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 Cop24: One Week Of Misgivings 

Date of Publish - Monday, 10th December 2018
igniting_minds

The first week of the most important climate negotiations since 2015 started with high hopes but has ended with an imbroglio over a wording. Attempts by negotiators to incorporate the IPCC ‘Report on Global Warming of 1.5 C’ failed due to opposition from the United States of America, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait over the use of the word ‘welcoming’ to acknowledge the landmark report. Contrary to expectations, the 1.5 C report, which created widespread consternation when it was released in October and was expected to jolt governments into action announcing bold new commitments, instead became the symbol of ludicrous contention.

The voice of the youth is ringing loud and clear. Reflecting the anxiety of the youth on the slow progress of climate talks in the past, 15-Year-Old Swedish school activist Greta Thunberg minced no words in addressing the negotiators. “For 25 years, countless people have come to the U.N. climate conferences begging our world leaders to stop emissions, and clearly that has not worked as emissions are continuing to rise. So, I will not beg the world leaders to care for our future. I will instead let them know change is coming whether they like it or not.”

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP24) is particularly crucial because 2018 is the deadline that the signatories of the Paris Agreement agreed upon in order to adopt a work programme for the implementation of the Paris Commitments. This requires the singular most important ingredient: trust between all countries. However, trust is what seems to be lacking, after the first week of negotiations.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC talked about the importance of COP24 on the opening day at Katowice. While referring to the series of devastating climate disasters around the globe this year, she said that the reality of climate change is telling us that we need to do much more and “COP24 needs to make that happen.”

Among the many elements that need to be ironed out is the financing of climate action worldwide. Because the clock is ticking on climate change, the world cannot afford to waste more time: we must collectively agree on a bold, decisive, ambitious and accountable way forward. The success of the Paris Agreement depends on finance, but finance remains the biggest challenge. The good news is that private funds are being mobilized for climate action, but mostly in larger developing countries.

The Secretary-General of the UN even more compelling in his address, saying that “We are in deep trouble with climate change and it is hard to overstate the urgency of the situation,” and called for a complete transformation of global energy economy and better management of land and forest resources with a focus on low-carbon, climate-resilient sustainable development. The UN chief warned that “we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption”.

The year 2018 has brought the urgency of decisive climate action to the forefront with unprecedented disasters, alarming new scientific research and reports of the toll on human health. The Paris Agreement, which currently provides the world with the only viable option forward, is not enough to avoid catastrophic climate change. The commitments made in the NDCs are not enough to limit warming to 2 degrees and scientists now say we must aspire to limit warming to a 1.5 C rise in order to avoid disastrous consequences for human civilization and biodiversity.

Sir David Attenborough, who represented the vox populi under the UN’s ‘People’s Seat’ initiative, said that a collapse of civilization was on the horizon without immediate action. “Right now, we are facing a manmade disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change,” he said. “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

The first week of COP24 passed with the delegates stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire over the wording of a resolution to accept a scientific document. In fact, halfway into COP24, working out the modalities of operationalizing the Paris Agreement and increased ambitions seem a bit far-fetched. It will take the arrival of an extraordinary visionary group within the ministerial delegations to salvage this round of talks. As the UN Chief himself has admitted, these conferences could not go on forever, “Katowice must succeed; we need to build in Katowice, the momentum that is necessary for an increased ambition to be shown by the international community when in 2020 the commitments made in Paris will be renewed.”

 

Author :
Rituraj Phukan

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