, the agenda of solutions so painstakingly reached in Paris is at risk of collapsing. Global carbon emissions are set to jump to a record high by 2.7 per cent in 2018 in sharp contrast to the 1.6pc increase in 2016. Emissions in China are up by 4.7pc, in India by 6.3pc and in the US by 2.5pc.
This trajectory is in line with the 2030 target for peak emissions set by China and the development goals of India but is alarming at a time when the window of opportunity has been reduced to 2030 by scientists, giving countries 12 years to reduce 45pc emissions from 2005 levels.
This has put the issue of ambition high on the agenda but the crux of the negotiations revolved around climate finance, transparency and capacity building.
Work on the signature outcome of the negotiations, ‘the rule book’, made good headway despite serious differences between the developed and the developing countries. The final negotiation text represents major advances on most outstanding issues but with negotiations going into overtime, further progress is likely to leave issues on which agreement could not be reached to COP25.
The scaling up of climate finance committed in 2009 in Copenhagen to low and middle-income countries (LMICs) to the tune of $100bn per annum is not happening fast enough to address the rising challenges faced by them. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development recently reported that the amount of climate finance disbursed rose to over $56bn in 2017, but large portions of that sum include loans. This falls short of the LMICs’ expectations and will remain a point of contention that will involve protracted negotiations to reach a fair agreement.
The World Bank has set new climate targets to guide its work from 2021-2025. This commitment will provide $200bn, doubling the climate financing for the five-year period. The bank has also committed to boosting its direct financing for adaptation to $50bn over that period, and to develop a new “rating system to track and incentivise global progress”.
Keeping the outcome of global negotiations in mind and taking into account its own need for development, Pakistan now has to leverage opportunities by developing its capacities to put in place bankable projects for financing its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to close the climate finance gap at the national level.
The Pakistani delegation at COP24 was small and therefore not able to attend all the parallel sessions, but the team led by Malik Amin Aslam was motivated and played a proactive role. The lack of numbers was made up by the quality of representation with the federal minister himself maximising the opportunity to speak at events and make a convincing argument to present Pakistan’s stance.
From the civil society perspective it was heartening to see Kashmala Kakakhel’s inclusion in the delegation using her knowledge of climate finance to assist the Foreign Office delegate in climate finance meetings. “As 2020 approaches and countries are required to submit revised NDCs, it will be useful to remember that the purpose of our getting together is not to win the negotiations game but to heal nature,” said Mr Aslam.
He highlighted four focal areas to fully operationalise the Paris Agreement: (i) scale has to correspond to the country’s growing needs, (ii) post 2025 global finance goals need to be part of Katowice, (iii) the transparency framework must ensure transparency of support, including a robust accounting of actual actionable disbursements —on ground transformation that is needed, and lastly (iv) replenishment of the Green Climate Fund needs to be prioritised with less and not more bureaucratic procedures and ease of accessibility.
COP24 was a major test of the international community’s will to respond to the challenge of climate change, and the outcome indicates that despite differences the willingness to move forward and work towards major reductions in emissions is present among all. The commitment of governments within and across countries will be the decisive factor in measuring the success of global cooperation on climate action.
The writer is chief executive of the Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change.
Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2018